For various reasons the process of individualization has always been supposed to be linked to a decline in welfare state support. Because of individualization, it is commonly argued people appreciate collectively organized welfare less and less. This article studies whether individualists really support the welfare state less than collectivists. In order to examine this, the authors use data collected in 2006 in the Netherlands. Distinguishing between two types of individualism, the study finds that people who are structurally disembedded from their institutional environment - the structural individualists - do not indeed support the welfare state. Moreover, for these structural individualists, the socioeconomic risks they run and their actual class position do not translate into support for the welfare state. Contrary to this, the study finds that people who can be classified as cultural individualists - those who emphasize individuality - are more supportive of the welfare state. For these cultural individualists it is also found that their socioeconomic position and interests influence the way they think about the welfare state. Cultural individualists hence are more supportive of the welfare state, and especially so for those in weak socioeconomic positions.

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Current Sociology
Department of Sociology

Achterberg, P., Raven, J., & van der Veen, R. (2013). Individualization: A double-edged sword: Welfare, the experience of social risks and the need for social insurance in the Netherlands. Current Sociology, 61(7), 949–965. doi:10.1177/0011392113499738