22 February 2008

Despre originea Welfare State in Marea Britanie si Germania

Dintr-un review de la Economic History Review la cartea lui Peter Hennock, The origin of the welfare state in England and Germany, 1850–1914: social policies compared:
In making his comparison, Hennock exposes the very different foundations of German and British state welfare and stresses the contrasting roles played by social insurance both at this time and in shaping subsequent developments. From its very inception, the British welfare state offered central government (and the Treasury) a more definitive role in the provision of welfare than did its German counterpart. Contrary to what we might assume, a more authoritarian regime thus created, arguably inadvertently, more space for local self-determination in this area than did a more liberal British state. Aided by earnings-related contributions and benefits, social insurance agencies in the Kaiserreich were less reliant on central government contributions than they were in Britain and exercised far greater autonomy as a result. In the long run, this explains why Nazis disliked social insurance for its potential to incubate political opposition and why, since 1945, the German nation has displayed continuously a preference for tackling social risk through this medium. In contrast, British social insurance schemes were subject to greater central direction and their agencies were far more vulnerable to state control. Today, British national insurance contributions are viewed as a tax and the social benefits available to contributors have all but disappeared. As this book argues, these very different historical trajectories owe their origins to legislation passed before 1914 (not post-1945). They are explained partly by contrasting powers of central government in the two countries. The new German Empire's legitimacy required its respect for long-established powers of the municipal and state authorities found within its borders. Tax-raising capacities being limited, self-funded insurance was an attractive option for providing welfare. In Britain, by contrast, such constitutional limitations were less evident and, in years of crisis for local government finance, central state subsidy and social insurance offered complementary solutions to the problem of poverty. In this sense, this book argues (correctly) that comparing national welfare states requires a comparison of the nature and remit of national state power. This offers a new dimension to already established arguments concerning the German preoccupation with the threat of social democracy and the British with the threat of pauperism that has dominated welfare comparisons between these two countries in this era to date. As this book demonstrates, the public sphere is not a common space. This perspective on the scope of state power reveals a major problem for comparisons of welfare states (alluded to in the introduction): where do their boundaries fall? The very notion of a ‘welfare state’ assumes a degree of commonality that offers historians a given body of legislation for comparative analysis. However, matters are not so neat. Should, for example, legislation on hours of work, minimum wages, and other aspects of labour law (governing industrial bargaining and the right to strike) be included? In Germany, where the suppression of free trades unionism accompanied the introduction of social insurance, the answer might be ‘yes’. In the UK, more liberal government separated industrial relations from state welfare, a feature that shaped subsequent historiography. (Noel Whiteside (2008), The origin of the welfare state in England and Germany, 1850-1914: social policies compared - By Peter Hennock. The Economic History Review 61 (1), 243–244 doi:10.1111/j.1468-0289.2007.00419_11.x)