Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

Into the Promised Land: Issues Facing the Welfare State

Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

Into the Promised Land: Issues Facing the Welfare State

Article excerpt

BEN-ARIEH, Asher and John GAL, eds., INTO THE PROMISED LAND: Issues Facing the Welfare State. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2000, 304pp., $67.50 hardcover.

This book delivers all that it promises and more. In fifteen chapters an interesting group of scholars, from the UK, Australia, US, Canada, The Netherlands and Israel, discuss some of the major issues common to all welfare states, with a unique focus on Israel. The text is based upon the premise that the foundation of the welfare state is no longer citizen demand, social justice or equality from within nations, but the norms and rights set by international bodies. The text is divided into three parts beginning with general perspectives on the welfare state, the Israeli case and issues in the development.

An early argument is made that strong, extensive welfare states are good for need satisfaction and objective human welfare with the productivist welfare state superior on both moral and consequentialist grounds. These models are considered "thick" with cultural context, available resources, legislative powers and duties, and the moral climate to address human needs. Carrier and Kendall emphasize the role of public administrators in "thick" decisionmaking when scarce resources must be allocated. O'Connor offers the feminist view that in the US sophisticated interest groups and the courts are more significant in making changes than political parties because these changes become institutionalized.

Doron and Habib, Israeli scholars, help the reader understand how their nation's welfare state fell victim to its own success. Current generations with greater material and economic security, take these for granted, and see little reason to support the welfare state. However, Habib sees there is more recognition of the problems of poverty and inequality in Israel and not as much concern for abuse of social services or creating dependence as found in other Western countries. Gal compares five nations' benefit expenditures. This analysis shows that Israel is highest in categorical benefits because of its unique military circumstances and categorical policy legacy.

Ben-Arieh's comparative parliamentary research reinforced the generally accepted fact that in Israel, as in other countries, Members of the Knesset (MK's) do matter. Yishai explains that Israeli laws are elitist in style, outwardly acknowledging and promoting citizens"rights, but always abiding by the core value of the supremacy of the Israeli state.

In the third section, four thoughtful authors tackle the issues in the development of the welfare state. Each carefully designs and analyzes their comparative studies and data in new and better ways to avoid the typical pitfalls. …

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