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Moral economies of the welfare state: A qualitative comparative study

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This paper uses innovative democratic forums carried out in Germany, Norway, and the United Kingdom to examine people’s ideas about welfare-state priorities and future prospects. We use a moral economy framework in the context of regime differences and the move towards neo-liberalism across Europe. Broadly speaking, attitudes reflect regime differences, with distinctive emphasis on reciprocity and the value of work in Germany, inclusion and equality in Norway, and individual responsibility and the work-ethic in the UK. Neo-liberal market-centred ideas appear to have made little headway in regard to popular attitudes, except in the already liberal-leaning UK. There is also a striking assumption by UK participants that welfare is threatened externally by immigrants who take jobs from established workers and internally by the work-shy who undermine the work-ethic. A key role of the welfare state is repressive rather than enabling: to protect against threats to well-being rather than provide benefits for citizens. UK participants also anticipate major decline in state provision. In all three countries there is strong support for continuing and expanding social investment policies, but for different reasons: to enable contribution in Germany, to promote equality and mobility in Norway, and to facilitate self-responsibility in the UK.




Taylor-Gooby, P., Hvinden, B., Mau, S., Leruth, B., Schoyen, M. A., & Gyory, A. (2019). Moral economies of the welfare state: A qualitative comparative study. Acta Sociologica (United Kingdom), 62(2), 119–134.

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