9th Conference European Sociological Association

RS05 Historical Sociology

2009-09-03 09:00:00 2009-09-03 10:30:00 Thursday, 3 September 09:00 - 10:30 Social Europe in Historical Perspective Building II, C3.02

Welfare beyond Society - What can we learn from the past?

In the course of the progressing political integration of Europe, the question of social integration and thus, development perspectives of a European society both in science and in politics becomes increasingly relevant.
The presentation will deal with this question and enter this discussion with the objective of examining the conditions for the constitution of a European social policy. As the current scientific debate shows, the development of European instruments for the reduction of individual social differences, thus a European welfare state, appears unrealistic: As one of the main reasons the absence of any basic precondition, mainly a uniform willingness for European solidarity is mentioned.
Interestingly, parallels to the historical development of the modern national welfare states and their preconditions are drawn. However, the fact that the national constitution of the welfare state too, was the result of a political process which at its beginning was not developed on a community based principle of mutual solidarity is being overlooked. This development at the end of the 19th century was rather the response to the overall social crises caused by industrialisation and the emerging labour problems; it was a political project to link nation, state and economy. However, the question arises, how did it transpire that the nation state emerged as the framework for the stabilisation of social relations at the time? How did this integration of society into a national framework take place? And how could the principle of territorial fixation eventually develop a category of action that defined social affiliation and therefore, institutionalised the practice of solidarity within the community?
These are by no means questions of only historical interest. I suggest that they form the basis to solve the question of the prospective shape of the European Union and its underlying society.
So the question is: Can we learn from history? And what answers can be given to the special case of the emergence of a European social policy without a European society?