9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN27 Regional Network on Southern European Societies

2009-09-04 09:00:00 2009-09-04 10:30:00 Friday, 4 September 09:00 - 10:30 Welfare State in Southern Europe: Comparative Approaches Building II, Auditório C1.03

Comparative research and construction of identities - the case of European welfare states

Everyday comparisons concerning different countries or nationalities are many times blamed of falling into broad generalizations or rebuilding stereotypes. The supposedly more sophisticated forms of comparisons, produced in the spheres of scientific practices, are typically called categorizations, typologies or models. Comparative welfare state research has been a dominant approach in the academic field of international social policy since 1970s. Scholars have divided Europe into different models of welfare production. In the beginning most studies concentrated geographically to Northern and Central Europe and failed to take into account the Southern part of the continent. Later on Southern model of welfare state has been called "rudimentary", "immature" or "peripheral", while "Nordic model has commonly been regarded as the embodiment of the highest stage of welfare state's evolution? (Baldwin 1990).

Following Schram (1993) this paper aims at interrogating assumptions about identity embedded in the analysis of welfare states and thus enabling us to rethink questionable distinctions and biased interpretations that privilege some identities at the expense of others. Analyzing public policy documents as collective identity narratives (Yanow 2000) this paper explores the construction of welfare state identities in Portugal and Finland, especially in the domain of public health policy, in the context of comparative social policy research from 1970´s onward.