Chapter 10: Austrian Health Consumer Groups: Voices Gaining Strength?
10. Austrian health consumer groups: voices gaining strength? Rudolf Forster, Gudrun BrauneggerKallinger and Karl Krajic It will be argued in this chapter that Austria’s dominant political culture does not encourage the emergence of social movements in general, and that political activism is even more unlikely in health care. While Austria has not seen the rise of a broad health consumer or patient movement so far, it has seen the emergence of self-help groups seeking to complement professional care and to compensate for its deficiencies. Based on our own recent research it will be shown that the self-help field offers potential for mobilizing the collective interests of members and others. Empirical evidence will be provided to show how this potential is currently realized, drawing on a theoretical framework that stresses the capacity of health care consumers to organize interests and become relevant to established stakeholders. POLITICAL SYSTEM, POLITICAL CULTURE AND POLITICAL PARTICIPATION Austria is a ‘late democracy’ by Western European standards and has followed a non-linear path to its present situation as a basically representative democracy with few options for direct democratic participation. Its political culture after the Second World War stressed political collaboration between the formerly highly antagonistic parties of the right and left. In light of this the relationship between the political class and citizens has been characterized by paternalism and clientelism, generating a citizen mentality of high expectations and dependence (Gerlich and Pfefferle 2006). Since the Second World War, then, the Austrian political system has experienced ‘hyperstability’. This...
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