Nordic Social Attitudes in a European Perspective
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Nordic Social Attitudes in a European Perspective

Edited by Heikki Ervasti, Torben Fridberg, Mikael Hjerm and Kristen Ringdal

Providing highly rigorous and up-to-date data, with a wide coverage of topics, this book will be of great interest to academics and students in sociology, social policy and political science. It will also appeal to anyone interested in the Nordic countries in general.
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Chapter 2: The Welfare State, Poverty and Social Exclusion

Torben Fridberg and Olli Kangas


Torben Fridberg and Olli Kangas INTRODUCTION Combating poverty is one of the most important tasks of the welfare state – perhaps its most fundamental task. Previous comparative research has shown that different social policy models, or more broadly welfare state regimes, substantially differ in their ability to alleviate poverty (; Atkinson 1998; Andreß 1998; Fritzell and Ritakallio 2004; Whelan and Maître 2005; Kangas and Ritakallio 2007). The welfare regimes not only differ from each other in their capacities to combat poverty, but also in the definition of poverty and the tasks of the welfare state in relation to social problems (Esping-Andersen 1990). The conceptual construction of the tasks for the welfare state is deeply rooted in different understandings of the proper relationships between the state and the individual. With some simplification we can divide these views into collectivistic and individualistic views. The collectivist picture of human nature, which has been the driving force in the leftist welfare discourse, can be derived from the Aristotelian interpretation of man and society. According to Aristotle (1991, p. 10), an individual who is not engaged in a community is comparable to either a god or a beast. A person between these two extremes is a social creature who, even as an individual, exists only in relation to others. Thus, individual welfare is also socially determined: poverty is defined socially, and social relationships are an essential source of well-being. Robinson needs his Friday. The idea of the relativity...

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