Writing on the New Unionism blog, Mike Waghorne ‘warmly recommends’ The Rise and Fall of the Welfare State by Asbjørn Wahl, finding it full of ‘very useful data’. Waghorne praises the books distinctive analysis of the welfare state:
Many unions will be offended by this book because Wahl criticises their ignorance of how the welfare state came to be won but also because too many of them remain overly committed to social dialogue in circumstances where it is no longer a valid model, given that ‘the other two sides’ have repudiated, in fact if not in PR stances, the consensus and class compromise on which it was built.
Too simplistically, I would summarise his argument as suggesting that too many unions seem to believe that the welfare state created the basis for social dialogue and the great compromise between capitalism and unions and the working class, instead of realising that the welfare state and social dialogue are the result of workers and unions having used power and conflict to force capital to compromise, a conflict that was aided by the fear that capital had of the spread of communism after the formation of the USSR.
Waghorne concludes by highlighting the books implications for political activism:
Again and again Wahl comes back to the need for unions and others to recognise the power relationships that govern society and working life and the need for unions to rediscover the need to amass and use that power. He ends with a list of the areas where this needs to be done and the kinds of things that unions are going to have to do to beat back the assaults of capitalism.
Visit the New Unionism blog to read the review in full.
Unflinching survey of the state of welfare systems across Europe today, as they struggle in an age of government austerity and neo-liberal reform.
“With his focus on the shift in the balance of power behind the flourishing and now the destruction of social democracy Asbjørn Wahl has produced one of the best analyses of the politics of the welfare state. He also draws on ideas from struggles across the world for building a new power for democratic ownership of the economy – the only basis on which our social rights can have a future.
“This scholarly and thoughtful yet accessible book is relevant to the whole of Europe and the world. The social model of the Welfare State is one of the greatest conquests in the entire history of human emancipation and the ongoing attempt to destroy it is a crime against humanity. We should read it, learn from it and organise so as to fight back with all our strength.” – Susan George, President of the Board of the Transnational Institute