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Globalization, political discourse, and welfare systems in comparative perspective : the Federal Republic of Germany, Japan, and the US

Globalisierung, politischer Diskurs und Wohlfahrtssysteme in vergleichender Perspektive : die Bundesrepublik Deutschland, Japan und die USA
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Seeleib-Kaiser, Martin

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Corporate Editor Universität Bremen, Zentrum für Sozialpolitik
Abstract "Welfare states are currently challenged by a number of developments: the globalization or internationalization of the economy, changing demographics, a transformation from industrial to post-industrial economies, as well as social and cultural changes. Although all of these variables might be very important for specific changes in social policy arrangements, in this paper the author will only address the effects of globalization on social policy arrangements. It will be argued that the specific perception of globalization and the constructed links to social policy arrangements within the political discourse will have to be taken into account as a key variable in analyzing the effects of globalization on social policy arrangements. Hence, the central questions addressed in this paper are: Was globalization causally related to changes of welfare systems within the political discourse? Did the constructed links between globalization and the welfare system become dominant or even hegemonic within the political discourse? Have welfare systems changed in a way consistent with the specific perception of globalization? Furthermore, the author argues that focusing solely on the state's activity within the social policy realm might lead to distorted and misleading results. As case studies he has chosen Germany, Japan and the United States. These three countries constitute the centers of the current globalization process while at the same time they have large domestic markets and therefore seem less vulnerable to external economic developments. Furthermore, Germany, Japan, and the U.S. have three very distinct welfare systems. In the following part of the paper, the author will briefly take up the debate within social sciences about the economic limits of state social policy and highlight the importance of analyzing the political discourse, before he will discuss the concept of welfare systems in the second part. Third, the author will show how various links between globalization and the welfare system are socially constructed in different welfare systems. Fourth, he will sketch the more recent reform tendencies at the policy level. Finally, he discusses the different dynamics of welfare systems in an era of globalization in a broader theoretical framework. It will be argued that the concept of path dependency, which has often been used to characterize recent social policy developments, underestimates the changes that have taken place in the various welfare systems." (excerpt)

"Der Wohlfahrtsstaat in den industrialisierten Ländern wird durch eine Reihe von Entwicklungen herausgefordert: die Globalisierung oder Internationalisierung der Wirtschaft, demographische Veränderungen, eine Transformation von industrieller zu post-industrieller Wirtschaft und auch durch soziale wie kulturelle Veränderungen. Obwohl all diese Variablen für bestimmte Veränderungen in der Sozialpolitik wichtig sein können, werden hier ausschließlich die Auswirkungen der Globalisierung auf die Sozialpolitik in Deutschland, Japan und den USA behandeln: War der Prozeß der Globalisierung mit sozialpolitischen Arrangements gekoppelt, und wenn ja wie? Inwieweit korreliert der politische Diskurs mit Veränderungen in der Politik? Es wird aufgezeigt, daß der politische Diskurs als Schlüsselvariable beachtet werden muß, wenn wir Auswirkungen der Globalisierung identifizieren wollen. Zusätzlich wird behauptet, daß eine ausschließliche Konzentration auf die staatlichen Aktivitäten im Bereich der Sozialpolitik zu verzerrten und irreführenden Ergebnissen führen könnte. Abschließend werden die unterschiedlichen Dynamiken von Wohlfahrtssystemen im Zeitalter der Globalisierung auf einer breiteren theoretischen Grundlage diskutiert. Es wird gezeigt, daß das Konzept der Pfadabhängigkeit, mit dem oft die jüngsten Entwicklungen des Wohlfahrtsstaats erklärt wurden, die Veränderungen unterschätzt, die innerhalb der Wohlfahrtssysteme Deutschland, Japans und der USA stattgefunden haben." (Autorenreferat)
Keywords discourse; welfare state; development; globalization; internationalization; social policy; impact; Federal Republic of Germany; Japan; United States of America; political development; Far East; Asia; North America; international comparison; social system
Classification International Relations, International Politics, Foreign Affairs, Development Policy; Basic Research, General Concepts and History of Social Policy
Method descriptive study
Document language English
Publication Year 2001
City Bremen
Page/Pages 30 p.
Series ZeS-Arbeitspapier, 15/01
Licence Deposit Licence - No Redistribution, No Modifications
data provider This metadata entry was indexed by the Special Subject Collection Social Sciences, USB Cologne