Historical Social Research

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Meike Haunschild: Freedom versus Security. Debates on Social Risks in Western Germany in the 1950s [Abstract]

The article outlines the debate on the expansion of the welfare state in Western Germany during the 1950s. This debate does not only provide important insights into the self-perception of Western German society. It can also be read as a risk debate, because the contemporaries were aware of the ambivalent effects of the preventive measures against poverty: While especially social democrats emphasised the stabilising effect of the fight against poverty on democracy, politicians from economic-liberal circles stressed the risk that such measures could give the state excessive power over its citizens. Despite the consensual conviction of all relevant political actors that an expansion of the welfare state was historically consequent and expected by the population, the weighing of individual freedom on the one hand and social security on the other hand coined the debate on, as well as the organisation of, the Western German welfare state.

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