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Analysing social policy concepts and languageComparative and Transnational Perspectives$
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Daniel Béland and Klaus Petersen

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9781447306443

Published to Policy Press Scholarship Online: September 2014

DOI: 10.1332/policypress/9781447306443.001.0001

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The changing language of social policy in Hungary and Poland

The changing language of social policy in Hungary and Poland

(p.35) TWO The changing language of social policy in Hungary and Poland
Analysing social policy concepts and language

Zsófia Aczél

Dorota Szelewa

Dorottya Szikra

Policy Press

Former communist countries provide a special case of the development of the language of social policy. This chapter traces the shifting meaning of social policy vocabulary in Hungary and Poland, two countries that experienced state-socialism – as well as influence from greater powers (Germany, Soviet Union, the EU). From the 19th century to the interwar period, the terms “social policy” and “social work” played a central role in the formation of the nation states of both countries. During the communist period (after 1945) these terms lost their importance as social policy and social work became ‘inexistent’: central economic planning ‘eradicated’ poverty and social problems. Following the peaceful turn to capitalist democracy, the dominating discourse was to depart from the period of state socialism. Social policy and social work have been re-established as academic disciplines in both countries and thus created their new language, with intended references to the interwar period. The prevalence of the rule of the market over social policy is rarely contested in post-communist Hungary and Poland and the term ‘social policy’ is frequently equated with ‘poor policies’ or ‘social assistance’. Social policy vocabulary thus often describes benefit recipients as ‘immature’ and ‘passive,’ delegitimizing the very existence of such programs.

Keywords:   Hungary, Poland, social assistance, social policy, social work, state socialism, communist, post-communist

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