The 'Golden Age' of the welfare state in Europe was characterised by a strengthening of social rights as citizens became increasingly protected through the collective provision of income security and social services. The oil crisis, inflation and high unemployment of the 1970s largely saw the end of welfare expansion with critical voices claiming the welfare state had created an unbalanced focus on the social rights of individuals, above their responsibilities as citizens. During the 1980s many western countries developed contractual modes of thinking and regulation within welfare policy. Contractualism has proved a significant organising principle for public reforms in general, and for social policy reforms in particular as it embraces both a way of justifying certain welfare policies and of constructing specific socio-legal policy instruments. Engaging with both the critique of the welfare state and the subsequent policy responses, expert contributors in this book examine contractualism as a discourse, comprising principles and justifying ideas, and as a legal and social practice. Covering the international debate on conditionality they discuss European experiences with active social citizenship ideas and contractualism providing individual case studies and comparisons from a wide range of European countries.
Rune Ervik is senior researcher at Uni Research Rokkan Centre, Bergen, Norway. His research interests include comparative perspectives on pension policies and reform, politics of ageing, international social policy and the impact of discourse and policy ideas on institutional and normative changes of social policy. Nanna Kildal is senior researcher at Uni Research Rokkan Centre, Bergen, Norway. Her main research interests relate to comparative welfare state research, international social policy discourses and reforms, and normative dimensions of welfare policies. Even Nilssen is professor at Bergen University College and senior researcher at Uni Research Rokkan Centre, Bergen, Norway. His research interests covers comparative studies in the field of welfare and work, the role of international organizations in social policy and the impact of juridification processes on the construction of social citizenship.