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A Long Goodbye to Bismarck?

A Long Goodbye to Bismarck?: The Politics of Welfare Reform in Continental Europe

Bruno Palier (ed.)
Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 456
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  • Book Info
    A Long Goodbye to Bismarck?
    Book Description:

    This book provides an extensive and comparative account of all welfare reforms that occurred during the last three decades in Continental European countries. It reveals unexpected important structural reforms, to be understood as the culmination of a long reform trajectory, analyzed in detail with the tools of comparative historical institutionalism. With these reforms, Bismarckian welfare systems have lost their encompassing capacities, have partially turned to employment-friendliness and weakened the strongest elements of their male breadwinner bias. "This volume is the definitive work on the politics of reform in Bismarckian welfare regimes. It is essential reading for any scholar interested in welfare reform - or indeed, in institutional and policy change more generally." (Kathleen Thelen, Massachusetts Institute of Technology ) "The contributors to the volume are all recognized experts on their field and provide strictly comparable analyses in their chapters, making this volume a gold mine for comparative welfare state scholars. Palier's volume is certain to be a benchmark study for the foreseeable future." (John D. Stephens, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill) "This volume, representing the best available scholarship in comparative socio-economic research, provides important and highly policy-relevant insights. A must-read." (Fritz Scharpf, Max Planck Institute for the Studies of Societies) This title is available in the OAPEN Library -

    eISBN: 978-90-485-1245-4
    Subjects: Political Science, Economics

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-4)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 5-8)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 9-10)
    Bruno Palier
  4. Prologue: What does it Mean to Break with Bismarck?
    (pp. 11-18)
    Gøsta Esping-Andersen

    The task of an editor is to take one step back and digest the core message that emerges from the various contributions to the volume. The prologue writer should, I suppose, do the same but with the proviso that he, or she, will then take one great leap forward and interpret all the material in a new light. I shall try my best, but please do not expect an earthshattering eureka. My task has unquestionably been eased by the admirable efforts to make the chapters in this volume as homogenous and comparable as possible. I can think of few edited...

  5. 1 Ordering Change: Understanding the ‘Bismarckian’ Welfare Reform Trajectory
    (pp. 19-44)
    Bruno Palier

    How did Continental European welfare systems change over the last 30 years? What have they become? Were they eventually able to address the main challenges that they have been confronted with since the mid-1970s? The central research questions of this book are based on a striking puzzle. It was an accepted wisdom of the comparative welfare state literature published on the threshold of the 21stCentury that the Continental European welfare systems were the least adaptable. In the mid-1990s, when he compared the capacity of different welfare regimes to face the new economic challenges, Gøsta Esping-Andersen emphasized the rigidity of...

  6. 2 A Social Insurance State Withers Away. Welfare State Reforms in Germany – Or: Attempts to Turn Around in a Cul-de-Sac
    (pp. 45-72)
    Karl Hinrichs

    Within the European Union, Germany is stillthe‘social insurance state’par excellence. In 2007, 46 percent of thegeneralgovernment’s outlays ran through the various social insurance schemes, and they disbursed roughly two-thirds of total social expenditure (according to national calculations). Social insurance spending amounted to almost one fifth of GDP which demonstrates the substantial impact of these social security institutions on the economy and on people’s living conditions. The predominance of the institutionally segmented social insurance system stems from the still effective Bismarckian legacy that made Germany the prototype for a comparatively large and, at the same time,...

  7. 3 The Dualizations of the French Welfare System
    (pp. 73-100)
    Bruno Palier

    The main components of the French welfare system clearly reflect the Bismarckian tradition of social insurance. From 1945 to the late 1970s, social policies expanded as one of the important parts of the Keynesian compromises that underpinned the‘Trente Glorieuses’. Social spending was seen as favoring economic growth and employment, social insurance transfers as consolidating social integration and (occupational ) solidarity, and welfare state institutions as supporting social peace. Subsequently, however, the economic, social and political functions of the social protection systems have been progressively undermined. After a long period of crisis and resistance throughout the 1970s and 1980s, French...

  8. 4 Janus-Faced Developments in a Prototypical Bismarckian Welfare State: Welfare Reforms in Austria since the 1970s
    (pp. 101-128)
    Herbert Obinger and Emmerich Tálos

    Austria is nowadays widely seen as possessing a highly developed, albeit mainly employment-related, social security system strongly based on the idea of status preservation of wage earners (Obinger and Tálos 2006). The foundations of this model date back to the late 19th and early 20th century when core branches of social insurance such as accident insurance (1887), health insurance (1888) and old-age pensions for white-collar workers (1906) were introduced in the Austrian-Hungarian Empire in an attempt to settle the ‘labor question’ (Arbeiterfrage). The basic objectives of public intervention in social affairs, the organizational principles (self-administration ), the mode of financing...

  9. 5 Continental Welfare at a Crossroads: The Choice between Activation and Minimum Income Protection in Belgium and the Netherlands
    (pp. 129-156)
    Anton Hemerijck and Ive Marx

    Belgium and the Netherlands represent excellentprima faciecases for a comparative study of social policy reform and redirection in Continental welfare systems and this is for several reasons (Hemerijck, Unger and Visser 2000). First, Belgium and the Netherlands are small, open economies that share a tradition of social partnership in the areas of wage bargaining and social insurance administration. Employers and workers are well organized, especially among large and medium-sized firms, and collective bargaining occurs predominantly at the sectoral level. At the same time, however, the two countries are distinct in terms of the institutional frameworks of the political...

  10. 6 Italy: An Uncompleted Departure from Bismarck
    (pp. 157-182)
    Matteo Jessoula and Tiziana Alti

    The Italian welfare system emerged under two different political regimes: the competitive, Liberal regime from the country unification (1861) to 1922, and the Fascist regime (1922-1943). The profound variation of the political background, however, did not have a decisive impact on the institutional traits of social protection schemes that from its inception displayed a Bismarckian imprint. They were in fact built along occupational lines – aiming to protect dependent workers primarily – and financed through social contributions paid by employers and employees (though the state contributed with a share of the total cost, i.e.tripartite financing); benefits were broadly contributions...

  11. 7 Defrosting the Spanish Welfare State: The Weight of Conservative Components
    (pp. 183-206)
    Ana Guillén

    The transformation of the Spanish political system as well as the Spanish economy and welfare state has been dramatic since the advent of democracy 30 years ago. Because of the process of democratization, changes in the political domain have been the most salient.

    Spain has been a parliamentary monarchy for the last 30 years. This is the longest historical experience of consolidated democracy. Since 1982, the party system is dominated by two major parties: the Social Democratic PSOE (Partido Socialista Obrero Español) and the Conservative PP (Partido Popular, calledAlianza Popularbefore 1989). As Chulià (2006) notes, due to the...

  12. 8 Reform Opportunities in a Bismarckian Latecomer: Restructuring the Swiss Welfare State
    (pp. 207-232)
    Silja Häusermann

    With the transition to post-industrialism and financial austerity, most Bismarckian welfare systems have started to face similar structural challenges for reforms since the 1970s: budgetary pressures for retrenchment contrast sharply with new demands for social protection, resulting from the failure of both labor markets and traditional family structures (Esping-Andersen 1999). Hence, welfare policies have shifted from a dynamic of steady growth to a period of restructuring and redefinition of social rights. Even though the precise content and timing of the reforms varies across countries, similarities in the new politics and social policies of Bismarckian welfare systems are striking: retrenchment of...

  13. 9 The Politics of Social Security Reforms in the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia
    (pp. 233-254)
    Alfio Cerami

    In 1989 Central and Eastern European policy-makers were suddenly confronted with the difficult task of restructuring a welfare system under a completely different economic and political system. The restructuring of welfare institutions accompanied the emergence of new and serious societal problems. More and more people were hit by unemployment and poverty, the family pattern in force during communism had to be re-discussed, and also protection during old age and sickness had to be renegotiated. Reforms started immediately and involved important structural changes. The four Visegrad² countries (Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia) raised retirement age and pension insurance contributions while...

  14. 10 Reforming Bismarckian Corporatism: The Changing Role of Social Partnership in Continental Europe
    (pp. 255-278)
    Bernhard Ebbinghaus

    In most Continental European welfare systems the state ‘shares public space’ (Crouch 1986) with the social partners, employers and trade unions, over such public policy areas as employment regulation and social protection. Corporatist participation of social interest groups in public policy-making has a long tradition in Continental Europe. Since the first Bismarckian reforms in response to the ‘workers question’ by mandating social insurance in the late 19th century, employers and workers received representation in the self-administration in return for their contributions to these parafiscal funds. The Bismarckian social insurance principle with strong reliance on co-financing through social contribution and bipartite...

  15. 11 Trajectories of Fiscal Adjustment in Bismarckian Welfare Systems
    (pp. 279-300)
    Philip Manow

    The comparative literature which analyzes the fate of the welfare state in our economically ‘dire times’ started with the assumption that an increasingly internationalized market will force the generous welfare states of the Western world in a common, downward direction. Yet, today it seems that the advanced OECD economies have maintained their ability to ‘tax and spend’ to a surprising degree. What is most remarkable from the viewpoint of the early pessimistic predictions is that the welfare state has basically survived (Kuhnle 2001) rather than outlived itself.

    One of the most prominent explanations for the resilience of the welfare state...

  16. 12 Whatever Happened to the Bismarckian Welfare State? From Labor Shedding to Employment-Friendly Reforms
    (pp. 301-332)
    Anton Hemerijck and Werner Eichhorst

    Is the welfare state fit for the 21st century? This question has haunted European policy-makers and researchers for over a decade. Sluggish growth and weak job creation around the turn of the new millennium has not only given way to a fierce ideological battle between different socio-economic ‘models’, triggering political strife and separating antagonistic advocacy coalitions – but also contributed to a strand of analytical literature pointing out the structural impediments to ‘modernize’ Continental European and Mediterranean welfare states and make them both more employment friendly and sustainable (see e.g. Scharpf and Schmidt 2000). The Bismarckian version of the European...

  17. 13 The Long Conservative Corporatist Road to Welfare Reforms
    (pp. 333-388)
    Bruno Palier

    This final chapter provides a cross-cutting reading of the earlier contributions in an attempt to account for the common characteristics of the Bismarckian welfare reform trajectory. It will not concentrate on the detailed contents of each reform¹, or on the differences between them, these having been exhaustively detailed in the national chapters that make up the main part of this volume. Instead, this chapter will focus on the specificities of each phase of the common reform trajectory, with a particular emphasis on the diagnoses, the politics and the consequences of the reforms adopted. The aim is to give a general...

  18. Notes
    (pp. 389-402)
  19. Bibliography
    (pp. 403-438)
  20. About the Contributors
    (pp. 439-442)
  21. Index
    (pp. 443-455)
  22. Back Matter
    (pp. 456-456)