In Mothers, Families, or Children?, three leading experts on East European welfare states investigate the political forces shaping family policies in Hungary, Poland, and Romania over the longue durée. The richness, scope, and theoretical engagement of the work promise that it will become a leading text for scholars interested in both the politics of family policy in the region and theorizing institutional continuity and change.
Mothers, Families, or Children? is the first comparative-historical study of family policies in Poland, Hungary, and Romania from 1945 until the eve of the global pandemic in 2020. The book highlights the emergence, consolidation, and perseverance of three types of family policies based on “mother-orientation” in Poland, “family orientation” in Hungary, and “child-orientation” in Romania. It uses a new theoretical framework to identify core and contingent clusters of benefits and services in each country and trace their development across time and under different political regimes, before and after 1989. It also examines and compares policy continuity and change with special attention to institutions, ideas, and actors involved in decision making and reform. As family policies continue to evolve in the era of European Union membership and new governmental and societal actors emerge, this study reveals mechanisms that help preserve core family policy clusters while allowing reform in contingent ones in each country.
Mothers, Families, or Children? is essential reading for everyone interested in welfare and family policies in East Central Europe. Written by three leading authorities in the field, the book offers a timely contribution to the debates that have been sparked by Poland’s 500zł monthly child benefit program or Hungary’s generous but deeply conservative expansion of family policy. The book not only fills a gap by providing an in-depth overview over the long history of family policies in Poland, Hungary, and Romania; it also builds a theoretically sophisticated argument about policy continuity and change, which will travel far beyond the region. As such, the book demonstrates the power of comparative historical analysis to explain current policy developments.
Tomasz Inglot is professor of political science, distinguished faculty scholar, and director of the International Relations Program in the Department of Government at Minnesota State University–Mankato. He is the author of the award-winning book Welfare States in East-Central Europe, 1919–2004.
Dorottya Szikra is senior researcher at the Centre for Social Sciences, Budapest, and visiting professor at the Department of Gender Studies and the Department of Political Science, Central European University in Vienna.