Project B01 (2022-25)

Mechanisms of Social Policy Diffusion: Ideational Dynamics of Inclusion and the Political Legitimation of Beneficiary Groups

Which groups have been included in social security systems and who has been left out? In what temporal order? How are these inclusion and exclusion processes justified? And to what extent can these processes be explained by the transnational exchange of ideas? Project B01 investigates the ideational dynamics of inclusion and exclusion of social groups in social security systems. Such groups are not predefined or determined by social scientists, they came into being in political processes and were legitimised as beneficiary groups in public debates. In social policy legislation around the globe, a great variety of group constructions can be found as well as many converging terms (e.g. workers, civil servants, farmers, single parents, self-employed, employees, employees in companies with more than ten employees, resident population). The dynamics of inclusion are based on certain categories of persons that are included as new beneficiaries in an already existing programme, or new social policy programmes that are targeted towards certain groups.

The political assignment of social rights takes place in laws and other legal documents, the demand for entitlement to certain social benefits in party manifestos, interest groups campaigns and in public debates. We expect the exchange of ideas between countries and/or between countries and International Organisations to be an important factor for explaining both group constructions and legitimation strategies.

Project B01 examines the temporal sequencing of group constructions, including the similarities and differences between the group constructions in particular countries, the legitimation patterns that have been historically developed to justify the inclusion or exclusion of certain groups, as well as the causal mechanisms at work in the determination of group constructions and the diffusion of legitimization patterns. The research questions are explored in an international comparative perspective based on public protection against the risks of unemployment and old age, with special attention to the horizontal and vertical exchange of ideas. The project combines the analysis of group constructions and historical inclusion sequences in 20 countries, which were selected according to the principle of most diverse cases, with detailed case studies on the legitimation patterns and causal mechanisms that determine them in eight countries as well as the ILO.