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The Welfare State and Beyond

The Welfare State and Beyond: Success and Problems in Scandinavia

Gunnar Heckscher
Series: Nordic
Volume: 11
Copyright Date: 1984
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    The Welfare State and Beyond
    Book Description:

    The welfare state emerged in a number of industrialized countries after the First World War as a middle ground between capitalism and socialism. The aim of architects of the welfare state was to abolish the injustices and hardships that accompanied capitalism and to do so without wholesale social or economic revolution. Establishment of the welfare state created something close to euphoria among many observers; it was, it seemed, the answer to many, if not all, troubling social questions. But it eventually became obvious that this type of society was not immune to problems. In The Welfare State and Beyond Gunnar Heckscher examines four Nordic countires – Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden – not to either criticize or defend the welfare state but to shed some light on a number of questions: Has the welfare state achieved what it attempted? Are the results generally held to be satisfactory? What important problems remain unsolved and what types of solutions have been proposed? Although Heckscher has been associated with the Conservative party in Sweden, his objective, clear-eyed analysis cites both the accomplishments of the welfare state and the troubling problems that still await resolution._x000B_

    eISBN: 978-1-4529-3740-3
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-2)
    Gunnar Heckscher
  4. Why Scandinavia?
    (pp. 3-14)

    When the pugnacious chairman of the Danish Federation of Labor, Thomas Nielsen, retired at the age of sixty-five in February 1982, he stated in a newspaper interview that he “belonged to a victorious generation.… What we didn’t even dare to hope for has happened.… The fight for the daily bread is over. Now the question is one of distributing prosperity.” This, in a nutshell, describes the Scandinavian attitude toward the welfare state. And it is much more explicit than the attitude in a number of other countries whose experience in fact differs very little from that of Denmark, Finland, Norway,...

  5. Traditions and Roots
    (pp. 15-40)

    It is not necessary to write an economic and social history of the Nordic countries in order to explain their growth and development as “welfare states.” However, some salient facts of their historical development should be emphasized, particularly for American readers.

    The Nordic countries are far from unique. Indeed, in many respects their histories are samples of Western European history as a whole. Denmark, especially, was closely related to Germany up to 1864. The Swedish “empire,” including not only Finland but also Estonia, Latvia, and part of northern Germany, maintained a close friendship with France in the seventeenth and eighteenth...

  6. Ideals of the Welfare State
    (pp. 41-52)

    The two hundred years from the eighteenth to the twentieth century are unique in the history of humanity. In the Western world at least, there was constant material progress, and apparently the sky, or indeed outer space, was the limit. Obviously the situation was very different in Africa and Asia, but to Westerners, their own part of the globe was all that really counted.

    Scandinavia was no exception to the rule. It is true that progress came later there than in many other Western countries, but international contacts were intense enough for their experience to induce great hopes among Scandinavians....

  7. Social Security and Social Engineering
    (pp. 53-88)

    The social security systems of the Nordic countries are not identical. Denmark, as has already been pointed out, was the pioneer, and especially in the early stages the solutions chosen there were sometimes copied by others. But already before the Second World War Sweden had advanced as far as Denmark, and not infrequently along different lines. Having said that, it is equally important to emphasize that on the whole Scandinavians do approach the main problems in the same way, and quite often it should be enough to describe the system of one of the countries as being fairly representative of...

  8. A New Economic Order?
    (pp. 89-126)

    In many respects, the economic problems facing Scandinavian countries today are the same as those of most other industrialized countries. These problems are largely caused by an unwarranted expectation of continued material progress entirely without limits. To the extent that there is a difference between Scandinavia and the rest of the Western world, perhaps most of it lies in the choice of a few solutions different from those preferred by other similar countries. What, then, is the relationship between these problems and the establishment of welfare states? The answer can be summarized as follows: in Scandinavia these common economic problems...

  9. Governing the Welfare State
    (pp. 127-156)

    The Scandinavian welfare states are the offspring of political democracy. There was considerable welfare of a paternalistic type before the advent of democracy, and civil rights were comparatively well protected long before popular government was established. But the characteristic elements of welfare states were established as a result of popular pressure exercised through the accepted channels of democratic systems, and not from benevolent forces above the heads of the common people. In fact much or perhaps even most of the movement toward democracy was motivated by the wish to create political mechanisms suitable for improving the living standard of the...

  10. Serpents in Paradise
    (pp. 157-192)

    Critics of the welfare state are only too happy to blame all the social ills of Scandinavian and similar societies on their new approach to relations between society and individuals. This is understandable in view of the fact that original expectations were very high. Abolition of existing injustices was supposed to solve all social problems within a very limited period of time. Improvement of the material conditions of the broad strata of “common people” was hailed as the one thing that was really needful. Disenchantment naturally followed when it was discovered that no new heaven and earth had been created...

  11. Politics and Issues
    (pp. 193-226)

    In an earlier chapter I briefly described the constitutional structure of the Nordic countries. There can be no doubt that this structure had become not only much more democratic but also more conducive to compromise at about the time when the welfare state was emerging in Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden. This was hardly a matter of pure chance. For various reasons, it was difficult for popular majorities to realize their wishes immediately in the face of vigorous minority opposition. As a result, compromise was frequently necessary. The welfare state was not initiated by universal consent, but it was undoubtedly...

  12. Welfare and Equality
    (pp. 227-254)

    In 1969, Alva Myrdal presented a report on “equality” to the national congress of the Swedish Social Democratic party. It was an elaboration of ideas that she had outlined in a speech a few years earlier. The report was unanimously adopted and thus became the official policy of the party at the same time that Olof Palme took over the leadership from Tage Erlander. It consequently merits very serious attention.

    No hard and fast line of distinction had ever been drawn between the welfare state and an egalitarian society founded on equality and solidarity rather than competition. From the beginning...

  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 257-262)
  14. Index
    (pp. 265-272)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 273-273)