Values and Social Policy in Comparative Perspective
Edited by Wim van Oorschot, Michael Opiekla and Birgit Pfau-Effinger
Chapter 7: Is There a Specific East-Central European Welfare Culture?
7. Is there a speciﬁc East-Central European welfare culture? Zsuzsa Ferge INTRODUCTION To analyse the question whether there is a speciﬁc East-Central European (ECE) welfare culture this chapter focuses on three issues.1 At the level of attitudes it discusses the thesis that the totalitarian system created a new type of person, ‘Homo Sovieticus’, who is characterized among other things by ‘learned helplessness’ conducive to total reliance on the (welfare) state. My arguments against this thesis are that historical forces shaping people go much further back than a few decades, and that a need for security is part of modern European culture, and not speciﬁc to ECE countries. Accusations about learned helplessness serve a liberal agenda to cut back welfare expenditures. The second section takes a historical look at social security. It discusses the role of the state in, and its relationships with, the civilization process and social security development in Western and Eastern Europe. The state was heavily involved in the civilization process in the nineteenth century. But it assured protection and full citizenship to the propertyless only with the emergence of ‘common social property’ (social insurance) as a counterpart to private ownership. Socialist dictatorship found a tragic solution to the dilemma of assuring security to propertyless people by abolishing private property altogether. Yet even in this truncated form, security promoted norms of ‘civilized’ coexistence that ultimately may help democratic attitudes. The third section discusses ‘welfare culture’ on the societal level as it appears in the relationship...
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