Welfare state

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A welfare state is a concept of government in which the state plays a key role in the protection and promotion of the economic and social well-being of its citizens. It is based on the principles of equality of opportunity, equitable distribution of wealth, and public responsibility for those unable to avail themselves of the minimal provisions for a good life. The general term may cover a variety of forms of economic and social organization. The sociologist T. H. Marshall described the modern welfare state as a distinctive combination of democracy, welfare, and capitalism.


  • The post-1945 European welfare states varied considerably in the resources they provided and the way they financed them. But certain general points can be made. The provision of social services chiefly concerned education, housing and medical care, as well as urban recreation areas, subsidized public transport, publicly-funded art and culture and other indirect benefits of the interventionary state. Social security consisted chiefly of the state provision of insurance—against illness, unemployment, accident and the perils of old age. Every European state in the post-war years provided or financed most of these resources, some more than others.
    • Tony Judt, Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945 (2005), p. 73
  • Who is secure in all his basic needs? Who has work, spiritual care, medical care, housing, food, occasional entertainment, free clothing, free burial, free everything? The answer might be “monks and nuns,” but the standard reply is, “prisoners.” And inevitably this conjures up citizens of the Provider State who have protection from the “cradle to the grave.”
  • Americans raised in poor families do markedly less well compared to those from middle class or affluent homes—and it doesn’t matter whether you choose college attendance, employment rates, or future household income as your measure. And the longer they live in poverty the worse the odds that they’ll escape it in adulthood; for one thing, they’re far less likely to finish high school or attend college than their more fortunate peers. [...] Yet childhood circumstances can be (and have been) changed—and the sorts of government programs that conservatives love to savage have helped enormously in that process.
  • Such terms as communism, socialism, Fabianism, the welfare state, Nazism, fascism, state interventionism, egalitarianism, the planned economy, the New Deal, the Fair Deal, the New Republicanism, the New Frontier are simply different labels for much the same thing.
  • The vast sums spent by the State in maintaining pauper houses and in scattering alms during Ramzan and other holy days and joyous ceremonies, were a direct premium on laziness. Thus a lazy and pampered class was created in the empire, who was the first to suffer when its prosperity was arrested.
    • Sir Jadunath Sarkar, A Short History of Aurangzib. Quoted from Lal, K. S. (1999). Theory and practice of Muslim state in India. New Delhi: Aditya Prakashan. Chapter 5
  • My second thesis is that we must re-link shifts in penal and social policy, instead of isolating them from one another. The downsizing of public aid, complemented by the shift from the right to welfare to obligation of workfare (that is, forced participation in sub par employment as a condition of support), and the upsizing of the prison are the two sides of the same coin. Together, workfare and prisonfare effect the double regulation of poverty in the age of deepening economic inequality and diffusing social insecurity. My contention here is that welfare and criminal justice are two modalities of public policy toward the poor, and so they must imperatively be analyzed –and reformed—together. Supervisory workfare and the neutralizing prison “serve” the same population drawn from the same marginalized sectors of the unskilled working class. They are guided by the same philosophy of moral behaviourism and employ the same techniques of control, including stigma, surveillance, punitive restrictions, and graduated sanctions to “correct” the conduct of their clients. In some states in the United States, TANF (welfare) recipients stand in line together with parolees to undergo their monthly drug tests to maintain eligibility for support. In others, parolees who fall into homelessness because they cannot find a job are returned to prison for failure to maintain a stable residence.

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