Minority Nationalism and Welfare State Attitudes: Québec and Scotland Compared

By Laczko, Leslie S. | British Journal of Canadian Studies, September 2005 | Go to article overview

Minority Nationalism and Welfare State Attitudes: Québec and Scotland Compared


Laczko, Leslie S., British Journal of Canadian Studies


Modern welfare states are not all cut from the same cloth, and much research has been devoted to describing and analysing their similarities and differences. Esping-Andersen (1990) identifies three types of welfare state regimes, the liberal 'anglo-saxon' model, the conservative/corporatist model, and the social democratic model. In the liberal welfare state, exemplified by the United States, Australia and Canada, and to a lesser extent the United Kingdom, the market and the private sector are viewed as the main engine of growth and redistribution. The welfare state is 'residual' in the sense that state intervention is designed to correct or adjust inadequacies of the market. In this model, programmes are often means-tested and targeted rather than universal. In the conservative corporatist welfare state regime, exemplified by Germany, France and Italy, the welfare state was typically built 'from above', often with a pattern of collaboration between Church and State. In the social democratic welfare state regime, found in Scandinavia, the labour movement and left political parties had a key role in shaping the welfare state. In these settings, state programmes are extensive and universal, and their redistributive effect is substantial.

In positing that modern welfare states fall into these three distinct regime clusters, Esping-Andersen put forth his typology as a set of ideal-types, allowing for the empirical possibility that within each cluster, some countries might be more typical of it than others. Both Canada and the United Kingdom have often been classified as belonging to the first cluster of liberal welfare state regimes. In both cases, this classification has been nuanced and qualified by researchers who point out that for various reasons, neither Canada nor the United Kingdom are as pure exemplars of the liberal pattern as the United States and even Australia. For example, Esping-Andersen put the UK in the liberal cluster because it was increasingly heading in that direction in the Thatcher years (as quoted by Evans 1996: 189), although analyses of levels of public support for the welfare state during the 1980s and early 1990s clearly put the UK closer to continental Europe than to the United States and Australia (Evans 1996). In similar fashion, it has been argued that Canada's welfare state regime can be seen as a hybrid of several influences, with the dominant liberal residual model coexisting alongside the visible influence of conservative and social democratic impulses. In its level of public support for the welfare state, Canada displays a slightly higher or 'more European' level than the United States, although Canada still resembles the United States more than it resembles any other country (Laczko 1998). Thus in a general sense the welfare state regimes of Canada and the United Kingdom both display characteristics that make them members of the liberal cluster, but not the 'most typical' members.

One important feature shared by the United Kingdom and Canada is that both are multinational states, and each has territorially concentrated internal 'national minorities'. This chapter will explore the connection between minority nationalism and welfare state attitudes in Canada and in Great Britain, focusing specifically on differences between Québec and the rest of Canada and Scotland and the rest of Great Britain. In both settings, there is of course a history of distinct institutions setting the minority nation or territory somewhat apart from the majority neighbour and partner. In both Québec and Scotland, a separate legal system, a distinct educational system, and a distinctive dominant religion are three factors that have historically reaffirmed the particularities of the minority region in the larger Canadian and British contexts. What is the extent of subnational and regional differences in outlooks on social inequality and welfare state activity? How have distinct subnational historical patterns influenced the structure of opinions today? …

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