Feminism, the Public and the Private

By Joan B. Landes | Go to book overview

9
The Patriarchal Welfare State

Carole Pateman

According to Raymond Williams Keywords, 'the Welfare State, in distinction from the Warfare State, was first named in 1939'.1 The welfare state was set apart from the fascist warfare state, defeated in the Second World War, and so the welfare state was identified with democracy at the christening. In the 1980s most Western welfare states are also warfare states, but this is not ordinarily seen as compromising their democratic character. Rather, the extent of democracy is usually taken to hinge on the class structure. Welfare provides a social wage for the working class, and the positive, social democratic view is that the welfare state gives social meaning and equal worth to the formal juridical and political rights of all citizens. A less positive view of the welfare state is that it provides governments with new means of exercising power over and controlling working-class citizens. But proponents of both views usually fail to acknowledge the sexually divided way in which the welfare state has been constructed. Nor do most democratic theorists recognize the patriarchal structure of the welfare state; the very different way that women and men have been incorporated as citizens is rarely seen to be of significance for democracy.2 Even the fact that the earliest developments of the welfare state took place when women were still denied, or had only just won, citizenship in the national state is usually overlooked.3

I do not want do dispute the crucial importance of class in understanding the welfare state and democracy. To write about the welfare state is, in large part, to write about the working class. However, my discussion treats class in a manner unfamiliar to most democratic theorists, who usually assume that the welfare state, democracy and class can be discussed theoretically without any attention to the character of the relation between the sexes. I shall suggest some reasons why and how the patriarchal structure of

____________________
Chapter 10 in Gutmann Amy (ed.), Democracy and the Welfare State231-60. Copyright © 1988 by Princeton University Press. Reprinted by permission of Princeton University Press.

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