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The Business of Social Policy. Commercial Insurers and the Development of Welfare States in Comparative Perspective (1890-1970)

English title The Business of Social Policy. Commercial Insurers and the Development of Welfare States in Comparative Perspective (1890-1970)
Applicant Leimgruber Matthieu
Number 108985
Funding scheme Fellowships for advanced researchers
Research institution Columbia University Inst. for Social and Economic Research and Poli, Dept of Sociology
Institution of higher education Institution abroad - IACH
Main discipline General history (without pre-and early history)
Start/End 01.09.2005 - 31.08.2008
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All Disciplines (2)

General history (without pre-and early history)
Political science

Keywords (6)

insurance branch; social policy; 20th century; Switzerland, Netherlands; United States; Grat Britain

Lay Summary (English)

Lay summary
This research project will analyze a domain that is currently neglected bycurrent scholarship on social policy development, namely the role ofcommercial insurers in the development of various social insurancebranches. The research will be led in four Western industrializedcountries (Switzerland, Netherlands, United States, Great Britain) andadopt a long term perspective that covers the foundational, formative,and expansion periods of modern welfare states (1890s to the 1970s).My main hypothesis is the following: the development of welfare statesbased on a dense intertwining of public and private forms of provision isclosely linked to the existence of well-developed and politically activeinsurance companies. I will analyze the interactions between thedevelopment of the commercial insurance sector and the making of socialpolicy as well as the ensuing struggles waged to delineate the respectiverealm of the state and of the private sector in the organization of socialprovision in domains such as work accident compensation, old age pensionsand health coverage. I aim to demonstrate that blends of public andprivate social provision are not only the preserve of the United Statesand Great Britain, but also of small continental European countries withwell-developed financial establishments such as the Netherlands andSwitzerland. This viewpoint thus questions the traditional dichotomiesthat are often established between so-called «Anglo-Saxon» and«Continental European» welfare trajectories.These issues will be will be analyzed through the study of documents andsources drawn from several commercial insurance companies, whose archiveshave never been exploited for such purposes. Thanks to these originalmaterials, this research will bring to light new aspects of social policydevelopment. This research will therefore offer innovative perspectives onthe long-term role of specific business actors in the development of keypublic policies, whereas its comparative scope will highlight significantdevelopment patterns of Western welfare states.
Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 21.02.2013

Responsible applicant and co-applicants

Associated projects

Number Title Start Funding scheme
121611 The emergence of the “crisis of the welfare state”: a social and transnational history (1970s-1980s) 01.04.2009 Ambizione
191633 Social Security in the Classroom (SSC). A new Educational Resource 01.08.2020 Agora