Article

Welfare States

Jeremy Seekings

in Sociology

ISBN: 9780199756384
Published online July 2011 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780199756384-0065
Welfare States

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  • Sociology
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The growth of the welfare state has been a central feature of the societies—capitalist, increasingly urban, and mostly democratic—that gave rise to sociology as a discipline. Between the late 19th century and the late 20th, states in the more industrialized countries expanded their roles in the provision of public services and the distribution of income, providing varying degrees of protection against the risk of poverty. These services included public education, housing, and health care, as well as programs of contributory social insurance (which protected against risks, especially of ill health, disability, unemployment and old age) and noncontributory social assistance (which maintained the incomes of the poor). A large and vibrant literature has grown around the construction of welfare states in the advanced capitalist countries, and the different forms that the welfare state took in these cases. As the welfare state came under renewed fiscal pressure and political criticism in the advanced capitalist countries in the late 20th century, so political sociologists turned their attention to the resilience and reconstruction of these welfare states. At much the same time, scholars turned to other parts of the world, especially Latin America and East Asia, and began to analyze the origins, development, and form of welfare states in these regions. Taking middle-income and even poor economies into account also has extended further the diversity of forms that must be accommodated within the comparative study of the welfare state. The improving availability of data has facilitated the quantitative analysis of cross-national and even cross-temporal variation in the form of welfare states, especially in the advanced capitalist societies of the global North but also, increasingly, across large parts of the global South. While the systematic study of crossnational variation has progressed rapidly, much of the literature on welfare states, especially in the global South, continues to entail single-country case studies.

Article.  11948 words. 

Subjects: Sociology ; Comparative and Historical Sociology ; Economic Sociology ; Gender and Sexuality ; Health, Illness, and Medicine ; Population and Demography ; Race and Ethnicity ; Social Movements and Social Change ; Social Stratification, Inequality, and Mobility ; Social Theory

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