Corporatism and Social Self Administration in Europe

04.03.2014 - 17:15
Location : 
A 5,6 Raum A 231
Type of Event : 
AB A-Kolloquium
Dr. Tanja Klenk
Lecturer affiliation: 
DHV, Speyer / Potsdam University

Corporatism and Social Self Administration in Europe

Countries belonging to what has been called the conservative, paternalistic or Bismarckian welfare state have a long tradition of integrating organised interests into the processes of policy making and policy implementation. One distinctive feature of traditional Bismarckian welfare governance is the so-called social self-administration model, which allows for the participation of affected interests in social insurance funds. Social insurance funds are usually governed by bi- or tripartite boards consisting of representative of the employers, the insured (i.e. most often members of the trade unions) and less often representatives of the state.

It was Arnold J. Heidenheimer (1980), who classified the involvement of unions in social insurance administration as the ‘third pillar’ of the labor movement besides their involvement in industrial relations and bargaining structures and in work councils at the company level. Seen from the perspective of unions, self-administration provides not only possibilities for interest representation, but important social mobility opportunities for individual workers.

In the past years, however, the Bismarckian model of welfare administration has been facing increasing pressure for change. With the beginning of the so called ‘post-golden age’ – the ‘hard times’ of welfare state policy – market and competition as well as state intervention have become more and more important. Arrangements of social partnership like e.g. the self-administration model, by contrast, have lost significance and their symbolic meaning has been devalued. Political actors use hard times to justify structural reforms and to reshape the balance of power between the state, the social partners and the market.

The presentation sheds light on the metamorphoses of the relationship between unions and social insurance institutions and explores how five different Bismarckian welfare states (Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, and the Netherlands) found different answers in reforming and preserving existing structures.