Social Democracy and Welfare Capitalism: A Century of Income Security Politics

Social Democracy and Welfare Capitalism: A Century of Income Security Politics

Social Democracy and Welfare Capitalism: A Century of Income Security Politics

Social Democracy and Welfare Capitalism: A Century of Income Security Politics

Synopsis

What has brought about the widespread public provision of welfare and income security within free-market liberalism? Some social scientists have regarded welfare as a preindustrial atavism; others, as a functional requirement of industrial society. Most recently, scholars have stressed the reformist actions of center-left parties during the decades following World War II, the workings of "new" post-industrial politics lately, and a multifaceted role of politics and state institutions overall. Alexander Hicks thoroughly revises these views, stressing the enduring significance of class organizations, however political embedded, from the era of Bismark until the present.

Social Democracy and Welfare Capitalism describes and explains income security programs in affluent and democratic capitalist nations, from the proto-democratic innovators of the 1880s to the globally buffeted democracies of the 1990s. Hicks's account stresses the reformist role of employee political and economic organization and derivative institutions, in particular, social democratic parties, labor unions, and neocorporatist arrangements. These forces, arrayed as th

Excerpt

The United States has one of the highest poverty rates of the twenty or so most affluent democracies. This is true even if poverty lines are drawn to a single standard of consumption provided by the prosperous United States. It is true despite the fact that the U.S. poverty rate is not unusually high among comparable affluent democracies if the rate is tallied before the giveand-take of government taxing and spending has had its impact. So why is there so much poverty in the United States?

A free-market conservative might impute the deterioration of the United States's relative egalitarian standing once government finances are accounted for to a counterproductive government involvement in setting personal income. Data suggest, however, that poverty figures tend to shrink after governmental taxes and transfers are tallied. Indeed, this book shows that U.S. spending for income-security purposes is relatively low. As Gosta Esping-Andersen's Three Worlds of Welfare Capitalism has famously shown, the extent to which the United States buffers people against the economic vicissitudes of old age, illness, and unemployment is slight in comparison with the public protections provided citizens of other affluent democracies.

Government income security spending appears to reduce poverty. Indeed, the economic shortfalls associated with old age, sickness, and . . .

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