Culture and Welfare State
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Culture and Welfare State

Values and Social Policy in Comparative Perspective

Edited by Wim van Oorschot, Michael Opiekla and Birgit Pfau-Effinger

Culture and Welfare State provides comparative studies on the interplay between cultural factors and welfare policies. Starting with an analysis of the historical and cultural foundations of Western European welfare states, reflected in the competing ideologies of liberalism, conservatism and socialism, the book goes on to compare the Western European welfare model to those in North America, Asia and Central and Eastern Europe. Comprehensive and engaging, this volume examines not only the relationships between cultural change and welfare restructuring, taking empirical evidence from policy reforms in contemporary Europe, but also the popular legitimacy of welfare, focusing particularly on the underlying values, beliefs and attitudes of people in European countries.
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Chapter 7: Is There a Specific East-Central European Welfare Culture?

Zsuzsa Ferge


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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