THE FUTURE OF THE WELFARE STATE: East and West / Vol. 64, No. 4 (Winter 1997)
Arien Mack, Editor
This is now the eighth issue of the Social Research series devoted to Central and Eastern Europe. The series began in 1988, before the momentous changes in the region, and has continued as these changes are played out in their various contexts.
The overused word crisis implies that there is a moment in which there is a threat of worse to come and also an opportunity to resolve the threat favorably. Countries dubbed euphemistically as “transitional” have lurched into a crisis of social protection that cannot be resolved by importing social security models developed in a different era of industrial welfare capitalism.
Discusses quantitative and structural alterations of the welfare system. The mixed neoliberal-conservative ideology that has called into question Western ideas of welfare has made important headway in the past few years. Even the most established welfare states, such as Germany or Sweden, have started to give up some of their former firmness and to follow the British-American example. Despite increasing evidence that many components of the ideology are erroneous, and many policy changes miss their avowed objective, quantitative and structural alterations of the welfare system continue.
Although it is not my intention to adopt an alarmist approach by stressing the obvious long-term dangers of the matter, I simply wish to state as a fact that the issue of poverty was removed from the list of political questions to be discussed seriously in Hungary at practically the same moment as the change of the regime… Westerners believe that poverty is generally said to be an unavoidable concomitant of the transition from socialism to the market economy and its growth is closely linked to our economic difficulties.
Examines the interplay between economic and political forces in the formulation of social policy in Central and Eastern Europe. The article analyzes postcommunist countries' economic problems and the economic transition in Central and Eastern Europe. There are certain economic advantages possessed by the transition countries.
The postcommunist societies face, with respect to welfare provision, three challenges. The first is that of the social costs of transformation. The second challenge is the legacy of the past: overeffective, ineffective and inefficient institutions, and inflated expectations. The third challenge is the crisis of the welfare state in the West, which eliminates for the transforming countries any clear model for organizing their social safety net, except for one piece of technocratic advice: reduce and downsize as much as possible what you inherited from communist times.
The income support systems in the Central and Eastern Europe countries were developed to meet the needs and interests of a command economy. There was no genuine social assistance to support the poor, as according to ideology there was no poor in the socialist system; need was categorized and social services developed for the old, sick, and abandoned.
Over the past decade the concept of labor relations in Russia has undergone radical changes -from the paradigm of universal full employment, which was an official tenet of the socialist period; through the idea of rational employment in the era of perestroika; and all the way to liberal model of a labor market, which recognizes the existence and inevitability of unemployment.
At present in the advanced Western democracies both the traditional left and the neoliberal right are in crisis. The first part of the crisis began in the mid 1970s, when the policies of the social democratic welfare system crumbled and voters abandoned the parties that were associated with the tax-and-spend state and helped conservative parties with neoliberal policies into government.
Discusses social policy reforms in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Attention is paid to economic and political status of Czechoslovakia in the 1980s, including employment, social security, social insurance, state social support system, the whole social assistance system, housing, and health. The paper specifically addresses, Do Czech and Slovak social policies follow the same reform path or do they diverge? Why? Secondly, the article examines, are social policy reforms in the Czech and Slovak Republics sectorally specific or not? If yes, where and why? If not, why?
Discusses European societies' efforts to restructure their social programs to achieve the deficit and debt reductions required by the Maastricht fiscal convergence criteria. The article looks at the fiscal problems confronted by European polities, including limitations of political economy models, Italian and French politics in a comparative historical and theoretical framework.