Title of the project:
Social Exclusion and the Welfare State – Institutional Logics of Unemployment Compensation and Social Assistance in Britain and Germany

In the past years, the concept of social exclusion has gained broad attention in the theory of society, in empirical sociological and social policy research as well as in politics. Social exclusion circumscribes a new form of social cleavage and inequality, which is brought about by structural changes in the labour market, the erosion of social security as well as the increasing instability and diversity of household structures. These developments trigger processes of marginalisation of certain individuals or groups and can eventually lead to their exclusion from the central institutions of societal participation.
The welfare state constitutes a possible source of prevention and compensation of social exclusion, as social policy measures are able to interrupt dynamics of social exclusion and secure social participation. On the other hand, the welfare state by way of being a system of stratification in its own right also structures processes of social exclusion.
Against the backdrop of the scholarly debate on social exclusion and the state-of-the art welfare state literature, the dissertation project conceptualises the ambivalent relationship between the welfare state and social exclusion by analysing unemployment compensation and social assistance in Britain and Germany in terms of their structuring logics and functions with regard to social exclusion. How are the systems of unemployment compensation and social assistance influencing processes of social exclusion? Are they capable of preventing and compensating exclusion? How is this capability affected by welfare state change?
To answer these questions, an institutional analysis of the two social security systems is undertaken. Sources of research are the legal and institutional regulations of access, benefit structure, and modes of operation of the two social security systems as well as statistical data on compensation and structuration effects. The comparison of the liberal-residual welfare regime of the UK and the corporatist-conservative regime of Germany serves to map regime-specific differences in the ways social security systems structure social exclusion, but also to identify commonalities brought about by welfare state restructuring which might lead to convergence of the two regimes towards a more liberal and activating welfare state.