chapter  7
Reconsidering the socialist welfare state model
ByMojca Novak
Pages 16

Post-socialist countries share many common factors and features of development. Among other things we find the lack of a significant social policy that has been accompanied by an overwhelming and excessive concern for welfare from cradle to grave (Ferge, in Ferge and Kolberg 1992) that rendered people socially helpless. Social policy under socialism repeatedly showed itself to have been used as a reward for those classes that showed themselves to be politically loyal, while social rights themselves remained an unachievable ideal. Moreover, these welfare state regimes revealed themselves as a fusion of both economic and social sectors, concentrating on the ‘work sector’ that brings them close to the Bismarckian concept of welfare (Marklund 1993). Despite its orientation to work, this application of the term ‘welfare state’ pays homage to those universal schemes which encouraged the belief that social austerity under socialism could be transcended. Insofar as we find poverty and social insecurity used as an instrument to undermine those ‘disloyal’ citizens and social classes that were defined as being ‘incompatible’ with socialism, such as farmers and artisans, there was, nevertheless, no particular official concern expressed. Moreover, the data on poverty remained secret for official reasons (Szalai 1992). In contrast, as soon as the social classes that were supposed to be protected by social policy programmes began to lose their fight against poverty and social insecurity, they became a topic of growing political concern. It was unexpectedly revealed in the 1980s that socialist societies were far from achieving success in the fight for welfare and well-being. The lived reality was closer to an ‘austerity’ society than to an ‘affluent’ one, and this fact initiated a re-awakened interest among both politicians and experts for the social malady of social insecurity. Criticism of social policy under socialism was launched. It tried to prove the existence of omission and to demonstrate the inefficiency of the ‘socialist’ welfare state.