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Reforming the European social model: dilemmas and perspectives

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The creation of the welfare state (and, more speci.cally, of mass social insurance) has been one of the most significant achievements of the "long" twentieth century, now come to a close. Yet, since at least the 1980s the welfare state has been the object of heated controversy. The capacity of social policy to reconcile economic growth with social justice has been put into serious question, especially in the light of the so-called "globalization" process. More and more frequently, efficiency and equality, growth and redistribution, competitiveness and solidarity are referred to as polar opposites that can only thrive at each other's expenses. The new millennium has opened under the shadow of a resurrected "big trade-off," offering only two possible coherent value-combinations (efficiency-growth-competitiveness vs. equality-redistribution-solidarity) and thus virtually only one viable institutional scenario, centred around the first combination.

Plausible as it may sound, this trade-off logic is certainly not inescapable. But how can we find a way out of it? The task is one of identifying new value combinations and institutional arrangements that are both mixed (in respect of their normative aspirations) and virtuous, i.e. capable of producing simultaneous advances on all the affected fronts. In this paper, I will develop some considerations around this thorny challenge, with special reference to pension insurance and health care.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 October 2003

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