Social closure and social policy. The debates on social opening within benefit societies in the advent of national health insurance [Full text]
Stefanie Börner 
Abstract: Social solidarity is based on categories of belonging; trade unions rely on their members’ self-understanding as trade fellows and nation states on the ‘imagined’ (Anderson 2006 ) common identity of their population. However, the creation of these realms of equality can be influenced by various aspects resulting in different degrees of group homogeneity. Using the example of nineteenth century working men’s mutual benefit societies – the predecessors of public health insurance – in Germany and Great Britain the article first explains how social closure within these organisations worked. The planned nation-wide health insurance schemes put the identity of these groups at stake and excite a wave of opposition in order to defend the boundaries according to which the membership is defined.
Keywords: Benefit societies, health insurance, identity, social closure, solidarity
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