Swedish Welfare State from a Comparate Perspective
In this ‚essay’ I will try to give answers to all questions dealing with the Swedish welfare state, Swedish social policy model or the welfare state in general. Regarding to the course-precept it is necessary to say that I will answer by treating every question on its own, what may creates a different kind of ‘essay’.
1. What is a welfare state? How does it differ from the definition of social policy?
Like Esping-Andersen states in his article in the Handbook of Economic Sociology ‘the welfare state cannot be regarded as the sum of social policies, it is more than a numerical cumulation of discrete programmes’1. The welfare state can be seen as a ‘label for a certain class of democratic industrial capitalist societies, characterized by certain properties’2 or in other words is the welfare state a kind of state, that uses a certain amount of different programs or policies, which deserve to a material and cultural welfare of its population3. Here you can see that a welfare state depends on strong state regimentations and a profound maintenance. In comparison to the social policy it is important to keep in mind that the difference between welfare state and social policy can be found in the fact, that social policy is tended to families and single people whereas welfare state sees the whole population or majorities of the population. Social policy can be described as an intervention of the state into the social conditions of everyone (or the people of a state). In the words of Esping-Andersen, one could say that a welfare state is ‘something other than whatever menu of social benefits a state happens to offer. [...] If it is to have any meaning at all, the welfare state is more than social policy; it is a unique historical construction, an explicit redefinition of what the state is all about.4 ’
2. The welfare state represents a triumph of the social democratic left. Do you agree?
Regarding to the cruel facts of WWII (Holocaust, poverty and destroyed cities all over Europe) the social democrats had a massive advantage, because the final results of the years of war were mass unemployment and the will to rebuild the country, because the years of fascism were over and the people did not want regimes like those that they had experienced. This was one reason for the success of the social democratic welfare state. The social democrats in Sweden were proud of their policy, because back in history [especially during the years of war] it was a policy of neutrality or in a different view a policy of resistance. The social democrats took the history as a basis ‘in their ideas about economic planning’5.
3. Describe the main ideal-typical models of welfare state. Do typologies based on ideal-types have theoretical and empirical value?
Regarding the model proclaimed by Esping-Andersen, we find three types of welfare state. The conservative, liberal and the social-democratic. The conservative (France, Germany, Italy or Austria) has a middle-sized social policy and the differences regarding to the status of gainful employment are maintained, especially by systems of social insurance. Here you receive the same what you pay. The liberal (Australia, England, Switzerland, the US) are characterized by its less socio-political state activity. The important thing is the role of the free market and the family. Claims for social benefits are only fulfilled when there is an attested need. Remarkable is the huge disparity of incomes. The social-democratic welfare state (Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden or the Netherlands) pursues a massive policy of the security of everybody’s being. It is seen as a civil-right to receive social benefits that are made by the public service.6 ‘These typologies owe their origins to different historical forces and the follow quantitatively different developmental trajectories7 ’. And like Wildebor Schut, who mentions that ‘Esping-Andersen’s original three-worlds typology neither passes the empirical test with flying colours, nor dismally fails them’8, a couple of sociologists have tried to corroborate Esping-Andersen’s classification empirically.
1 Esping-Andersen, G.: Welfare States and the economy, in: Smelser, N./ Swedberg, R.(eds): The Handbook of Economic Sociology, New York 2004, p.712.
2 Von Kempski, J: Zur Logik der Ordnungsbegriffe, besonders in den Sozialwissenschaften, in: Alber, H.(ed.): Theorie und Realität. Ausgewählte Aufsätze zur Wissenschaftslehre der Sozialwissenschaften, Tübingen 1972, p.115-138.
3 C.f. Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung, Stichwort: Wohlfahrtsstaat, URL: http://www.bpb.de/popup/popup_ lemmata.html?guid=KN0JHC, date of access: 2008-10-23.
4 Esping-Andersen, G.: Social Foundations of Post-industrial Economies. Oxford 1999, p. 34.
5 Johansson, Alf W.: Neutrality and Modernity: The Second World War and Sweden’s National Identity; [...], p.179.
6 C.f. Hradil, Stefan: Die Sozialstruktur Deutschlands im internationalen Vergleich, Wiesbaden 20062 , p. 242.
7 Arts, W.A.! Gelissen, John: Three worlds of welfare capitalism or more? A state-of-the-art report, in: Carmel, Emma a.o (eds): Journal of European Social Policy 2002, No.12., p.139.
8 Ibid., p.153.
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