The Role of the State in Growth and Welfare

Some reflections on Sean O’Rian and Philip O’Connells article ‘the role of the state in growth and welfare’ in Nolan et al’s ‘Bust to Boom’

This article presents the state as a two dimensional project. The ‘developmental’ aspect deal with economic growth and state relations with market. This state activity has been central to national development particularly the role played by the IDA in attracting FDI. However, the role of the state in building a national system of innovation has been less pronounced, and a cause for concern.

The second dimension is the ‘distributive’ or welfare ‘effort’ of the state. Ireland performs poorly in this regard. Although real spending on cash benefits and benefits in kind have increased, they have not risen proportional to growth in GDP. Ireland still lags behind the rest of Europe.

The article is more theoretical than the rest of this book, and touches on some serious research problems. How should we conceptualise the state? What has the role of social partnership been throughout the boom? Why have there been no major structural changes to Ireland’s welfare state since the late 1970’s? Why has an active labour market (supply) been so central to Ireland’s welfare state? Does this make Ireland distinctly different from other residual liberal welfare regimes? How should we map the institutional change in the Irish political economy? What is the relationship between economic performance and welfare effort? How has the Irish state combined its developmental and distributive roles ? Who are the main actors in these two domains? Has the evolution of capitalist production in Ireland (a shift towards Post-Fordist production) impacted upon the evolution of Irelands welfare regime?

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