In Search of a New Welfare State in Europe: An International Perspective

  • Anton Hemerijck

Modern social policy represents a key component in Europe’s advanced political economies. The European welfare state in the shape and form in which it developed in the second half of the twentieth century represents a unique historical achievement. Never before in history, as Fritz Scharpf puts it, ‘has democratic politics been so effectively used to promote civil liberty, economic growth, social solidarity, and public well-being’ (Scharpf, 2003). The defining feature of the postwar welfare state is that social protection came to be firmly anchored on the explicit normative commitment to grant social rights to citizens in areas of human need (Esping-Andersen, 1994: 712). This implied the expansion of mass education as an instrument for equal opportunities, access to high quality health care for everyone, together with the introduction of a universal right to real income, in T. H. Marshall’s seminal work, Citizenship and Social Class (1950), ‘not proportionate to the market value of the claimant’ (Marshall, 1950: 110). Social citizenship held out a promise of the enlargement, enrichment, and equalization of people's ‘life chances’ (Marshall, 1950: 107). Thus Marshall defined social policy as the use of democratic ‘political power to supersede, supplement, or modify operations of the economic system in order to achieve results which the economic system would not achieve of his own’ (Marshall, 1975: 15). In his first report, Social Insurance and Allied Services, Lord Beveridge saw “freedom from want” to be the pivotal objective of the welfare state (Beveridge, 1942). In his 1945 Full Employment in a Free Society, however, Beveridge came to view employment, active participation, or inclusion in productive work as a key function of being an accepted part of a larger collective identity (Beveridge, 1945). In Beveridge’s participatory view on full employment, social citizenship went beyond the right to a decent income, to include right to live from labor, to combine their income with the recognition of a social function. Jobs benefit people by giving them enhanced opportunities for self-actualization, personal identity, self-esteem, and the feeling of belonging to a community. Inclusion through the labor market remains a cornerstone of every policy strategy of social inclusion. Participating in the labor market is today the most important form of social interaction and, as such, is an indispensable element in achieving social cohesion. In the words of Guenther Schmid: “Not being wanted is worse than being poor” (Schmid, 2008: 3).


Labor Market Welfare State Social Protection Full Employment Social Risk 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Dean Faculty of Social SciencesFree UniversityAmsterdamNetherlands

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