Modern Welfare Sates

Updated May 27, 2021

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Modern Welfare Sates essay

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A nation politics is linked to its economy; conversely, a nation economic system reflects its politics. Economic is essential to states because, as many theories have demonstrated, it is one of the factors that led to the emergence of states. The ways states establish their economic systems are diverse. There are some states that opted for a free-trade economy, others established a planned-economy, and some other adopted a mixed-economic system. In many industrialized countries, the intervention of states in the economy is more frequent. The states took on some more responsibilities that were not theirs before the 20th century.

From the mid-20th century, states started investing in their human capital. In other words, they now regulate public education and public health systems; establish and maintain a variety of forms of infrastructure of common life. Most significantly, states added welfare state functions to their long list of new responsibilities. A welfare state “Aims to provide basic safety net for the most vulnerable elements of its population, often accomplished through social insurance, public health care plans, and poverty relief.

If there seems to be a consensus on when welfare states emerged, the way they did remains a subject to debates among scholars. Welfare states are different in their ambition and efficacy. The aim of this paper is to explain the emergence of welfare states. In that sense, it will give a brief history of the history of welfare states, examine the different models, compare the Europeans’ and the U.S. systems, and lastly describe how the Judeo-Christian worldview may impact the emergence of welfare states.

Brief History of the Modern Welfare Sates

The aim of any types of government–democratic or not–is to protect their citizens and ensure about their well-being. Welfare policies are ways for governments to make sure about the well-being of their citizens. Moreover, states that advocate for social and economic of their citizens are generally considered welfare states. Governments base their actions on certain principles; among which the public responsibility for the vulnerable, equal opportunity, fair and equitable distribution of wealth. If today people rely of their states for such actions, it has not always been that way. History shows that traditional institutions such as the families, church, and similar institutions were the supports people used to (mostly) rely on.

In Europe, where the modern welfare states emerged from, the idea that states should take on welfare states emerged in the 19th century. Indeed, the emergence of welfare states is–for many scholars–among the dramatic expansions or changes that occurred from that period up to the end of the Second World War. In the industrial world, extreme poverty was rising and the aim of welfare states was to maintain stability in societies by softening that rising poverty. Otto Von Bismarck establish one of the first greatest welfare states (perhaps the first of the great welfare states).

His motivation will be developed later in this paper. Britain, from 1906 to 1916, –under Chancellor David Lloyd George and Prime Minister Herbert Henry Asquith–shifted from its dependence on a laissez-faire policy to an interventionist economic policy. In the U.S., where individualism is firmly implanted, established a limited form of welfare state after the Great Depression. In the following section will examine the different theories that have been developed to explain the emergence of welfare states.

Theories of Welfare States

Welfare states are among phenomenon on which political scientists and economists have not come to a unified conclusion. The world is divers; and the welfare states are too complex to be explained by a single theory. In other word, explaining effectively the emergence welfare states require to consider sever theories. There exist many theories of welfare states. This paper will develop three these that are representative of the main approaches to welfare states. These three theses are: welfare states emerged because of the industrialization, in response to the need of an advanced capitalism, and because of the modernization of societies.

Welfare States Emerged Because of industrialization.

The first theory developed to explain the emergence of the welfare states took a functionalist approach. According to this theory, welfare states emerged to satisfy the need of the society at a certain point of the progress of industrialization. This functionalist approach to the development of welfare states is better explained by Clark Kerr, John T Dunlop, Frederick Harbison, Charles A. Myers.

In their book Industrialization and Industrial Man, they referred to industrialization as the process of moving from an agrarian society to an industrial one. Moreover, they saw a correlation between the development of welfare states and the establishment of an industrial labor force. Prior and in the beginning of industrialization, workers–when they became injured or old– were thrown back to their respective families.

The maintenance of the work force, indeed, was not the primary concern of the states or the employers. Nevertheless, as large and strong families became weaker because of the rapid progress of the industrialization, the burden to provide care for the workers shifted to the states. Furthermore, Gaston V. Rimlinger, in his study entitled Welfare Policy and Industrialization in Europe and America, asserted that as societies became more urbanized and industrialized, the need for sophisticated form of organized form of organized income protection became urgent. In addition to that, there are other factors that may have played a crucial role in the emergence of the welfare states; among which, class relations, the nature of political systems, and ideas.

Welfare States as a Consequence of Advance Capitalism

Besides the functionalist approach that points out the role played by welfare states in the functioning of industrial societies, there are other approaches–Marxists–that see the emergence of welfare states as a contradictory process. Indeed, that contradictory process created tendencies towards economic, social, and political crises. According to the proponents of this approach, there are two contradictory functions that capitalist states had to fulfil; ensuring the well-being of the economic system and the maintenance of social order by ensuring the integration of social classes.

According to James O’Connor, “All welfare state spending was involved in both accumulation and legitimation functions and served both purposes simultaneously.” In that sense, one may conclude that the investment in education was a way for capitalist states to ensure about the expansion and increase of adequate work force technical and skill levels. Similarly, social insurance and income payment to unfortunates were means to pacify and control the surplus of the populations.

The later may explain the reason why Bismarck, a conservative, opted for the institution of a system of social insurance in Germany. He wanted to keep the Germans from turning to socialism which would have undermined the nation’s economic system (perhaps even fragilized his power). The development of the welfare states was linked to the advancement of capitalism. Capitalism brought prosperity and economic growth; one the other hand, the gap between those detain the means of production and those at the bottom of the society.

The Welfare States as the Result of the Modernization of the Societies

The two approaches mentioned above missed an important factor that is also necessary to consider when explaining the emergence of welfare states. The missing point is the manner welfare states emerged. This approach drew its conclusion on the concept of modernization. The proponents of this approaches found a connection between the development of welfare states and modernization, the growing size of societies, and the socio-political mobilization.

According to Peter Flora and Joseph Heidenheimer, in their book The Development of Welfare States in Europe and America, othe concepts of democratization and industrialization have been replaced by modernization. Furthermore, they asserted that…

The concept of modernization is more useful in the analysis of welfare states because… [it emphasizes on] the assumption of causal interrelationships among economic and population growth; social and psychic mobilization; political development; cultural change; and the transformation of the international economic and political order.

If one applies this thought to the emergence of the European welfare states, he or she may conclude that it occurred in the late 19th century because of the high level of industrialization and democratization

Different types of Welfare States

In the light of what has been developed above, it is logical to claim that there is no such thing as a universal welfare state. In other words, there is not a single kind or a uniform welfare state. Instead, there exists several distinct types of welfare states throughout the world. Multiple studies have been conducted to differentiate the types of welfare states, how they emerged and functioned.

This paper will focus on the most influential of them which is Esping-Anderson’s Three Worlds of Welfare Capitalism. Esping-Anderson’s study does not only create a typology aiming at explaining how and why welfare systems are established, it also “[Makes claims which run counter to previous assumptions about the cause and [effect] of welfare [states] growth.”

Esping-Anderson’s Three Types of Welfare States

Welfare states are constructed through slower social and political evolution. According to Esping-Anderson, there are three main types of welfare regimes that have emerged in the 20th century: The liberal, the corporate (conservative for others), and the social democratic regimes. The first is implemented in nations like the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia, and Canada. The second is developed in continental Europe such as France and Germany.

The third is successfully developed in Scandinavia. In each welfare regime, the states have distinct levels of intervention. For instance, in a liberal regime like the United States, the state’s intervention is low; leaving the market-forces create a level of social security. Moreover, a state in a liberal regime intervenes mostly to ameliorate poverty and provide services for the vulnerable but on a means-tested basis.

The corporate (conservative or Christian-democratic) regimes draw their actions on the principal dominance of social insurance schemes. Furthermore, these regimes offer a moderate degree of decommodification on one hand; on the other, they offer a significant level of social stratification. Lastly, the social-democratic regimes are the most interventionists. They guarantee universal benefits to all citizens. In addition to that, “[This type of welfare system is said to largely provide a relatively high degree of autonomy, limiting the reliance of family and market.”

After the publication of Esping-Anderson’s work, several scholars have formulated some criticisms. Some of them, such as Maurizio Ferrera, found that Esping-Anderson used a number of countries that made his analysis too narrowed. Those critiques claim that the Mediterranean nations–with limited social security should be a separate set of regimes.

Others like Alan Walker and Chan-Kie Wong have suggested another type of regime based on Confucianism. This type of welfare regime combines the types of welfare states that Esping-Anderson developed. This welfare regime has “A relatively low level of state intervention and welfare, but with socially grounded obligations on immediate family members, strong democracy and investment in education and emphasis on work ethic.”

Modern Welfare Sates essay

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Modern Welfare Sates. (2021, May 27). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/modern-welfare-sates/


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