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Vol 21 No 9 Sept/Oct 2016

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A Critical Perspective on the Reform of Dutch Social Security Law

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ISBN13: 9789087281748
Published: September 2012
Publisher: Amsterdam University Press
Country of Publication: The Netherlands
Format: Paperback
Price: £35.00

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Dutch social security law has changed during the last decades. Values of equality and solidarity, which traditionally underpin social security law, are slowly being replaced by the value of individual responsibility. This transformation is embodied in the Life Course Arrangement, an individual savings scheme for (new) social risks that was introduced in Dutch social security law in 2006. In 2013 this arrangement will be replaced by the Vitality Arrangement. How can the establishment of the idea of individual savings schemes in traditional collective social security law be explained? And is it possible to criticize those changes without reverting to some notion of justice?

The introduction of the Life Course Arrangement serves as a paradigmatic case for this study. Based on a (juridical) discourse analysis of a selection of (policy) texts and interviews with key actors involved in the policy process, this study shows that the establishment of the idea of individual savings schemes in traditional Dutch collective social security law was, amongst other things, the result of the introduction of the new signifiers 'life course' and 'life course perspective' in the social security discourse. These signifiers made people see things in a different way and constructed a new space of representation that enabled the reconciliation of formerly opposite views. For example, the new discourse that emerged was structured around the fantasy that increased labor market participation and more time for care and/or leisure are reconcilable. The study also shows how the Life Course Arrangement emerged in an atmosphere of antagonism and disagreement. Yet, due to a strong aging society narrative the idea of individual savings schemes was able to survive in Dutch social security law. The introduction of the Life Course Arrangement is criticized for ignoring the voices of those who joined the earlier 'life course discourse coalition' and for constructing a self responsible life planner as a new governable subject. The study argues that this subject must be distinguished from the ethical subject who strives for a genuine access to freedom practices. The insights gained in this study can both improve the methodological development of research that is based on discourse theory and incite policymakers and social lawyers to rethink recent social security reforms. This is a volume in the series of the Meijers Research Institute and Graduate School of Leiden University. This study was conducted within the framework of the research programme Reform of Social Legislation.