Public Lecture: Mass Migration and Generous Welfare States. Compatible or Incompatible?

Tuesday, September 10, 2019, 12:15 – 14:00
SSE Riga, Soros Auditorium

Speaker: Christian Albrekt Larsen, Aalborg University. Internationally Christian Albrekt Larsen is best known for his work on how institutions, especially universal welfare schemes, enhance public support for anti-poverty policies and social trust.

The construction of welfare states has been pivotal for securing the wellbeing of citizens throughout Western countries. Especially, the Nordic countries became prime examples of how to successfully build well-functioning welfare societies.

However, these institutional arrangements from the 19th and 20th century are faced with a new environment of increased levels of migration. This has raised a concern about the presence of a potential progressive dilemma. The argument is that progressive political forces face a trade-off between building/maintaining a generous welfare state and welcoming migrants.

The lecture revises the theoretical arguments and uses examples from Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, and Germany to demonstrate how contemporary political agents attempt to mitigate the potential trade-offs. At the one end is Denmark, which has strived to assimilate migrants and reduce the inflow of both EU- and non-EU-migrant. At the other end is Sweden, which has had a more multi-cultural integration policy and until recently welcomed both EU- and non-EU-migrants. The underlying normative concern is not only how to secure thriving Northern European host-countries. The broader normative concern is how, in general, to build and maintain well-functioning societies in a more ethnically diverse and globalized world.

Speaker Christian Albrekt Larsen has specialised in the question of how to build social coherent societies in open economies and multicultural settings. The academic work of CAL demonstrates that the institutional structure behind the “Nordic model” still provides a promising answer to this fundamental question of social science.

In 2006 he published “The institutional logic of welfare attitudes: How welfare regimes influence public support” (Ashgate 2006), which has been highly influential in the field of comparative opinion research. The book was followed by “The rise and fall of social cohesion. Constructing and de-constructing social trust in the US, UK, Sweden and Denmark” (Oxford University Press, 2013), which theorizes why social trust declines in some post-industrial societies while it increases in others. In the national Danish context Christian Albrekt Larsen has contributed with two books about long term unemployment (2003, 2009, co-authored), two books about national identity and attitudes to migrants (2008, 2016), a book about the politics of welfare reforms (2004, co-authored) and a book about universalism (2015, co-authored). The issue of migration and assimilation into Northern European host countries is prominent in his current project portfolio. Christian Albrekt Larsen has received a Danish Sapere Aude II research leader elite grant (2012-2015) and a Fulbright grant (2015-2016). Christian Albrekt Larsen is a member of the Danish national research council for social science (2015 – 2021).

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