Health Care: A Community Concern?

By Anne Crichton; Ann Robertson et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 6

From Welfare State to
Welfare Society?

Crisis in the Welfare State

By 1980 many of the western nations' welfare states were being challenged because they seemed to be too costly. Nor did they seem to be achieving the positive outcomes for society which had originally been anticipated. Socialist and Liberal ideologies were under attack from the neo-conservatives who wanted less of the social redistribution to go into social welfare programs and more into support of business investors.

An international conference of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries was held in Paris to discuss the welfare state in crisis (OECD 1981). This conference was not focussed on ideological or political differences between the nations' approaches. Instead, its concerns were the narrowness or broadness of consultation on policy issues. The opinion leaders there concluded that the more successful welfare states were those in which the governments consulted with other power groups in society such as business leaders, trade union representatives, researchers and so on. The countries with Westminster systems of debate, where policy decisions were customarily taken in Parliament after discussion between government and opposition politicians, were thought to be less successful than those which sought "partnerships" with other community leaders.

At this conference a wide range of countries took part in a discussion of their financial problems and the difficulties of getting consensus on the way to address them. In the conference report, considerable attention was paid to the decision-making structures of European corporatist democracies (e.g., Sweden and West Germany) as compared with the decision-making struc

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