The Welfare State: A Very Short Introduction

ISBN : 9780199672660

David Garland
176 Pages
113 x 173 mm
Pub date
Mar 2016
Very Short Introductions


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  • Offers a succinct account of the social and political issues surrounding the welfare state
  • Provides a new basis for thinking about a familiar set of institutions
  • Discusses the welfare state as a whole, setting it in its historical and sociological context
  • Places US and UK institutions against the comparative backdrop of European and Nordic welfare regimes

Welfare states vary across nations and change over time. And the balance between markets and government; free enterprise and social protection is perennially in question. But all developed societies have welfare states of one kind or another - they are a fundamental dimension of modern government. And even after decades of free-market criticism and reform, their core institutions have proven resilient and popular. 
This Very Short Introduction describes the modern welfare state, explaining its historical and contemporary significance and arguing that far from being 'a failure' or 'a problem', welfare states are an essential element of contemporary capitalism, and a vital concomitant of democratic government. In this accessible and entertaining account, David Garland cuts through the fog of misunderstandings to explain in clear and simple terms, what welfare states are, how they work, and why they matter.


1: What is the Welfare State?
2: Before the Welfare State
3: Birth of the Welfare State
4: The Welfare State 1.0
5: Varieties
6: Problems
7: Neoliberalism and WS 2.0
8: Post-Industrial transitions: toward WS 3.0
9: The indispensable Welfare State
Further Reading

About the author: 

David Garland is the Arthur T. Vanderbilt Professor of Law and Professor of Sociology at New York University and Professorial Fellow at Edinburgh University. He is a graduate of the University of Edinburgh and taught there from 1979 to 1997 before moving to the USA. A Fellow of the British Academy and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Garland is the author of a series of award-winning books on punishment and criminal justice, including Punishment and Welfare (1985), The Culture of Control (OUP 2001) and Peculiar Institution: America's Death Penalty in and Age of Abolition (OUP 2010). His recent work on the welfare state has appeared in the European Journal of Sociology.

"Garland's brief but magisterial and penetrating analysis of the welfare state should, and doubtless will be, a major presence in criminology, as well as in social science and public debate ... written with the sophisticated skill, scholarship and style ... this wise, informative and inspiring book will help immensely in working for a positive future for us all." - The British Journal of Criminology

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