Globalizing Welfare
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Globalizing Welfare

An Evolving Asian-European Dialogue

Edited by Stein Kuhnle, Per Selle and Sven E.O. Hort

From the welfare state’s origins in Europe, the idea of human welfare being organized through a civilized, institutionalized and uncorrupt state has caught the imagination of social activists and policy-makers around the world. This is particularly influential where rapid social development is taking place amidst growing social and gender inequality. This book reflects on the growing academic and political interest in global social policy and ‘globalizing welfare’, and pays particular attention to developments in Northern European and North-East Asian countries.
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Chapter 19: Entangled inequalities, a disbalanced welfare state, and populist challenges for democracy

Stephan Leibfried, Kerstin Martens and Uwe Schimank


In most Western countries, right-wing populism has become a major political force. This phenomenon can be understood within an analytical triangle of inequalities, welfare state and democracy. The first guess that right-wing populism was articulated by left-behind members of the lower classes soon turned out to be untrue. A second explanation went to the other extreme: not the economically, but the culturally deprived tend towards right-wing populism. However, both interpretations oversimplify the entangled inequalities from which right-wing populism originates, and neglect their nexus with the portfolio of welfare policies. For substantial parts of the middle classes this seems to be an economically based culture war against those middle class milieus who go on propagating their own, or others’, cultural discriminations as the top issue on the welfare state agenda. Against this continuation of ‘identity politics’ it is demanded that from now on ‘we’, the ‘normal’ citizens, shall be served first.

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