The Future of the Welfare State: Crisis Myths and Crisis Realities

The Future of the Welfare State: Crisis Myths and Crisis Realities

The Future of the Welfare State: Crisis Myths and Crisis Realities

The Future of the Welfare State: Crisis Myths and Crisis Realities

Synopsis

Written by one of the world's leading policy researchers, this book seeks to assess the threat posed to modern welfare states by globalization and demographic change. Bringing together empirical methods, current information from 21 advanced countries, and insights from across the social sciences, Castles distinguishes welfare crisis myths from welfare crisis realities, and presents likely trajectories of welfare state development in coming decades. The book will be essential reading for scholars from a broad range of disciplines, as well as policy-makers in many areas of government.

Excerpt

This book seeks to discern the likely path of future welfare state development in Western nations through an evaluation of a series of accounts of that development over recent years. Influential accounts tell us variously that the entire welfare state project is endangered by global economic trends and that the demands of an ageing population make it impossible to finance the welfare needs of the next generation. They tell us also that policy-makers seeking to accommodate such forces have embarked on a major agenda of welfare state reform, but that the inspiration for this agenda of change is no longer to be found in the programmatic conflicts of Left and Right but rather in the claims and counterclaims of the protagonists of expenditure retrenchment and of a 'new politics of the welfare state'. Accounts are also beginning to come in of another threat to the viability of contemporary societies and the social policy foundations on which they rest: the threat of rapid calamitous population decline brought about rapidly falling fertility rates in many advanced nations. Our aim is to assess the accuracy of these accounts and to speculate on how far the forces they identify are likely to shape the trajectory of social policy development in coming decades. In this introductory chapter, we locate the themes, outline the approach, and identify the topics that will guide our subsequent analysis.

Themes

The three themes, which inform our analysis throughout, are crisis, myth, and measurement. The themes are inextricably linked. For what is now more than three decades—since the time that the First Oil Shock spelled the end of an era of taken-for-granted, continuous economic growth—influential commentators have been arguing that the welfare state project is in dire trouble. As we shall see, the initial crisis warnings of the 1970s and 1980s were falsified by events, their mythical status revealed by measuring the actual experience of social policy development against the predictions of those forecasting

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