Igor Guardiancich

Volkswagen NewDem Fellow
Political Science
University of Michigan, US
Project Title: 
A Not-So-Long Goodbye to Bismarck: An Intertemporal East-West Comparison of Pension Reforms
Project Abstract: 

Despite the warnings by the retrenchment literature, Continental (Western) European welfare states have transited from their Bismarckian imprint with Beveridgean aspirations to a neo-conservative neo-corporatist dualized configuration, where few insiders enjoy income maintenance and poverty alleviation is guaranteed to the rest. The goodbye to Bismarck did not happen overnight: in most cases such 'modernization' took more than three decades to materialize.

This project seeks to investigate what happened to post-socialist Europeancountries, whose hypertrophic, premature, essentially Bismarckian welfare states remained unchanged until 1989.Here, the transition was arguably much swifter: especially in pensions, the early reformers retraced the Western transformation in less than a decade. A number of factors contributed to this 'fast-forward' course of events. The suddenness and depth of the transformational recessions forced a number of Central and Eastern European governments to adopt a labour-shedding strategy to save their economies and ensure social peace. The ensuing financial collapse of social security institutions inevitably led to rather overt cuts in social spending. The unsustainability of both refinancing and retrenchment coupled with an often-overt aversion to egalitarianism and corporatism generated the first wave of restructuring through privatization and individualization, leading, ultimately, to the dualization of welfare. Finally, increasing malaise of the outsiders and Europeanization prompted post-socialist governments to create social safety nets for those left behind.