Intergenerational solidarity : the paradox of reciprocity imbalance in ageing welfare states
Faculty of Social Sciences. Political Sciences
The British journal of sociology. - London
, p. 592-612
University of Antwerp
In this article a new theoretical framework is applied to a research field that is somewhat fragmented, namely that of intergenerational solidarity in ageing welfare states. Inspired by utilitarian considerations many scholars tend to problematize the lack of reciprocity characterizing intergenerational exchanges. As some generations are longer old and more numerous they may receive excessive state-administered support of the younger generations, especially in a democratic setting. However, in reality there is limited empirical evidence of intergenerational conflict and theoretical explanations of this paradox are rare. An integrated and dynamical approach that incorporates Durkheim's solidarity theory, Honneth's intersubjective recognition theory, and the current work on reciprocal exchange is necessary in order to understand the survival of intergenerational solidarity in ageing welfare states. According to this model reciprocal recognition leading to the empathization of exchanges is the driving force of intergenerational solidarity in a prefigurative and democratized culture where the status of the young has risen dramatically. Hence, we come to the paradoxical conclusion that attempts to preserve intergenerational solidarity by openly denouncing excessive transfers and trying to bypass them institutionally sometimes might be counterproductive because they may erode their empathic underpinnings.