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"Attitudinal cleavages and the welfare state: A comparison between the United Kingdom and Germany"

Mau, Steffen (2000) "Attitudinal cleavages and the welfare state: A comparison between the United Kingdom and Germany". In: UNSPECIFIED, Corfu, Greece.

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    [Introduction]. The welfare state represents one of the major integrative arrangements of modern democracies. It has an important impact on the redistribution of wealth and the structure of inequality. In some respects, the welfare state helped to heal social divisions or at least to mitigate social inequalities; not only in terms of material inequalities, but also in ideological and political terms. Although essential for the idea of the welfare state the society-wide support for such redistributive efforts cannot be taken for granted. Older collectivist thinkers of welfare were less concerned with these kind of problems. Marshall (1965, p. 97), for example, saw a "growing measure of agreement on fundamentals" with regard to the provision of services and the willingness of the citizens to contribute. Many of those on the Left but also New Liberals had a great faith in human public-spiritedness and the mobilisation of altruistic motivations. In the Beveridge plan one can find an expression of the self-esteem of that time: "The capacity and desire of the British people to contribute for security are among the most certain and impressive social facts" (Cmnd 6404, 1942, p. 119). Since the comfortable mixture of economic growth and welfare state expansion has come to an end the welfare state has been subjected to a crisis discussion. Its integrative capacity and its ability to compromise different class interests have been doubted. It was assumed that pro-welfare-state orientations thrive under conditions of a prospering welfare state, whereas they "tend to decompose under zero-sum conditions" (Offe 1987, p. 530). Many commentators saw the end of the 'welfare consensus' and the rise of individualist and anti-collectivist ideologies which would turn against social protection and state intervention. It was assumed that the higher status groups will express their anti-welfare sentiments within the political arena, whereas the welfare beneficiaries of the lower status sections of the society might be the defenders of the welfare state. In this regard, it was widely assumed that people will support social institutions if they derive benefits from them. The "beneficial involvement" of social groups was seen as the crucial factor for the public standing of the welfare institutions. Special attention was given to the middle classes: "The idea here is that if the middle classes benefit from programmes, then they will not use their not inconsiderable political skills to obtain more resources for those programmes or to defend them in periods of decline" (Goodin/LeGrand 1987, p. 210). This paper sets out a comparative frame which charts the attitudinal stances towards the welfare state in Great Britain and Germany with a special focus on group differences. Following the argument made before, the institutional architecture is viewed as a decisive component which conditions the self-interest motives of the population. But moreover, it carries ideological and ideational notions which influence likewise the orientations of the general public. The institutionalised values and norms must appeal to the sense of justice and adequacy of a large number of citizens. The social security institutions depend on a 'normative soundness' which gives reason to participate and to contribute beyond pure self-interest, because of the "burden of discomfort which is a necessary part of any policy" (Ringen 1987, p. 50).

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    Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (UNSPECIFIED)
    Subjects for non-EU documents: EU policies and themes > Policies & related activities > social policy > welfare state
    Countries > Germany
    Countries > U.K.
    Subjects for EU documents: UNSPECIFIED
    EU Series and Periodicals: UNSPECIFIED
    EU Annual Reports: UNSPECIFIED
    Conference: European Political-economy Infrastructure Consortium (EPIC) > Ionian Conference 2000 - Challenges of the New Millenium, Corfu, 20-22 May, 2000 > Theme: Governance and citizenship in the European Union - the influence of culture
    Depositing User: Phil Wilkin
    Official EU Document: No
    Language: English
    Date Deposited: 23 Jun 2003
    Page Range: p. 20
    Last Modified: 15 Feb 2011 17:16

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