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From Collectivity to Individualism in the Welfare State?

Pekka Kosonen
Acta Sociologica
Vol. 30, No. 3/4 (1987), pp. 281-293
Published by: Sage Publications, Ltd.
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4194689
Page Count: 13
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Since scans are not currently available to screen readers, please contact JSTOR User Support for access. We'll provide a PDF copy for your screen reader.
From Collectivity to Individualism in the Welfare State?
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Abstract

The welfare state still enjoys widespread public support, but it has also drawn widespread criticism. This article deals with swings in public sentiments from collectivity to individualism. First, some examples are presented from the Nordic countries that reflect a shift from public to private: criticism of control and social technology, the debate on welfare scroungers, anti-tax movements and the black economy, and various forms of privatization. Second, it is asked whether history justifies talk of a collectivity-individualism cycle or merely of alternations between collectivity and individualism. Finally, five causes are identified behind the growth of individualism: (1) the failure of the institutions of the welfare state, (2) the new economic situation, (3) the rise of new middle classes, (4) changes in cultural deep structures, and (5) the hegemonic struggle in demarcating the private and public. Individualism is gaining ground, but doing so in a very complex way. Behind the growth of individualism, it is possible to identify several intertwined changes. The changes involve serious problems, especially the growth of egoism, but on the other hand the new situation also opens new prospects for the development of a rich individuality.

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