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Claus Offe on Social Movements - Dictionary of Arguments

Gaus I 269
Social Movements/Claus Offe/West: Closest to the Marxist paradigm - indeed almost
continuous with schools of Western and neo-Marxism, which acknowledge the changing nature
of capitalism and corresponding decline of working- class activism - are theories of new social movements as a response to the crises of 'welfare state' capitalism (WSC) (Offe, 1984(1); 1985(2)).
Welfare state capitalism: A starting-point for such theories is the neocorporatist inclusion of the working class into the institutional structures of capitalist society through trade union and party political representation. The social democratic legal order characteristic of WSC supplements civil and political rights (cherished by
Gaus I 270
liberal democracy) with 'social welfare rights' realized through provision of social welfare (health, education, housing), social security (unemployment, sickness and retirement benefits), measures of
economic redistribution (progressive taxation) and Keynesian economic policies (full employment,
demand management) (Marshall, 1963(3): 74—126; Offe, 1985(2): 821—5).
State capitalism: These developments involve a considerable expansion of the state's activities in
comparison with liberal capitalism.
Production: The associated decline of working-class activism is reinforced by the changing nature of production in the transition from 'Fordism' or 'Taylorism' to 'post-Fordism' and 'post-Taylorism' (Lash and Urry, 1987)(4). This involves, in the first place, the decline of traditional
manufacturing and the rise of the service sector, which is geographically more dispersed and indus-
trially less organized. But, second, the Fordist model - of mass, assembly-line production of a relatively small range of products for mass consumption - is gradually replaced by more diversified and decentralized forms of production and consumption.
Classes/identity: Both developments undermine traditional forms of working-class solidarity and organization and tend to support a multiplication and diversification of forms of identity apart from class.
Citizens/welfare state: If the welfare state denies the escalating demands of citizens, then it risks a loss of authority or legitimacy (Offe, 1985(2): 818—20; Habermas, 1976(5)). But the demands of citizens must inevitably grow, because the expansion of the state's responsibilities erodes such 'uncontested and non-contingent premises of politics' as the family, religion and the work
ethic (Offe, 1985(2): 819).
Neoliberalism/Huntington: It is, of course, precisely this 'crisis of governability' (Huntington, 1975(6);
O'Connor, 1973(7)) that has motivated neoliberal attempts to revive the less expansive state of liberal capitalism.
Social movements: The changing nature of capitalism is (...) related not only to diminishing activism of the traditional working class but also to the rise of the women's, peace and environmental movements (Offe, 1985: 825—32). For Offe, [New Social Movements] (NSMs) offer a potentially more promising response to the crisis of the welfare state in the form of a reconstituted civil society independent of the state.


1. Offe, Claus (1984) Contradictions of the Welfare State, ed. John Keane. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
2. Offe, Claus (1985) 'New social movements: challenging the boundaries of institutional politics'. Social Research, 52 (4): 817-68.
3. Marshall, T. H. (1963) Sociologv at the Crossmads and Other Essays. London: Hememann.
4. Lash, Scott and John Urry (1987) The End of Organized Capitalism. Cambridge: Polity.
5. Habermas, Jürgen (1976) Legitimation Crisis, trans. T. McCarthy. London: Heinemann.
6. Huntington, S. P. (1975) 'The United States'. In M. Crozier et al., eds, The Crisis of Democracy.
New York: New York Umversity Press.
7.O’Connor 1973


West, David 2004. „New Social Movements“. In: Gaus, Gerald F. & Kukathas, Chandran 2004. Handbook of Political Theory. SAGE Publications


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Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution.
The note [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.

Offe I
Claus Offe
Strukturprobleme des kapitalistischen Staates Frankfurt/M. 1972

Gaus I
Gerald F. Gaus
Chandran Kukathas
Handbook of Political Theory London 2004


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