Workshop: ‘Whose Welfare? Fresh Perspectives on the Post-war Welfare State and its Global Entanglements’
Recently, the so-called refugee crisis has been framed as a threat for well-developed welfare states in Europe by the president of the Eurogroup, Jeroen Dijsselbloem. According to him, external borders have to be guarded, because otherwise ‘loads of people will come to demand support and they blow up the system’. Dijsselbloem’s statement raises the question how welfare has been used by states to govern, coerce, mobilize and pacify their citizens and if welfare has always been framed in such exclusive terms. For example, to what extent was the provision dependent on working ability and citizenship and what was the status of people out of work and of guest workers, refugees and migrants from the (former) colonies? Moreover, was the welfare provision (or the lack thereof) framed in terms of rights or entitlements, reward or punishment and did changes occur in this respect over time, for example, through the introduction of reforms based on the principle of (creeping) conditionality? What were the similarities and differences in the ways in which democratic and authoritarian regimes operated their welfare mechanisms and how could welfare be turned into a subject of ideological competition? Moreover, what was the legacy of pre-war welfare tradition: what ruptures and continuities can be detected in this respect?
The events of the Cold War and its aftermath, the processes of European integration and decolonization made a significant impact on how the trajectories of the welfare state were shaped, as did discourses on neoliberalism, austerity, solidarity, social justice, human- and social rights. At present, our knowledge about these influences and interactions is still fragmentary and a longue durée perspective on the history of welfare is yet to be adopted. Moreover, while phenomena such as welfare colonialism and chauvinism have recently started to receive attention from historians, the history of the welfare state has been largely written without taking into account the history of migration, colonialism and development aid. What was, for example, the impact of the ILO’s Social Security Minimum Standards Convention of 1952, the UN’s International Convenant on Social, Economic and Cultural Rights (1966) as well as of the International Conventions Eliminating all Forms of Racial Discrimination (1965), Discrimination against Women (1979) and the Protection of the Rights of all Migrant Workers and the Members of their Families (1990)? How were the Western welfare state systems extended, applied, appropriated in non-Western parts of the world, e.g. by development workers and indigenous people? What was the impact of New International Economic Order, as promoted by the United Nations in the 1970s, on national welfare policies?
At a time when the welfare state falls constantly under criticism and its bitter death is being forecasted by many, it appears to be timely to revisit its origins, enquire into its hitherto undetected complexities and trace its global entanglements. The workshop is initiated and hosted by the research team of the ERC project Rethinking Disability in the Institute for History at Leiden University (read more).