The Welfare State, Globalization and the Rule of the Market
By Christoph Butterwegge
[This short article is translated from the German on the World Wide Web, http://www.sozialextra.de/konfi/skizzen/butterwegge.htm.]
The welfare state has been in the crossfire of criticism for some time. The welfare state hinders the economic upswing and can no longer be financed at least in its previous form. This is heard everywhere. "Globalization" is advanced as a key term of the social-political discussion that for many participants implies a specific development of the welfare state. The social cannot play a great role any more when economies grow together, the world market dictates policies of nation states and societies only function as economic positions or locations.
Questions press which were not answered in the past by either governing politicians or their advisors: Does world market integration of more and more economies inevitably lead to the reduction of social accomplishments in welfare states like Germany or is it a product of political decisions and power hierarchies? In other words, do interested circles of the business camp misuse globalization as a battle cry for their frontal attack on the social security system? What political alternatives exist to break the downward spirals regarding taxable profits, social- and environmental standards and the general level of affluence (mass income)?
The welfare state systematically regressing since 1974/76 or since 1982 must be reformed, democratized and decentralized. Bureaucratization tendencies and encrustations can be burst open without attacking its substance. What is central is refuting the neoliberal positional logic, reestablishing solidarity and reorganizing and extending the welfare state according to its key role for the development of a democratic and social civil society. In the long term, the bond of the system of social security to paid work and the wage rate (declining since the 80s) must be loosened. If all residents in Germany would be held to the social security obligation and protected from elementary life risks by means of a need-oriented basic security, poverty would be removed forever at least as a social mass phenomenon. Germany would be free of inner disintegration through increasing income differentiations.