Authors: Bobbio, Matteucci, Pasquino
Summary: This entry describes the historical evolution of the welfare state and considers the causes of its present crisis. The welfare state can be defined as a state which guarantees every citizen the right to certain threshold levels of income, food, health, housing, and education.
In the 18th century, many European states began to provide rudimentary welfare services within the patrimonial structures of the state. This happened apart from, rather than as a part of, the industrial revolution. The beginning of the 20th century witnessed an increased linkage of the provision of welfare with the civil and political rights of subordinate classes. In the 1940s, Great Britain articulated the basic principle of the welfare state: that every citizen, without any consideration of income, has the right to be protected against certain situations of dependence, through the supply of monetary aid other public services.
Beginning in the late 1960s and 1970s, the welfare state model fell into crisis, an event which was linked with the "fiscal crisis of the state." This welfare-state crisis has been seen as the effect of two opposed phenomena: the incorporation into the state of social groups and forces (parties, trade unions and parliament supply services, in exchange for political support), and the socialization of the state (the increasing intervention of the state in social relations). Both phenomena increased the demands on state institutions and produced a degree of paralysis.