Legitimation of Social Rights and the Western Welfare State: A Weberian Perspective

Legitimation of Social Rights and the Western Welfare State: A Weberian Perspective

Legitimation of Social Rights and the Western Welfare State: A Weberian Perspective

Legitimation of Social Rights and the Western Welfare State: A Weberian Perspective

Synopsis

This discerning and timely study revitalizes Weber's ideas, applying them to welfare state redistributions and synthesizing them with major issues in political science, law, public administration, social welfare policy, and philosophy. Friedman depicts both the emergence of the welfare state in Britain and the United States and the special problems of legitimizing social rights raised by the need for administration of those rights.

Originally published in 1991.

Excerpt

What are the factors that prompt the redistribution of national wealth in contemporary Western nations? What underlying societal values make various methods and degrees of redistribution acceptable to populaces? These questions stand at the center of this inquiry into the Western welfare state.

In Western nations (Great Britain, the countries of Scandinavia and Western Europe, the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand), the welfare state has come into its own since World War II, Great Britain having provided the prototype for the other Western regimes. the welfare state is one in which government assumes responsibility for guaranteeing citizens minimum standards of living in terms of income maintenance, health and nutrition, education, and housing. Though governments throughout time have protected their subjects or citizens in various ways, the welfare state as a distinctive analytic configuration with an accompanying rationale did not emerge until after the war.

I shall compare the welfare state with the nineteenth-century liberal state, which also had a distinctive analytic configuration sustaining a set of accepted political tenets. the tenets underlying liberal rule proscribed government intervention into the play of market forces. It was assumed that a "free" market optimized not only the productive function of the economy, but also the allocative function, that is, the distribution of goods and services. By contrast, the welfare state's very existence denies this assumption: it is the unique purview of the welfare state to offset adverse effects of market distributions upon citizens' lives. This rejection of a fundamental assumption of liberal rule has always implied problematic legitimacy for welfare regimes in Western nations, the more so when social legislation was just emerging. On what grounds and by what justifications, therefore, do these regimes redistribute the societal surplus? Part I will be addressed to this query.

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