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The transition of welfare state commitment : understanding the dynamics of contraction in state welfare

  • Jan Petersson
  • Staffan Blomberg
Publiceringsår: 2001
Språk: Engelska
Volym: 2001
Nummer: 3
Dokumenttyp: Konferensbidrag
Förlag: Lunds universitet : Socialhögskolan

Abstract english

In the 1990s a contraction in state welfare in Sweden has been on its way and still seems to be

so by joining forces. With focus on understanding the dynamics involved in the contractionprocess

this paper aims to discuss the transition of welfare state commitment in Sweden. On

the general level it should be seen as an attempt to adress the enigmatic and puzzeling

questions of: How to explain change in social policy? How to understand local differences in

the scope and directions of welfare programs?

Over the 1990s we have been witnessing a more sceptical attitude towards the provision of

state welfare. It has been argued that state welfare surpresses free choice and that budget

deficits and tax burdens have become obstacles to extensive public committments. Closely

linked to this (neo-liberal) thinking is the incentive-driven approach to the problems of public

welfare, grounded in neo-classical economic theory. Focusing on individual behavior in terms

of scrounging, dependancy, lack of responsibility and praise of market-solutions, the new

discourse has replaced the traditional socialdemocratic rethorics of autonomy, redistribution

and equality. The effect of this new focus is seen both in the general shifts of policy and in

research. However, in this paper we will take on another aspect of the transition of welfare

state commitment. The contraction process and the understanding of its dynamics, will lead

on to the arena of local priorities and adjustments. The empirical data referred to are primarely

data from ongoing research of local and organizational processes of adjustment and priority

setting in the area of elderly care in Sweden in the 1990s (Blomberg, Edebalk och Petersson

2000). Basically it is a comparative study of a strategic selection of eight Swedish

municipalities. Four of them characterized by extensive reorganization i.e. change in user

patterns of home help services and the other four, constituting a reference group, without

such changes. The approach is largely retrospective, concerning the years 1992-2000.

Interviews with local politicians, administrators, professionals and representatives of the

unions and of the elderly were the main sources of data.


  • Social Work


Conference on Ageing, Care and Welfare of Elderly and how IT can improve Quality of Life”
2001-05-07 - 2001-05-10
  • ISBN: 91-89604-07-5
Staffan Blomberg. Foto: Patrik Hekkala
E-post: staffan [dot] blomberg [at] soch [dot] lu [dot] se



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