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Recalibrating Europe's semi-sovereign welfare states


  • Hemerijck, Anton


Since the late 1970s, all the developed welfare states of the European Union (EU) have been recasting the basic policy mix on which their national systems of social protection were built after 1945. Intensified global competition, industrial restructuring, budgetary austerity, changing family relations and demographic ageing have thrown into question the once sovereign and stable welfare systems of the Golden Age'. Moreover, domestic issues of work and welfare have more recently become ever more intertwined with processes of European political and economic integration. In this respect, it is fair to say that in the EU we have entered an era of semi-sovereign welfare states. Together, these forces have produced a momentum of system change that goes far beyond the popular notion of welfare state 'retrenchment'. The 'new' welfare edifice suggests a departure from a 'politics against markets' social-protection perspective, towards more of a 'politics with markets', social-investment approach. This paper tries to capture the comprehensive character of the ongoing effort to recast the architecture of the post-war social contract in terms of the concept of welfare recalibration for both heuristic and prescriptive purposes. It also addresses the engagement of the EU in ongoing processes of recalibrating Europe's semi-sovereign welfare states. In the policy debate the term 'European social model' is often invoked. Yet such generalisations gloss over the immense differences in welfare state development, design and institutional make-up across the EU's 25 member states and, as a consequence, fail to capture the complexity of 'contingently convergent' reform trajectories in the recent period.

Suggested Citation

  • Hemerijck, Anton, 2006. "Recalibrating Europe's semi-sovereign welfare states," Discussion Papers, Research Unit: Labor Market Policy and Employment SP I 2006-103, WZB Berlin Social Science Center.
  • Handle: RePEc:zbw:wzblpe:spi2006103

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Streeck, Wolfgang, 1999. "Competitive solidarity: Rethinking the European social model," MPIfG Working Paper 99/8, Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies.
    2. Scharpf, Fritz W., 2002. "The European Social Model: Coping with the challenges of diversity," MPIfG Working Paper 02/8, Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies.
    3. Taylor-Gooby, Peter (ed.), 2004. "New Risks, New Welfare: The Transformation of the European Welfare State," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199267279.
    4. Esping-Andersen, Gosta (ed.), 2002. "Why We Need a New Welfare State," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199256433.
    5. Gordon L Clark, 2003. "Pension security in the global economy: markets and national institutions in the 21st century," Environment and Planning A, Pion Ltd, London, vol. 35(8), pages 1339-1356, August.
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    1. repec:zbw:boesws:3 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Cerami, Alfio, 2008. "Central Europe in transition: emerging models of welfare and social assistance," MPRA Paper 8377, University Library of Munich, Germany.

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