Clause Offe, one of the most insightful contemporary theorists of society and politics, has contributed greatly to our understanding of social policy and the odyssey of advanced capitalism in the late twentieth century. Modernity and the State, a dozen essays written over the last decade, develops his earlier lines of interest and extends them to the new societies emerging in Central-Eastern Europe.
Offe frames the essays by suggesting that the key question for analyzing present-day Western democracies is, Who is in charge? He traces the recent problems of almost all political leaders to four factors: the end of the Cold War, borders that are increasingly porous, "postmodern" social and political trends that make it increasingly difficult to form long-standing coalitions, and the loss of clear-cut work categories of the sort that once made collective action feasible.
The essays are divided into four parts. "Modernity and Self-Limitation" explores the contradictory relationship between modernity and liberty and the possibilities of renewing civil society so as to alleviate this contradiction. "State Theory: Continuities and Reorientation" applies the concepts and categories developed in the first part to recent policy debates over deregulation, market orthodoxy, and the most effective forms of democratic practice. "The Politics of Social Welfare," the heart of the book, explores the extent to which market outcomes must be accepted (in the name of efficiency) or corrected (in the name of justice and equity). "The New East" argues that the issue of balancing and correcting market outcomes is as central and contested in the new market economies of Central-Eastern Europe as it has always been in the West, and that the success of democratization will depend on the extent to which the operation of the labor market is mitigated by appropriate structures of social security.
About the Author
Claus Offe has researched and lectured widely throughout Europe and North America and is Professor in the Faculty of Sociology at the University of Bielefeld.