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Anton Hemerijk (European University Institute)

9 May 2017 @ 11:00 - 13:00


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9 May 2017
11:00 - 13:00
Event Category:

Open Lecture: “The Uses of Social Investment”


Over the past years, the notion of social investment gained considerable traction in scholarly debates over welfare state futures. While social investment policy prescriptions have been progressively taken seriously in domestic social reform, evident by significant convergence and spending hikes on social investment policies in areas of childcare and family policy, active labour market and reintegration services, across the Member States of the European Union (EU), most scholars of the welfare state hesitate to conclude that social investment has assumed paradigmatic primacy in early 21st century welfare provision. The ambivalent political endorsement of social investment priorities is to no insignificant measure a product of intellectual inertia, critically shaped by two older – tested, tried and (still) politically popular – approaches to welfare provision: the Keynesian-Beveridgean welfare compromise of the postwar era and its antithesis; the neoliberal critique of the interventionist welfare state of the 1980s. In additions, as compared to the two antecedent policy paradigms, the social investment turn cannot be associated with an episodic economic crisis, on a par with the Great Depression of the 1930s and the Oil Shocks of the 1970s, that helped to politicize the earlier two meta-policy paradigms, driving, respectively, drive welfare state expansion after 1945 and welfare retrenchment ever since the 1980s. The argument presented in this contribution is that indeed social investment turn conjures up a novel welfare policy paradigm sui generis, with its own distinct policy theory, privileged instruments and governance prerequisites, whose transformative portent mature gradually. Not intimately related to a deep economic crisis, like the Great Depression or the Great Stagflation, the Great Recession since the 2008 global credit crunch, does beg the question of the continued relevance of the social investment welfare policy paradigm in the second decade of the new millennium.