CUREJ - College Undergraduate Research Electronic Journal

Christian Democratic Welfare Politics in the Age of Retrenchment: The CDU and the CSU in Germany - A Comparative Case Study

Lukas F. Streiff, University of Pennsylvania

Division: Social Sciences

Dept/Program: Philosophy Politics & Econ

Document Type: Undergraduate Student Research

Mentor(s): Julia Lynch

Date of this Version: 26 April 2006

This document has been peer reviewed.



The phenomenon of the welfare state and all the different formats in which it exists today has been studied for decades now. One of the subfields currently studied with intensity is the connection between the welfare states of Europe and the Christian democratic parties that we find in these countries. However, this current research remains excessively focused on cross-national comparisons rather than on in-depth analyses of specific contexts. Furthermore, this subfield has not yet been revisited under the new assumption that the politics driving the retrenchment of welfare benefits are fundamentally different to the better understood expansion of welfare states. Motivated by these shortcomings, this essay aims to elucidate the connection between Christian democracy and the welfare state in the age of retrenchment by focusing on one national context (Germany), in which we find two Christian democratic parties (CDU and CSU) that are engaged in a serious conflict on social policy.

The essay claims that this conflict is not a party disagreement but a much deeper debate: a re-alignment of Christian democratic social policy in the age of welfare retrenchment. One side of the Christian democrats in both parties argues for market-oriented reforms, while the other side argues for the safe-guarding of Christian social values. Current developments indicate that the advocates for social values have gained the upper hand. The reformers seem to have understood the new politics of welfare retrenchment: reforms do not get elected.

The conclusions of this essay hold that Christian democratic social policy will not undergo a paradigmatic shift away from social values; that the German welfare state will survive; that the social policy of all parties will gravitate to the middle; and that fundamental reform of the German welfare state is therefore very unlikely in the near future.

Suggested Citation

Streiff, Lukas F., "Christian Democratic Welfare Politics in the Age of Retrenchment: The CDU and the CSU in Germany - A Comparative Case Study" 26 April 2006. CUREJ: College Undergraduate Research Electronic Journal, University of Pennsylvania,

Date Posted: 06 June 2006

This document has been peer reviewed.




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