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 10: Cultures of Activation: The Shifting Relationship between Income Maintenance and Employment Promotion in the Nordic Context

Bjørn Hvinden


Bjørn Hvinden INTRODUCTION Culture and activation are both elusive concepts with different meanings. Core elements of culture are shared values, norms and perceptions of reality. As a first approximation, activation refers to the idea that income maintenance and employment promotion should be linked to each other. Income-maintenance provision ought to be used to stimulate labour market participation, instead of being seen as an alternative to such participation (Hvinden, 1999; Drøpping et al., 1999). The rationale for activation is that it is better both for the individual and society that the individual be ‘active’ (employed) rather than ‘passive’ (solely receiving public income transfers). This rationale may for instance be expressed when the granting of social assistance is linked to efforts to stimulate recipients to find paid work. These efforts can involve providing job counselling, guidance, training or other measures to improve employability, requiring recipients to take part in such measures, or setting other forms of conditions for continued receipt of money. The term ‘culture of activation’, however, suggests something more and wider than the enforcement of an activation rationale in one or a few parts of a country’s social protection system. I propose that the concept ‘activation culture’ should be reserved for situations where an activation rationale characterizes the overall policy effort and where we find this rationale expressed in more or less all parts of the country’s social protection system for people of working age. The idea of activation should be widely accepted, institutionalized...

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