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 9: Cultural Change and Path Departure: The Example of Family Policies in Conservative Welfare States

Birgit Pfau-Effinger


Birgit Pfau-Effinger INTRODUCTION The impact on the development of European welfare states of recent social and economic change in European societies and of processes like EUintegration and globalization is a contested issue. Often it has been argued that welfare state policies follow path dependent trajectories in the ways they adapt to the new challenges. However, in some policy fields change is characterized by path departure. This relates for example, to family policies in conservative welfare states. The path dependence concept is often used in cross-national analyses of the development of welfare state policies. The path dependence, and correspondingly, path departure of welfare state policies have often been explained by endogenous factors of institutional change, mainly by the mechanism of ‘increasing returns’ (Pierson, 2000). There have been relatively few attempts to include external factors of the society surrounding the welfare state into the explanatory approach. In this chapter it is argued that a narrow approach to the explanation on the basis of ‘increasing returns’ is not adequate for the variety of factors that can influence path dependent development of welfare states, or path departure. Instead, it is argued that a broader approach is needed that includes the role of cultural factors outside the specific institutions of the welfare state. The example of family policies in the conservative welfare states of Germany and Austria, and in the liberal-conservative welfare state of Switzerland, is used to show that change in the cultural values and notions in the population can contribute...

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