Welfare Policy from Below: Struggles against Social Exclusion in Europe, by Heinz Steinert and Arno Pilgram

Ashgate, 2006, 316 pp, pbk, 0 7546 4815 X, £25

The preface of this diverse collection begins with a critique of social insurance (which in many respects isn’t insurance as that term is normally understood) and intrusive means-testing mainly in terms of their inability to cope with a diverse and global labour market, and continues with a description of how the poor actually cope by using social security systems as one element in an overall strategy which might include casual labour, family and other networks, and voluntary and self-help organisations. It concludes with a description of a Citizen’s Income as an important element in any future welfare state suited to new liberal production methods, a statement that other important elements will continue to be the household and the local community, and a call for a Europe-wide social infrastructure.

The introductory chapter outlines the three-year research project which gave birth to this book. Succeeding chapters study the limits of a market society, inclusion and exclusion, strategies for coping with and avoiding social exclusion (and particularly the welfare, work and family mix and the usefulness and often absence of community), and particular issues such as housing, legal and illegal immigrants, and gender.

The final chapter sets out ways in which poor people create support strategies for themselves (‘situations of social exclusion are best coped with by using a multiplicity of resources. Rules by which such combinations of sources of income (wage, welfare, family) are hindered are dysfunctional’ (p.268)) and recommends a Citizen’s Income as the best basis for such strategies.

This book is the result of thorough research and careful thought, and suggests that the European welfare state called for in the preface would best be constituted by establishing a Europe-wide Citizen’s Income.

We hope that this book will be widely read by policy-makers.