Welfare States



“The spirit of a people, its cultural level, its social structure, the deeds its policy may prepare – all this and more”, Schumpeter thought, “is written in its fiscal history, stripped of its phrases”.[1]

The sociology of welfare states retains a classical sociological interest in the intersection of the political, economic, and social. Like political economy, sociology emphasizes institutions. But sociologists see institutions in less formal terms than do political scientists and economists. Institutions relevant to the welfare state include political systems, taxation, education, healthcare, as well as social security. Yet sociology also considers (labor) markets, civic associations, and families as institutions shaped by states. The boundary of the welfare state is a question not a given. Furthermore, sociology emphasizes ways welfare states are embedded in – and embed – cultures and ideas. 

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