Saturday, August 29, 2015

Welfare states and environmental states

Erling Nielsen, "The Norwegian Labour Party" (1930) (Thornews)

While political science looks at the past a little differently than does the discipline of history, it can pose theories that can be helpful for structuring or motivating historical inquiry.

Environmental Politics recently published an article by Ian Gough, "Welfare states and environmental states: a comparative analysis", that asks about the correlation between the development of the welfare state and "the environmental state". The abstract:
A framework is presented for thinking about state intervention in developed capitalist economies in two domains: social policy and environmental policy (and, within that, climate-change policy). Five drivers of welfare state development are identified, the ‘five Is’ of Industrialisation: Interests, Institutions, Ideas/Ideologies, and International Influences. Research applying this framework to the postwar development of welfare states in the OECD is summarised, distinguishing two periods: up to 1980, and from 1980 to 2008. How far this framework can contribute to understanding the rise and differential patterns of environmental governance and intervention across advanced capitalist states since 1970 is explored, before briefly comparing and contrasting the determinants of welfare states and environmental states, identifying common drivers in both domains and regime-specific drivers in each. The same framework is then applied to developments since 2008 and into the near future, sketching two potential configurations and speculating on the conditions for closer, more integrated ‘eco-welfare states’.
The article finds that the two issues actually react differently to the "five Is":
A broad-brush conclusion might be the following. Common drivers of changes in welfare states and environmental states include globalisation and internationalisation, the rising power of capital and business over other classes, and the continuing dominance of neo-liberal ideas. Neo-liberalism is a block to progress in both domains, but the other factors operate in different ways in the two domains. International economic and political linkages favour the environmental state but weaken the welfare state. Business power promotes inequality and weakens welfare and, in many countries, blocks climate-mitigation programmes; but its impact on the environmental state depends on the balance of carboniferous and Green business interests.
On the other hand, institutions and ideas continue to explain cross-national differences in both domains. Deep institutional differences persist across the advanced capitalist countries reflecting welfare regimes and varieties of capitalism. These, interacting with different power and ideational constellations, continue to drive different policy outputs in both spheres of state activity with contrasting social and environmental outcomes. Broadly speaking, these demarcate the Anglosphere from the EU.

1 comment: