Since the late 1990s, the main Italian ‘welfare cultures’ and the resulting innovation strategies of the welfare system refer to the question of ‘pluralization’. The current crisis is causing the expansion of the public functions carried out by different private actors. As a consequence, discussions of welfare cultures are increasingly making reference to the notion of horizontal subsidiarity that requires new forms of governance. Three subsidiarity approaches emerge: the liberal subsidiarity approach which is related to the ‘free choice’ welfare model; the incomplete subsidiarity approach related to the ‘second welfare’ strategy; and the radical subsidiarity approach related to the ‘radical plural welfare society’ perspective. The paper develops a theoretical discussion of these different welfare cultures—these latter seen through the point of view of subsidiarity—arguing that the problems arising from an economic understanding of welfare pluralization could be addressed by a cultural change which sees in the definition of a new plural welfare system and role for the public sphere the opportunity for aggregating social demand, reinforcing social ties, creating shared value and re-socializing social risks. The hypothesis is that the ‘radical subsidiarity’ approach could better capture these chances for social innovation that this phase of crisis can unlock.
- Plural welfare