Autonomy and Dependence in the Family: Turkey and Sweden in Critical Perspective

By Rita Liljeström; Elisabeth Özdalga | Go to book overview

The Family and the Welfare State: A Route to De-familialization

MARGARETA BÄCK-WIKLUND

The history of the welfare state goes back to the beginning of the twentieth century, but the core components of the contemporary welfare state were put in place during the 1960s and 1970s. The conditions of family life are tightly coupled with the institutionalization of the welfare state. At present, the dual-earner family is well established and the parents share responsibility, workload, and caring for dependents with the welfare state. Family instability is extensive and the fastest growing family form is the single parent family. In addition, more and more families are reconstituted in new combinations. The household's welfare and caring responsibilities are eased either through state or market provisions. This situation goes hand in hand with a social policy that renders women as autonomous individuals with shared responsibility for family income, or able to set up independent households.

Here, I examine the unfolding of the welfare state and focus on family policy. The introductory sections deal with some of the main principles for the analysis of welfare state regimes as an interaction between market, state, and family. The ideological heritage and political goals will be presented along with some of the strategic reforms introduced.

In the following sections the main elements in contemporary Swedish family life will be reviewed. These include the provision by welfare state institutions of childcare and of opportunities for fathers' participation in childcare and for women's gainful employment. In the final sections, I analyze the family in terms of the dilemma of how to protect individual autonomy versus family life as a common project.


From Welfare State to Welfare Regime

The welfare state is to a large extent responsible for the reproduction of the labour force and for the support of the non-productive part of the population (Gough 1979), but it is possible to discern different types of welfare state. The discourse about the welfare state opened as a question of public expenditure, but Richard Titmuss' classic distinction between residual and institutional welfare states soon forced researchers to explore the content of welfare states, and to raise questions concerning who is eligible for the services offered; the quality of the benefits and services; and whether the welfare programs are targeted or are universalistic. The residual welfare state is assumed to limit commitments to marginal and deserving social groups. The institutional model, on the other hand, addresses the entire population. It is universalistic in its approach and embodies an institutionalized commitment to welfare. It also aims at extending welfare

Margareta Bäck-Wiklund

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