Johanna Mierendorff: ‘Western Childhood’ and the Welfare State

Wednesday, May 23, 2007, 3:00 pm, Vienna, Austria
Seminar Room at the European Centre for Social Welfare Policy and Research,
Berggasse 17, 1090 Vienna

Contact: Asghar Zaidi

Speaker: Dr. Johanna Mierendorff, Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg (Germany)

Highlights of the Seminar
In recent welfare state research, children are mostly not recognised. But if sporadically children get onto the political and research agenda, the focus is based on singular measurements such as material support, childcare services, educational systems, etc. This is not surprising, because welfare state research often suffers from a sociological understanding of the welfare state as such, and its structuring function in a society. Indeed, the historical and current relationship between children and welfare state could not be explained or understood by only gathering the full range of child-related measurements which seem to be single reactions to childrens needs and suffering. For a deeper understanding of this interrelation, it is necessary to observe the function childhood has for modern western societies and their economies. A western economy is unimaginable without a familiarised and scolarised childhood. The welfare state could be seen as important firstly, for the assertion of this pattern of modern childhood as an institution for almost all children in Western Europe. Secondly, the welfare state is responsible for the fact that childhood has become a part of social structure in the same way as class, gender and race. The aim of the presentation is to explain this "old" interrelationship between childhood and the welfare state and its importance to western societies. The recent political discussions in many western countries about day care, education and school in terms of the so-called "social investment strategy", must be observed from this theoretical starting point. Although the ongoing political discussions and decisions about investments in children must be understood as an attempt to save an "adequate!" childhood by adapting it to a perceived economical development
Johanna Mierendorff is Postdoctoral Fellow and Research Assistant at the Martin-Luther-University of Halle-Wittenberg, and Board-Member of the Section for "Sociology of Childhood " of the German Association of Sociology.

International seminar series:
The seminar was part of the series of international seminars that are organised by the European Centre. More information about our other international seminars

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