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The Force of Ideas in Reforming Social Protection: the Case of Activation Policies
This essay speaks about the force of new ideas in inducing social policy reform, in the wake of the recent calls for a move towards ‘active’ forms of social protection in western Europe. More specifically, it examines the meanings and promises of activation, attempting to measure if and to what extent increased concern for active policies turned into concrete choices in western Europe in the Nineties. The author formulates an evaluation of the decisiveness of the role such policies have had and can have in improving the labour market and reducing public spending. He reaches the following conclusion: first, it is by no means certain that the much proclaimed move towards more active policies is truly a breakaway from the acquired principles of the welfare state; secondly, only a few states in western Europe have actually developed more activist social protection policies; thirdly, the true change may lie in the cutting of spending for the various forms of support to unemployment.