All posts by HC Haase

About HC Haase

Hans Christian Haase is an urban geographer working as a GIS specialist. His academic interest centres around economic geography and the relations between policy, planning and the spatial environment. ORCID: 0000-0003-0414-4637

Collin Crouch, Governing Social Risk in Post-crisis Europe (Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, 2015)

In Governing Social Risk in Post-crisis Europe, Colin Crouch gives a detailed review of the state of social risk in different policy regimes across Europe. The social risk that is examined here, is the risk relating to personal income- and livelihood uncertainties. This comparative study examines the issue of social risk on a temporal as well as a geographic scale. Pre- and post- the economic crisis, and between geographic regions. Though the development post the crisis is an important topic, the greater take away is how well different countries coped and adapted to the changed circumstances. In the analysis of policy regimes, Crouch goes beyond the classic dichotomy of liberal vs. socialist governance and introduce the category of the traditional policy regime, where social security and social mobility is provided through the family. With a model consisting of social (state), traditional (family) and liberal (market) policy profiles, he categorizes the countries of Europe between these with a wide range of economic and labour market statistical data.

With this policy landscape imposed on the nations of Europe, clusters of policy become evident and the book gives a more detailed mapping of governance and risk, than the commonly used north-south or East-West contradictions. It is discussed how national traditions and cultures have shaped national policy trajectories and then the author goes on to analyse how social groups are affected, marginalised, or included in different ways in each country and hence governance profiles.

In the first chapters of the book, the theoretical framework is presented and central themes are translated into operational concepts for statistical analysis. Of the many concepts he translates into international comparable statistical variables, I find the variable representing class solidarity debatable. The number of labour union members is used as an indicator of the strength of class solidarity. Nevertheless, many different factors can influence union size and class solidarity can materialise in many ways other than union membership. However, Crouch does point out that it is a proxy for class solidarity in absence of any better alternative.

The chapters in the central part of the book are devoted to the statistical comparisons and analysis of the European countries. The focus is on how the different policies displace the economic risk of the population. This is examined in the chapters, separating workers from consumers, separating consumption from labour income, and integrating consumption and labour income. Here he shows how risk is transferred, dependent on the policy regime, between social groups, between present and future, or between the collective and the individual.

The last part of the book discusses the larger scale developments in Europe, and if the degree of social risk correlates with governance profiles, in particular, if a lower level of social risk is associated with the social-democratic policy regime. The author contemplates on what futures the three policy regimes hold and what possibilities they give for innovation, competitiveness, collectivity and inclusion.

The book does not give a deeper discussion of risk, nor does it offer any governance recommendation. It present a benchmark of social risk in the different EU countries and policy regions. It examines how social risk is related to governance profiles, while the outcome they have on different population and class segments are thoroughly discussed. It is a post-crisis assessment of how policy traditions on the European continent mitigate and shape social risk.

As a thorough and nuanced analysis of social risk in relation to policy regimes, this is a relevant and interesting read for scholars in the social sciences, particularly in the fields of public policy or European studies. Although policy- and decision makers would benefit from reading this book, it seems intended more for academia than the political profession.

Dagmar Kutsar & Marjo Kuronen (eds.), Local Welfare Policy Making in European Cities (Dordrecht: Springer, 2015)

Local Welfare Policy Making in European Cities is an anthology covering 11 different cities in the European Union, through case studies of local welfare policies. The book disseminates the findings of the research program Impact of Local Welfare Systems on Female Labour Force Participation and Social Cohesion (FLOWS), and it is funded by the European Union’s framework program. Therefore, the book has a very strong theme of female labour force participation that is evident throughout the book. In connection with this theme, the book examines the policies of child- and elder care policies in the 11 cities.

The book tries to draw a connection between the European Union’s goals of gender equality and female labour market participation, with the impact of local welfare policies in the studied European cities.  It is both a main point of the book as well as the premise of its relevance, that local welfare policy processes can support the European Union’s goal of increased women’s labour force participation and, also, that local policy and polity are the main structural barrier thereof.

The studied cities is selected to represent the following European regions: the Nordic countries, North-west Europe, Continental Europe, Mediterranean Europe and post-socialist Central-east Europe.

The first section of the book is focused on statistical comparisons of the studied cities and comments on the development of female labour market integration across them. The later sections examine local policy processes, childcare and elder care respectively.

Although one might expect a comparative study of regional welfare policies, the book is narrowly concerned with female labour market participation in relation to the welfare services of child- and elder care. The gendered focus is also the reason that care-related welfare services are chosen as the welfare policies for comparison. Female labour market participation is a strong theme in all the chapters. There is nothing wrong with this focus, but I would expect the title of the book to reflect it. One could almost claim that the title is misleading. But as the saying go: “don’t judge a book by its cover”. To do justice to the content of the book, it can be assessed as a book about female labour market participation with a focus on local welfare policies.

Across the 11 cities, the book analyses the labour force participation and job opportunities for women in relation to factors such as, local gender culture, welfare regimes (on a liberal to social democratic continuum) and local economic situations. The policies and the local context in the cities are analysed in great detail. With an international group of contributors, the book utilises the authors’ local expert knowledge well and it gives a thorough presentation of the local circumstances forming labour force policies and gender equality processes.

The book tries to move between two widely different scales. I can only appreciate the attempt to get knowledge by analysing scales as wide as international statistical comparisons, to local city polity and local welfare service provisions. Though the relation between the two scales of analysis could be emphasised more strongly, the book shows that the interplay of local policy landscapes and global economic developments is of significant influence for gender equality in the local labour forces.

The international and interdisciplinary nature of the book that gives it the aforementioned merits also brings about one of the greatest quarrels that I have with the book. As stated, the book reports the findings of the FLOWS research project. It seems too apparent though, that the book tries to collect and re-sample various parts form the project. Though all the chapters are centred around female labour force participation and comparisons of the 11 cities, they seem only loosely connected. Albeit an anthology is fragmented by definition, I strongly miss credible conclusions and comments drawing the different chapters together into a coherent story or at least relating them to each other.

Because of its strong theme of female labour force integration, the book will be of particular interest to scholars in the field of gender studies. Scholars with an interest in labour market policy or with a focus on local welfare policy will also benefit from reading this book.