Bente Blanche Nicolaysen
Voluntary Service Provision in a Strong Welfare State

Mannheimer Zentrum für Europäische Sozialforschung: Arbeitspapiere; 35
ISSN: 1437-8574

In this paper an analysis of childcare provision in Norway is used as a tool to raise questions about the place of voluntary providers in a strong welfare state. I argue that any attempt to contain developments in voluntary provision in the period 19301985 within a linear model of change would be to impose on them a decidedly inappropriate conceptual framework. The paper deals critically with the notion that developments in childcare provision in a strong welfare state can be captured as an evolutionary movement from 'a golden age' of voluntary provision later subverted by ever-increasing statutory provision. At the core of this notion is the idea that voluntary provision of services should be seen as a precondition for the rise of the modern welfare state and possibly as a contemporary response to the welfare state crisis in the Scandinavian countries. The main thrust of the argument in this paper is that voluntary service provision cannot, even in a strong Scandinavian welfare state, be relegated to periods 'before' or 'after' welfare state expansion. Voluntary service provision in Norway did not precede, but rather coincide, with the expansion phase of the Norwegian welfare state during the 1950s and 1960s. In the light of such an interpretation, the idea that the plurality of providers evident from the mid-1980s onwards is 'new' and a direct response to the welfare state crisis must be qualified.