2nd van Doorn lecture

24th of June - 2nd van Doorn lecture / inaugural lecture by professor Kees Schuyt


The difference between needs and wishes is crucial

Van Doorn Lezing: Kees Schuyt

Freedom, solidarity and social justice are key words of the social welfare state. What do these words mean today, given that structural and moral circumstances, which determine their meaning, have changed? Sociologist professor dr. LL.M. Kees Schuyt states in his speech ‘Needs and wishes. The social welfare state seen as a historical phenomenon’, held on Monday the 24th of June 2013, that it is necessary to redefine the vocabulary of the social welfare. Mr Schuyt is the new holder of the alternating van Doorn Chair of the Erasmus School of Social and Behavioural Sciences.

Future and structural changes are necessary in order to reform the post-war Dutch welfare state. In order to analyse current state of the social welfare state and its future direction it is important to reflect on the past, according to Mr Schuyt. Major societal changes have caused a distinction in basic needs and wishes on the one hand and wishes and individual interests on the other.

Historical phenomenon

The social welfare state as a historical phenomenon can be divided into various periods. During the first period (1947-1965) the social welfare state was constructed, incited by a moral obligation to give certain groups basic provisions. Personal initiative, responsibility and saving became the key words of this period. In addition, an increase of the personal freedom of many citizens could be observed as well.

In the next period (1965-1981, the second oil crisis) rights and needs were expanded. Wishes and needs of groups that lobbied within the system of collective decision making were fulfilled. The weaknesses of the social welfare system became apparent as well during this period. A detecting mechanism that could make a clear distinction between the responsibilities of individuals to realise their needs versus the responsibilities of the government, was absent. This called for a need to reform the system.

The inability to restructure the system was overtly exposed during the third period (1981-1995). Reforming the social welfare state appeared to be a slow process. In the subsequent phase (1995-2010) a more rigorous transformation of the system followed, which entailed: devising the market in a neo-liberal way, the absence of social connections within bureaucracies, fast digital communication and decision-making, casino-capitalism and an economic crisis.