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Welfare State Recalibration in France and Germany: What Role Do Polarization and Inequalities in People's Attitudes Toward Social Policies Play?

The Politics of Inequality

ISBN: 978-1-83909-363-0, eISBN: 978-1-83909-362-3

ISSN: 0895-9935

Publication date: 19 July 2021

Abstract

What role do people's attitudes toward social policies play for the politics of welfare state reform? This chapter contributes to a growing scholarship on policy responsiveness in welfare state research with a longitudinal comparative case study of the Bismarckian welfare states of France and Germany. Quantitative analyses of changes in mean attitudes as well as polarization and inequalities of attitudes based on the 1996, 2006, and 2016 waves of the International Social Survey Program (ISSP) Role of Government module are triangulated with a thick description of social policy changes. While recommodifying and defamilializing reforms in Germany transformed the welfare state fundamentally, there was more continuity in the French welfare state, in spite of a stronger focus on labor market activation policies. The quantitative results suggest that lower attitudinal stability toward the welfare state in Germany and lower polarization evoked a higher willingness for reform than in France, where more polarized attitudes and overall marginal changes in attitudes gave French governments less maneuverability in adopting reforms. In both countries, I find no evidence for an upper-class bias in policy responsiveness. In sum, my research supports the claim that change in public opinion toward the welfare state and diverging attitudes within societies play a role for the timing and direction of reforms.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

Acknowledgments

I thank two anonymous reviewers, Kai-Uwe Mueller, Miriam Hartlapp, colleagues at the OSI Bag colloquium of the Free University Berlin, Philip Lersch and the Graduate Colloquium at the Humboldt-University Berlin, and participants at the 2018 DVPW Convention and the 2019 CES Conference for valuable comments on an earlier draft of the article.

Citation

Blome, A. (2021), "Welfare State Recalibration in France and Germany: What Role Do Polarization and Inequalities in People's Attitudes Toward Social Policies Play?", Pettinicchio, D. (Ed.) The Politics of Inequality (Research in Political Sociology, Vol. 28), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 47-66. https://doi.org/10.1108/S0895-993520210000028003

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Emerald Publishing Limited

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