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The State of Welfare

Comparative Studies of the Welfare State at the End of the Long Boom, 1965–1980

Edited By Erik Eklund, Melanie Oppenheimer and Joanne Scott

The period after 1945 saw a rapid growth in social welfare, with the state taking on increasing responsibility for pensions, health care, unemployment relief and income support. In Western democracies economic growth underpinned state investment and was reinforced by demands from the new social movements of the 1960s. Just as the clamour for reformism reached a crescendo in the late 1960s, the global economy began to falter, culminating in the oil crisis of 1973–1974.

This volume explores the factors that shaped the trajectories of welfare state change over this crucial period. A close analysis of countries such as Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom reveals signs of a broader shift towards the decline of government spending and the first tentative moves towards a nascent neoliberalism. Other countries, such as Sweden and West Germany, remained comparatively untouched by the economic crisis and even sought to reinforce their welfare state in response to it. Ireland and Northern Ireland also showed little evidence of these changes, isolated as they were by complex political and religious factors. This book brings together a range of case studies at both country and provincial level in order to build up a more complex and nuanced picture of the welfare state in the 1960s and 1970s.

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8 Like a Solid Rock? Forces of Continuity and Silent Mutations within the Federal Republic of Germany’s Welfare State Development (Nicole Kramer)


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8 Like a Solid Rock? Forces of Continuity and Silent Mutations within the Federal Republic of Germany’s Welfare State Development

Over the last few years, German scholars in contemporary history have shown particular interest in the economic downturns of the 1970s, and their social and political consequences. While in many European countries debates centred on the narratives of a decade of crisis, some peculiarities can be detected in the German case. On the one hand, the writings of the political scientist Ronald Inglehart, who argued that a change of values had happened between the mid-1960s and mid-1970s, are playing a much more prominent role than in other historiographies. On the other hand, the 1970s are seen as the starting point of the last third of the twentieth century, shaped by new and distinct paradigms.1 Historical research on the subject of the welfare state and social policy development was strongly influenced by this historiographical debate on the end of the long boom. Comparative in-depth studies came to the conclusion that the recessions of 1973 and 1979 did not weaken the post-war consensus in a significant way and therefore far-reaching changes of welfare institutions were not apparent.2 ← 151 | 152 →

For those familiar with the history of the German welfare state, this finding comes as a minor surprise because, in general, it can be said that the development of the German welfare state3 is shaped by continuity and path dependencies rather than...

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