Rowman and Littlefield International

Modern Social Politics in Britain and Sweden

From Relief to Income Maintenance

By Hugh Heclo

1 Review

Modern Social Politics in Britain and Sweden was the winner of the 1974 Woodrow Wilson Foundation Book Award for the best book published in the United States on government, politics, or international affairs.

Paperback ISBN: 9781907301001 Release date: Mar 2010
£36.00 €49.00 $58.00

Pages: 374

Modern Social Politics in Britain and Sweden was the winner of the 1974 Woodrow Wilson Foundation Book Award for the best book published in the United States on government, politics, or international affairs.


Chapter One – The Union’s Course: Between a Supranational

Welfare State and Creeping Decay 1

Chapter Two – The Significance of Cognitive and Moral Learning

for Democratic Institutions 33

Chapter Three – Democratic Institutions and Moral Resources 49

Chapter Four – Crisis and Innovation of Liberal Democracy:

Can Deliberation Be Institutionalised? 73

Chapter Five – Democracy Against the Welfare State?

Structural Foundations of Neoconservative Political Opportunities 99

Chapter Six – Toward a New Understanding of Constitutions 129

Chapter Seven – The Political Meaning of Constitutionalism 147

Chapter Eight – Citizenship and Identity: Aspects of a Political

Theory of Citizenship 163

Chapter Nine – Competitive Party Democracy and the Keynesian

Welfare State: Factors of Stability and Disorganisation 177

Chapter Ten – Main Problems of Contemporary Theory of

Democracy and the Uncertain Future of its Practice 199

Chapter Eleven – Constitutionalism in Fragmented Societies:

The Integrative Function of Constitutions 211

Chapter Twelve – ‘Homogeneity’ and Constitutional Democracy:

Coping with Identity Conflicts through Group Rights 227

Chapter Thirteen – Perspectives on Post-Conflict Constitutionalism:

Reflections on Regime Change Through External Constitutionalisation 255

Chapter Fourteen – Is There, Or Can There Be, a ‘European Society’? 283

Chapter Fifteen – Problems of Constitution Making: Prospects of a

Constitution for Europe 301

Chapter Sixteen – Revisiting the Rationale Behind the European

Union: The Basis of European Narratives Today and Tomorrow 317

Chapter Seventeen – Citizenship in the European Union: A Paradigm for

Transnational Democracy? 341

Chapter Eighteen – The Democratic Welfare State in an Integrating Europe 355

Chapter Nineteen – The Constitution of a European Democracy and

the Role of the Nation State 379

Chapter Twenty – The Problem of Legitimacy in the European Polity:

Is Democratisation the Answer? 389

Chapter Twenty-One – The European Model of ‘Social’ Capitalism:

Can It Survive European Integration? 417

Chapter Twenty-Two – Two Challenges to European Citizenship 449

Chapter Twenty-Three – Europe Entrapped: Does the EU Have

the Political Capacity to Overcome its Current Crisis? 471

Index 491

Claus Offe, born 1940, was Professor of Political Science at Humboldt University, Berlin, where he held a chair in Political Sociology and Social Policy. His previous positions include professorships at the Universities of Bielefeld and Bremen, where he served as director of the Center of Social Policy Research. He has held research fellowships and visiting professorships in the US, Canada, Australia, Hungary, Poland, Austria, Italy, and the Netherlands. Since 2006 he has been Professor of Political Science at Hertie School of Governance, Berlin. His fields of research are democratic theory, transition studies, EU integration, and welfare state and labour market studies. He has published numerous articles and book chapters in these fields, a selection of which is reprinted as Herausforderungen der Demokratie. Zur Integrations- und Leistungsfähigkeit politischer Institutionen (2003). Recent book publications in English include Varieties of Transition (1996), Modernity and the State: East and West(1996), Institutional Design in Post-Communist Societies (1998, with J. Elster and U.K. Preuß), Reflections on America. Tocqueville, Weber, und Adorno in the United States (2005) and Europe Entrapped (2014).

Ulrich K. Preuß is Professor emeritus of Law and Politics at Freie Universität Berlin and at the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin. In 1989-90, he co-authored the draft of the constitution as a participant of the Round Table of the German Democratic Republic. He has taught at, among others, Princeton University, New School University, the University of Chicago and Haifa University. He served as a judge at the Staatsgerichtshof (State Constitutional Court) in the Land Bremen [state of Bremen] from 1992 unitil 2011. His book publications include, among others, Constitutional Revolution. The Link Between Constitutionalism and Progress, 1995; Institutional Design in Post-Communist Societies. Rebuilding the Ship at Sea (co-authored with Jon Elster and Claus Offe), 1998; Krieg, Verbrechen, Blasphemie. Zum Wandel bewaffneter Gewalt [War, Crime, and Blasphemy. On the changing character of armed conflict]. 2nd ed. 2003; Bedingungen globaler Gerechtigkeit, 2010.

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1 Review

Lacking its own distinct methodological identity, social policy has grown up under the wing of a number of cognate disciplines, most notably sociology.

This book is an attempt to shift the study of social policy away from a predominantly sociological perspective and into the realm of political science. The policies chosen for analysis are British and Swedish old-age pensions and unemployment insurance programmes, and the techniques and concepts used are derived from pressure-group theory, systems analysis, political theory and political history. Mr Heclo begins his study by identifying certain preconditions for

public welfare policies in both countries, emphasizing particularly economic

growth, population stability and humanitarian reaction against the tradition of

poor relief. He then proceeds to a comparative analysis of inputs, processing,

outputs and feedback in the growth of social policy over the past hundred years.

Drawing on a wide range of mainly secondary sources, he examines the role of

electorates, parties, interest groups, politicians and free-lance intellectuals and

he concludes with an analysis of social policy as part of a 'process of social

learning' - a process which he sees not merely as the product of power relationships

but as 'a form of collective puzzlement on society's behalf.

Many illuminating parallels are drawn between the British and Swedish

systems. In both countries the electoral significance of social welfare is found to

be slight. In both countries the civil service is singled out as the most powerful

force in policy formation - if not in the actual initiation of policies at least in

their drafting, scope and subsequent modification. In both countries there

appears to have been a high level of ideological discontinuity, policies which were

originally sponsored by the 'left' later re-emerging as policies of the 'right' and

vice versa. In both countries purely negative influences, such as ignorance,

inertia and failure to correct unintended consequences, are seen as significant

88 Reviews

policy sources, and in both countries the inheritance of past policies appears to

be the single most crucial factor in determining what is feasible at any given


Nevertheless the author avoids a convergence position, and the contrasts

which he draws are in many cases as instructive as his parallels. In Sweden

centralized government long preceded social welfare, whereas in Britain social

welfare has been the cause rather than the consequence of the growth of a

centralized state. In Britain social policy was largely a response to industrialization

whereas in Sweden it was a response to rural proletarianization. In Britain

social insurance has helped to stifle a more rational use of the labour force, and

one of the most significant facts in this book is that Sweden with a labour force

one-sixth the size of Britain's has four times as many places for industrial retraining.

In Britain social policies have been forced to accommodate a much

larger and more powerful voluntary sector, but perhaps paradoxically governments

in Sweden have been much more successful at integrating pluralistic

organizations into the policy-making elite. This contrast is most striking and

most politically important in relation to trade unions, which in Sweden have

for many years played a dynamic role in the planning of social welfare whereas

in Britain they have been much more exclusively concerned with wages and

conditions of work. Similarly there seems to have been much more co-operation

in Sweden between the different political parties. This has not precluded quite

severe political conflict (for example over 'cost of living areas' in the 1930s and

national superannuation in the 1950s); but battle has been joined not as a

conditioned reflex of preconceived party loyalties but at the conclusion of

intelligent and open public debate. In general social policy formation in Sweden

comes across as an altogether better-informed, more professional and more

sophisticated process than the parallel process in Britain - quite apart from the

more adult level of political discussion Swedish policy-makers have nearly

always been much more thorough in both research and consultation, through

the use of investigatory commissions, academic and technical advisers and

the 'remiss' (translated by Heclo as 'the circulation of a paper to interested

parties for comment').

Certain criticisms may be made of Heclo's study at both an analytic and a

technical level. He greatly exaggerates the social homogeneity of contemporary

British society (although the lack of just such a homogeneity by comparison

with Sweden must surely help to account for many of the perceived differences

in political process and structure). He defends himself against the charge of

'taking politics out of political behaviour'; but a more serious charge might be

that he takes people out of politics; and certainly one would prefer a more

detailed and close-grained analysis of the perspectives and motives of some of

his leading actors and of their political philosophies (particularly the latter,

which Heclo would probably do rather well). His use of historical statistics is

sometimes rather odd, for instance under-fifteen-year-olds are classified as social

'dependants' right back to the middle of the eighteenth century. The book is

littered with minor but irritating errors in names, titles and typography, which

one hopes will be corrected in any further editions. Nevertheless this is a

powerful and stimulating work, which should considerably broaden the

boundaries of theoretical discussion, not least by reminding us that Aristotle

may have at least as much to contribute to social policy as Durkheim and Marx.

The book is dedicated to Richard Titmuss and is a worthy reflection of Titmuss's

lifelong attempt to balance historical materialism with the study and generation

of autonomous political ideas.

Journal of Social Policy

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