Future of the welfare state?

Authored by: Bent Greve

Routledge Handbook of the Welfare State

Print publication date:  July  2018
Online publication date:  June  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138631649
eBook ISBN: 9781315207049
Adobe ISBN:


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The welfare state is said to have been in crisis several times since what was labelled the welfare state’s golden time of expansion from 1960 to the first oil crisis in the early 1970s. Welfare states have been recalibrated, recast, dismantled, restructured, and many other words have been used to describe the various types of changes in what and how the welfare states finance and deliver welfare services in kind and in cash. How the balance has and is constantly changed between state, market and civil society is also continuously open for scrutiny. However, it seems that the many and varied incremental changes in welfare states on the one hand follow the historical path (e.g. there is some path-dependency); however, on the other hand, the welfare states change in such a way that they are no longer the same type and model as they used to be. In the wake of the financial crisis several welfare states have undergone strong types of retrenchment, while some welfare states have been more resilient to change than others. Globalisation and regionalisation have seemingly had a stronger impact upon countries’ economic options, and, thereby also on welfare states. The question is, therefore, Will there still be a future for welfare states? Or will we be moving towards a more market-based type where the distribution of income and wealth, welfare and various types of objective and subjective elements traditionally being part of the welfare state will be left to the market and civil society to organise and structure?

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