chapter  2
21 Pages

Looking in three directions: migration and the European welfare state in comparative perspective: Keith G. Banting

International migration is reshaping the politics of virtually every western democracy, and contributing to vigorous debates about the nature of identity, community and citizenship in the contemporary era. The politics of social policy seem to be particularly sensitive to this transition. From their inception, social programmes have been influenced by prevailing interpretations of the nature of inequality. Changing images of the groups that are most disadvantaged and vulnerable in a society can have powerful consequences for the definition of social problems, the discourse within which they are debated, and the political alliances that form around them. In addition, the history of social programmes has been powerfully influenced by conceptions of community and the boundaries of inclusion and exclusion, which define both those who are full members of existing networks of reciprocity and deseIVe support, and those who are 'strangers' or 'others' to whom little is owed. In the contemporary period, migration is unsettling traditional definitions of inequality and community, and introducing new tensions into the politics of social policy. This new landscape has led some analysts of European experience to fear that immigration is fragmenting the political constituencies that support the welfare state and eroding the sense of a common community on which a vibrant conception of social citizenship depends. For example, in his study of the rise of radical right parties, Kitschelt worries that a multicultural welfare state may not be politically viable, and asks: 'will the multicuIturalisation of still by and large homogeneous or ethnically stable Western Europe lead to a decline of the welfare state?' (Kitschelt 1995: 258-9, 270). A decade earlier, Freeman was even more definitive. Immigration, he asserted, 'has been little short of a disaster', and 'has led to the Americanisation of European welfare politics' (Freeman 1986: 61 ).1