Essay The Success of the Welfare State

Essay The Success of the Welfare State

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The Success of the Welfare State
The term “welfare state” refers to the provisions made by a state
intended to protect its citizens from social problems – principally
ill health, unemployment, poor housing and lack of access to
education. This essay will study the British experience of the
welfare state and its initial aims and consider whether its modern
form has succeeded in fulfilling them. Welfare provision is
characterised, in Fulcher and Scott’s view (1999/2003), by a varying
amount of compromise between two polarised viewpoints: the market
model, where citizens purchase healthcare, education and the like
privately, against the welfare-state model, where the state fulfils
welfare needs. Supporters of the market model believe that state
welfare “is excessively bureaucratic and therefore inefficient”
(Taylor et al, 1995/2005: 155).

Pre-Industrial Britain had had no welfare state; provision was made on
a local scale, typically at parish level, and was administered in the
main by family with some assistance from religious bodies. The 1601
Poor Law Act was the first nationalised welfare legislation; people
were tied to a particular parish to receive welfare. Despite the Act
provision remained patchy and regionally variable (Taylor et al,
1995/2005). As the country’s urban population grew in tandem with
industrialisation, traditional rural support networks became “largely
absent” (Fulcher and Scott, 1999/2003: 826).

The deprivation suffered by the exploding urban working classes,
coupled with fear of civil unrest, encouraged the ruling classes to
formulate nation-wide strategies for welfare provision, expr...

... middle of paper ...

... inflation and high unemployment by the mid-1970s – allowed
the contraction of the welfare state and the reversal of much of the
progress made at the hands of Conservative governments since 1979.
The current Labour administration has continued dismantling the
welfare state, whilst masking its actions as a “third way” between
market liberal and welfare state principles.


Bilton, T, Bonnett, K, Jones, P, Skinner, D, Stanworth, M and Webster,
A, “Introductory Sociology”, Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1981/1996

Fulcher, J and Scott, J, “Sociology”, Oxford: Oxford University,

Taylor, P, Richardson, J, Yeo, A, Marsh, I, Trobe, K and Pilkington,
A, “Sociology in Focus”, Ormskirk: Causeway, 1995/2005

Timmins, N, “The Five Giants: a Biography of the Welfare State”,
London: HarperCollins, 1995

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