Political debates are often driven by what we call ideology. Nowadays we refer to ideology as a set of values and beliefs which influence individuals, politics, groups or even societies as a whole. The “critique of existing socio-economic systems, […] a view of the world, […] a vision of the future and […] guidance to their adherents” are the main features of political ideologies, Jones says.1 These features will be the framework of our essay to determine what the link between ideology and welfare is and how each ideology influences social policies.
Indeed, like every subject in social sciences, social policies have something to do with ideologies. Whereas the United States of America has moved towards a limited welfare state in which the well-being is linked to a rapid economic growth and to the market, the Nordic countries have emphasized the role of the state.
These political orientations derive from ideology: Ideology of the New Right for the USA and Ideology of Democratic Socialism for Nordic countries. George and Wilding have chosen six ideologies according to their historical strength, pervasiveness and cohesiveness: The New Right, the Middle Way, Democratic Socialism, Marxism,Feminism and Greenism.
These ideologies are obviously different from one another but they may notice the same problem and then define it in different ways. Ideologies are both
prescriptive and explanatory. Historically, ideologies of welfare have been developed through a left-right spectrum, that is, a pro-state versus pro-market spectrum.
However, all ideologies cannot be gathered into that spectrum and we can observe the development of new ideologies which go beyond this spectrum thanks to new approaches of the problems (Feminism and Greenism) or thanks to a more practical approach (Middle Way). This pragmatic way seems to be the dominant one nowadays. We will see, therefore, the development from a left-right political opinion to
these new forms of thinking and, as said above, how each one influences the development of the welfare state.
[...] They also criticize the utopianism of Democratic Socialism and the existing socio-economic system which is “economically, socially and politically damaging6” George Vic and Wilding Paul, Welfare and Ideology, Harvester Whatsleaf p Ibid., p We can refer to the steady expansion of public welfare spending in the 60s, the destruction of individual iniative because of welfare entrapment, the battle between political parties which means a loss of authority, etc. Since their diagnostic is different, the solutions are different too. The main solution may be summed up in the following expression: “private is better”. [...]
[...] Seeing the subject of welfare system through the eyes of feminists and greenists enables us to adopt a new perspective while observing the welfare state. More than problems, the welfare state has to face ambivalences according to feminist groups. Let us evoke one ambivalent feature. Although the welfare state offers mechanisms for helping women (like support for caregivers, who are mainly women, support for family, etc.) and giving her more independence, these support mechanisms tend to reinforce the traditional pattern of gender relations in which the male is dominant. [...]
[...] We should, therefore, adopt a less ideological attitude and policies should be driven by pragmatism. We can find a hint of this in the New Right or in the Democratic Socialism ideology. The former admits that the state has a role to play and can be efficient in a certain area while the latter goes toward a “market socialism” and gives more and more importance to the individuals. These are the pragmatic orientations we find summarized in the Middle Way ideology (introduced by Third Way governments). [...]
[...] We will see, therefore, the development from a left-right political opinion to these new forms of thinking and, as said above, how each one influences the development of the welfare state George Vic and Wilding Paul, Welfare and Ideology, Harvester Whatsleaf p By virtue of its very theoretical nature, the Marxist point of view stresses the causes of the development of the welfare state but does not talk as much about the proper solutions to improve the welfare system. This task is hard enough insofar as it is more a complete modification of the social system than a betterment of the existing welfare system. [...]
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