Risky solidarity. The limits of insurance as a technology for distributing welfare
Sociology University of Helsinki Helsinki, Finland
University of Helsinki Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies Helsinki, Finland
Insurance technology leads one to think about the production of welfare in terms of risk pools. Through these pools, economic risks and benefits are redistributed in a particular way. In private insurance the degree of risk classification affects the way in which insurance can be seen as a form of solidarity. In social insurance the degree of income redistribution has the same effect. This paper analyses the particular conceptions of solidarity which the different forms of insurantial practice produce. The main questions are: How have insurantial practices led to a specific understanding of the meaning and extent of solidarity and, consequently, the idea of welfare itself? How are the limits of insurantial solidarity defined in different variations of insurance technology? We emphasize that the question of solidarity has to be analyzed simultaneously in relation to both private and social insurance. We begin by briefly examining the historical developments through which insurance became a focal instrument of social solidarity. Second, we analyse the peculiarity of insurantial solidarity in relation to a more general concept of solidarity. The third section discusses the ways in which the prices and benefits of insurance can be determined, and the ways in which the ideas of solidarity, equality and justice are involved in this. Special emphasis is put on the role of risk classifications. The final part of the paper discusses how insurantial solidarity diverges from the conceptions of solidarity evident in the non-contributory minimum benefits provided by many social security regimes.