Social Security Networks. How Transnational Experts Shaped Welfare States (1930-2000)

Milena Guthörl

Generalversammlung IVSS 1958

Erstbetreuer: Martin Lengwiler. Zweitbetreuerin: Madeleine Herren. Externe Expertin: Sandrine Kott

The history of the welfare state is usually told from a national or nationally comparative perspective as it still counts to the «bastion of the nation state» (Conrad). This perspective neglects that influential international discourses on social policies already emerged during the 1850s and in fact preceded as well as accompanied the constitution and development of social insurance systems – the core institution of the modern welfare state – which only began in the 1880s. Although public as well private actors carried on these debates throughout the 20th century, only recently historical research has started to examine the significance of international organizations and transnational transfers for the development of the welfare state. From this perspective, the project deals with two of the leading associations of insurance experts, in particular of insurance mathematicians and statisticians, the International Congress of Actuaries (ICA) and the International Social Security Association (ISSA), focusing on the second half of the 20th century.

The International Congress of Actuaries (ICA) features amongst the key international scientific network for welfare debates, especially because of its long-term existence and its role for transnational transfer of ideas, concept and models. The ICA was indisputable the main platform for scientific debates among insurance mathematicians, but also heavily influenced by business interests. This was - on the other hand - mainly criticized by representatives of the International Social Security Association (ISSA), who demanded a broader consideration of social security topics and research within international actuarial networks. As a consequence of these difficulties, the ISSA, which operated within framework of the ILO, started 1950 to hold regularly own conferences and meetings which concentrated purely on Social Security questions.

The discussions and scientific contributions within these international frameworks (mainly ICA and ISSA) reflect important developments and debates in welfare policy during the second half of the 20th century. The paper analyses how actuarial networks were able to influence policy makers on a national level and thus shape the development of national welfare systems. Particularly, it examines how technical discourses were used to shift potentially controversial political debates into a seemingly neutral sphere. Empirically, the project follows the main debates on old age pension adaption (to the rising cost of living and currency depreciation), as well as debates on the financing of social security in general. These topics are not only some of the most important issues of the welfare state between 1950-1980 but also mirror how political and economic events such as Cold War and demographic change and the implementation of social security in developing countries affected welfare state debates.

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