The State of Social Welfare: The Twentieth Century in Cross-National Review

The State of Social Welfare: The Twentieth Century in Cross-National Review

The State of Social Welfare: The Twentieth Century in Cross-National Review

The State of Social Welfare: The Twentieth Century in Cross-National Review

Synopsis

Following two world wars and the Great Depression of the 1930s, many of the world's nations acknowledged the need for some type of state welfare system to provide a safety net for their citizens. This collection of documents analyzes the global rise and fall of the welfare state in the 20th century. It concentrates on Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Sweden, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Zimbabwe.

Excerpt

Now that the twentieth century has drawn to a close, it is an opportune time to reflect on, and critically assess, what was expected of, and what has been achieved by, the plethora of public social welfare programs that have followed the humble public initiatives taken a century ago. The idea of state welfare, which dates back at least to the early sixteenth century, was slow to take root. By the turn of the twentieth century only a handful of industrializing countries were willing, perhaps of political necessity, to grapple even with the problem of destitution. It was, however, their discourses and tentative actions that created the milieu needed for the birth of state welfare, first in Europe then in Australasia, followed by South and North America, and, finally, Asia, Africa and the Middle East. Indeed, colonization, two world wars and the 1930s depression sensitized many governments, and their host societies, to the human, social and even political costs of unmet social welfare needs. Indeed, reformers from across the spectrum of political hues—from the Marxist-Leninist-Stalinists, democratic socialists, the social democrats, the reluctant individualists and the reluctant collectivists to the new rightists—were all eager, at various times, to construct their visions of the ideal society.

The welfare state dream was that citizenship would guarantee everybody a secure lifestyle, and the wherewithal for them to develop to the greatest possible extent as individuals and as members of society. It is, arguably, the most significant set of social institutions developed in the twentieth century. It had, however, within it the seeds of its own potential destruction; escalating public welfare expenditure, the vicious cycle of growing welfare dependency, increasing state control, deepening poverty and the emergence of an intractable underclass. This has legitimized calls for the

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