Towards the Good Society, Once Again?
(p. 1 ) 1 Towards the Good Society, Once Again?
Why We Need a New Welfare State
Oxford University Press
Abstract and Keywords
This is an introductory chapter to the book, and it addresses the need for a new look at the welfare state in Europe. The different sections of the chapter are: The new welfare challenge; Emerging blueprints for reform; Towards a viable new European welfare architecture—the need for a more effective methodology, the principles of justice, welfare as social investment, and rethinking security in old age; The three welfare pillars —markets, families, and government; Similar challenges for different welfare regimes— the Scandinavian welfare model, the ‘liberal’ welfare model, and the continental European welfare model; From national regimes towards a European model; and Rewriting the social contract—a new family policy, a new gender contract, social inclusion through employment, the generational contract. Keywords: elderly, employment, Europe, families, family policy, gender, gender contract, generational contract, government, justice, markets, old age, reform, Scandinavia, security, social contract, social inclusion, social investment, social policy, welfare state Two distinctive features stand out in the long history of western welfare states. In the first place, we see long phases of consolidation and institutional path dependency being punctuated by two epochs of intense reform. The closing decades of the nineteenth century heralded a path‐breaking burst of welfare reform; the 1930s–1940s produced a second, and equally decisive, wave of regime‐shifts. In large measure, today's advanced welfare states are but elaborations on the post‐war ‘welfare capitalist’ edifice—although the Scandinavian shift towards a servicing and ‘activation’ bias since the 1970s may arguably constitute a third instance of fundamental regime overhaul. In the second place, most historical regime shifts have one thing in common, namely an intensification of ideological competition between rival visions of the ‘Good Society’. Late nineteenth‐century reformism pitted absolutist and often anti‐capitalist defenders of the ancien régime against liberals and occasionally also Christian reformists. What was at stake in Bismarckian Germany, in Disraeli's Britain, or in Giolitti's Italy was not merely the urgency of social amelioration but, far more to the point, huge questions of nation‐building. Moving forward to the second reform era visions of the Good Society emerged once again, but now by a rather different set of political actors. With the authoritarians pretty much gone, the contest now stood between liberals, social Catholicism, and social demo‐cracy. The diversity of contemporary welfare models bears testimony to the kinds of historical compromises that were forged in that epoch.1 In some countries, particularly in the US but increasingly also the UK, the compromise favoured individualism and markets with the welfare state cast as a minimal and residual player. In Scandinavia it favoured social (p. 2 ) democracy, universalism, egalitarianism and comprehensive social citizenship. And a third model fused social insurance with corporativist and often also social Catholic subsidiarity traditions in much of Continental and, especially, Southern Europe. In each and every case, these were not simply technical solutions to social security but also a promise to resolve the ‘social question’ and put an end to class inequalities. To this end, the policy repertoire, albeit not its ambitions, contents, or design, appeared quite similar everywhere: the expansion of mass education as the vehicle for equal opportunities and an end to inherited privilege; income maintenance as a means to equalize living conditions and eliminate social risks across the life cycle. The New Welfare Challenge
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