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Ideational Leadership in German Welfare State Reform

Ideational Leadership in German Welfare State Reform: How Politicians and Policy Ideas Transform Resilient Institutions

Sabina Stiller
Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    Ideational Leadership in German Welfare State Reform
    Book Description:

    The author of this innovative study argues that key politicians and their policy ideas, through "ideational leadership", have played an important role in the passing of structural reforms in the change-resistant German welfare state. This argument is based on in-depth case studies of individual reforms in health care, pensions and unemployment insurance since the early 1990s as well as a concise analysis of recent changes in family policy. Stiller concludes that Germany, traditionally a Bismarckian welfare state, has embarked on a path of 'hybridisation' that confronts German politics with growing societal divisions. This thought-provoking title is highly recommended for policymakers, scholars and students interested in the past and future reforms of the German welfare state, leadership, and the role of ideas in policymaking. This title is available in the OAPEN Library -

    eISBN: 978-90-485-1174-7
    Subjects: Political Science, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-4)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 5-6)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. 7-8)
    Sabina Stiller
  4. 1 Introduction
    (pp. 9-20)

    From today’s perspective, there is at least one conventional wisdom in welfare state studies: mature welfare states have been facing major strains for several decades. During the 1990s, scholars started to investigate the responses of welfare states to those strains. What they found, though, were not fundamental policy shifts but an intriguing contradiction: although structural pressures for change could no longer be ignored, welfare state programmes had remained relatively stable. The main approaches that tried to explain such stability despite increasing demands for major change were historical institutionalism (Pierson 1994, 1996), and welfare regime theory (Esping-Andersen 1990, 1999). In those...

  5. 2 Ideational Leadership: Key to Overcoming Welfare State Resistance to Change
    (pp. 21-44)

    We now turn to the key of the puzzle sketched in Chapter 1, ideational leadership (IL). IL draws on two extensive bodies literature, on the role of ideas in policy-making (see for overviews Braun and Busch 1999; Maier 2003: 46), and on leadership (Burns 1978; ’t Hart 2000; Blondel 1987; Moon 1995; Helms 2000; ’t Hart and Ten Hooven 2004; Goldfinch and ’t Hart 2003). We start by arguing that to explain significant reforms in the German case, one needs to search for an explanation at the micro-level – the level of political actors – because macro- and meso-level factors...

  6. 3 A Birdʹs-Eye View of the German Welfare State
    (pp. 45-74)

    In this chapter, we will take a closer look at the edifice of the German welfare state. We will put a magnifying glass on its proverbial resistance by surveying both regime-level characteristics and political-institutional context and programme-level characteristics. We start out by presenting the main principles on which this Bismarckian welfare state regime was built. Some of these principles can still be seen more than 125 years after Bismarck created the first social insurance programmes, but are being challenged by recent structural reforms. They comprise wage-centred social insurance, maintaining the former standard of living, a focus on the family as...

  7. 4 Transformation of Health Care Policy? The Legacy of Minister Seehofer
    (pp. 75-110)

    Our first case study turns to a policy area which as early as the 1990s experienced important changes: health care. While other areas of the welfare state were still adjusted in incremental steps, Minister of Health Horst Seehofer, the central actor in our analysis, brought a number of reforms into being that had the potential to change the structures and principles of health care provision. Seehofer, a member of the Christian Democratic sister party CSU, served as Minister in the last two cabinets under Chancellor Kohl between 1992 and 1998. His career in the party ranks of the Bavarian CSU...

  8. 5 Transforming Public Pensions: the Riester Pension Reform
    (pp. 111-144)

    From this citation, one can sense a good measure of resolve to change an undesirable situation. Ultimately, that resolve was rewarded as it was translated into a remarkable reform of German pension provisions in 2001. As the main achievement of Walter Riester, Minister of Labour in Chancellor Schröder’s first Red-Green cabinet, it presents us with an interesting case for several reasons. To begin with, Riester’s pension reform was one of the most important innovations of the first Schröder Government. As such, it attracted notable attention, not only in the German media but also in the welfare state literature for its...

  9. 6 Transforming Unemployment Policy: The Hartz IV Reform
    (pp. 145-180)

    The above quote highlights the magnitude of a controversial reform in a third area of the German welfare state: labour market policy with a focus on unemployment insurance. Next to health care and pension policy, it is perhaps best indicative of the transformation of German social policy arrangements. In what follows, we examine the events resulting in the4thLaw on Modern Services on the Labour Market, better known as ‘Hartz IV’.¹ This much-discussed reform was adopted by the second Schröder Government (2002-2005), under the responsibility of Wolfgang Clement, Minister of Economics and Labour. Clement, the former Minister-President of North-Rhine-Westphalia...

  10. 7 Conclusion
    (pp. 181-200)

    Our survey of the German welfare state has almost come almost full circle. The empirical chapters have examined in depth how fundamental reforms of German social policy programmes came about. We found that structural reforms of health care, public pensions and unemployment insurance materialized because of committed and effective ideational leaders such as Seehofer, Riester and Clement. At the same time, concession-making proved to be important. Seehofer knew how to involve the sceptical Social-Democrats in the making of the 1992 GSG reform and succeeded. A decade later, Riester managed to get his private pension scheme adopted because he accommodated concerns...

  11. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. 201-202)
  12. List of Interviewees
    (pp. 203-204)
  13. Notes
    (pp. 205-234)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 235-248)
  15. Index
    (pp. 249-253)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 254-254)