Changes of the welfare state in the US and Germany. The notion "citizenship" and the reactions in public

Research Paper (undergraduate), 2005

17 Pages, Grade: A



1. The current social security debate

2. Theoretical Framework

3. Opinions about the welfare state

4. Current American and German newspaper articles about changes in the welfare state
4.1 German newspaper articles
4.2. American newspaper articles
4.3. German and American newspaper in comparison

5. Political parties and the current changes in the welfare states in the US and Germany
5.1. The SPD and the current changes in the German welfare state
5.2 The republican party and the current changes of the American welfare state


Works cited:

1. The current social security debate

In both Germany and the United States, Social Security matters declined in the last decade, be it the money for unemployed people, for pensioners or the tuition for students. In this paper, it should be investigated how the reforms changed the social security system, and how the discussions were led in the US and in Germany. By investigating surveys, newspapers and political party programs, I want see which kind of notion of a citizen lies beyond the debates in these countries. In what kind of social state are people living, what image of a citizen do they have and how are debates about social security led? Which kind of words and which values are used in the current debates? For this investigation, it will first be explained which theoretical notions of social citizenship and of the welfare state will be taken into consideration for the my investigation.

2. Theoretical Framework

The theoretical framework for a notion of citizenship will precede in order to explain the terms under which the investigation of the welfare states and the notion of social citizenship of the US and Germany is led. The social welfare state is based on a social notion of citizenship. It took a long process in the history of citizenship to finally get to this notion of social citizenship. The idea of citizenship emerged in the in the ancient Greek polis. This notion gave people a new identity apart from clans. The citizen rules others and is ruled by his equals. He did not have to work (Polock: 35). This notion of a citizen was an active one, a citizen was active in political life, one is a citizen, because one participates. In the Roman Empire, the status of a citizen was a legal one, instead of being involved in politics. In contrast to the Greek idea of a citizen, which was based on community, the Roman one was based on an individual status and legal rights. It is notable that what was meant by being a citizen in the ancient world was not meant for everyone, not even half of the population was a citizen. Citizens were only all the people which were not women, slaves or too young. According to T.H. Marshall, three different ideas of citizenship emerged starting from the 18th century. Before this time, all the notions of citizenship were one and could not be divided from one another. In the Middle Ages, participation in public rights were more a duty than a right. (Marshall: 96) In the 18th century, the first notion of citizenship which emerged. It was the notion of a citizenship with the rights of individual freedom and to support private property and the right to justice. In the 19th century, a political notion of citizenship emerged. This meant “the right to participate in the exercise of political power, whether by holding office or by voting.” (Fraser/Gordon: 115) Even though it was at the end of the 19th century that Bismarck founded the first social welfare state in Germany in order to prevent the social democratic party from gaining to much power. Marshall claims that it was not before the 20th century that a social notion of citizenship was constructed. This notion of citizenship is the bases of the contemporary welfare state. For Marshall, social citizenship means to live the life of a citizen according to the standards prevailing in the society. (Fraser/Gordon: 116) This notion of social citizenship and, consequential, the welfare state, can be seen from a lot of theoretical approaches, which give a different level to it. John Rawls proposes an approach of justice as fairness. His first principle are basic, equal rights and liberties for each person. Secondly, he thinks that offices and positions should be open to all under condition of fair equality of opportunity and to the greatest benefit of the least advantaged of society. Society, then, is a system of fair social cooperation between free and equal persons. (Rawls: 56) This way, he puts a strong weight on justice and reduces equality. He still writes, though, that there should be affirmative action to support the disadvantaged of society. However, his theory of liberalism puts rights before goods. It is a liberal position with conflicting and incommensurable conceptions of the good. (Rawls: 69) Liberty and diversity are important values in this conception. Hence, it is a justification for a fair inequality. However, he also worries about social cooperation that mutually benefits individuals. 'Justice as Fairness' is a principle with which all the members of a society could possibly agree with, it searches the least common denominator which is acceptable for all the members of a society. (Rawls: 70f.) Apparently, a contemporary western state has to make a decision which goes beyond this least common denominator. In all the contemporary western societies, there is a notion of social citizenship in a welfare state. To which degree this social citizenship is applied and how the welfare state is seen in the US and Germany is investigated in this essay. As a basic principle, a decision can be made between a communitarian, civic republican notion of citizenship and a liberal individual one. The liberal notion emphasizes individual rights and a civic society, which is based on economic values and individual identity. Communitarian, civic republican citizenship, on the other hand, follows the idea of a political community, common good and solidarity. Tying up to this model of citizenship, Esping-Anderson differentiates between three types of a social welfare states. A social democratic one can be found, for instance, in Scandinavia, a corporatist one, for example, in Germany and a liberal, residualist welfare state typically occurs in the US or Canada. Esping-Andersen's aim is to flesh out Marshall's idea of a welfare state. He claims that the welfare state cannot only be understood in terms of the rights it grants. In addition to the social rights of citizens, Esping-Andersen also looks at how state activities are interlocked with the market's and the family's role in social provision. Features of the liberal welfare state are that tested assistance, modest universal transfers, or modest social-insurance plans predominate. “Entitlement rules are therefore strict and often associated with stigma”. (Esping-Andersen 1990: 26) An order of stratification occurs between poverty among state-welfare recipients and market-differentiated welfare among the majorities. In comparison to a liberal welfare state, in a conservative and strongly corporatist welfare state, as it occurs in Austria, France, Germany, and Italy, private insurance and occupational fringe benefits play a marginal role. Corporatism is subsumed under a state edifice ready to displace the market as a provider of welfare. Esping-Andersen also argues that in a corporatist welfare state, the preservation of status differentials is predominated and, hence, rights were attached to class and status. Corporatist regimes are also typically shaped by the state and are therefore committed to the preservation of traditional family-hood. “Social insurance typically excludes non-working wives, and family benefits encourage motherhood. Day care, and similar family services, are conspicuously underdeveloped” (Esping-Andersen 1990: 27). The third type of a welfare state, is called the 'social democratic' one, since it was shaped by social democracy. In comparison to the other notions of welfare states, the 'social democratic' type is not ruled by the principle of an equality of minimal needs, but that equality is “furnished by guaranteeing workers full participation in the quality of rights enjoyed by the better-off” (Esping-Andersen 1990: 27). The 'social democratic' welfare state crowds out the market and provides one universal insurance system. However, benefits in this insurance system are graduated according to accustomed earnings. This model constructs an essentially universal solidarity in favor of the welfare state. It is a system in which all benefit and are dependent and so all will feel obliged to pay. (Esping-Andersen 1990: 28) While distinguishing between these three types of welfare states, Esping-Andersen also keeps in mind that there is no single pure case. (Esping-Andersen 1990: 28) He claims that two types of approaches which explain the welfare state were applied in the past, a systems/structuralist and an institutional/actors approach. The systems/structuralist approach explains the welfare state holistically, for instance a liberal or a socialist approach. (Esping-Andersen 1990: 13) The institutional/actors approach claims that an isolation of the economy from social and political institutions will destroy human society. (Esping-Andersen 1990: 14f.) Finally, Esping-Andersen argues for a coalition approach, which is thought interactively in terms of social relations. (Esping-Andersen 1990: 18)

Fraser and Gordon investigate the notion of citizenship in the United States and claim that there is no social citizenship in this example of a liberal welfare state. There is an image of civil citizenship as contract in the US, but social welfare is seen as a charity:


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Changes of the welfare state in the US and Germany. The notion "citizenship" and the reactions in public
San Diego State University  (Sociology)
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Daniela Keller (Author), 2005, Changes of the welfare state in the US and Germany. The notion "citizenship" and the reactions in public, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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