Lorraine C. Minnite, Joan M. Mazelis

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


In the social and behavioral sciences, 'welfare' is widely used in at least two distinctive ways: (1) as the complex of state practices and administrative developments known as the welfare state and (2) as the main income support programs for the poor in the United States that serve as the modern successors to the centuries-long tradition of poor relief. Neither is it possible to summarize the extensive scholarly treatments of these subjects in the space allotted here nor is it a simple task to trace the separate meanings of welfare or centuries of experience and ideas about poor relief and disentangle them from the complexities of welfare state development. Instead, we highlight how the politics of welfare policy have shaped how we think about welfare as a societal concern and trace the main contours of the scholarly debates influencing the wide variety of programmatic interventions that constitute welfare state policy in the industrialized West. We begin with a note on origins, when local concerns were paramount; examine key ideas shaping liberal, social democratic, and conservative responses to the emergence of welfare states in market societies; and conclude with a brief overview of some of the main challenges for theory and policy in the contemporary period as economic globalization and supranational organizations come to play much more of a role in shaping policy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationInternational Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences: Second Edition
PublisherElsevier Inc.
Number of pages6
ISBN (Electronic)9780080970875
ISBN (Print)9780080970868
StatePublished - Mar 26 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Sciences(all)


  • ADC
  • AFDC
  • Bismarck
  • Cash transfer
  • Charity
  • Compulsory insurance
  • Corporatism
  • Decommodification
  • Egalitarianism
  • French Revolution
  • Globalization
  • Income support
  • Liberalism
  • Market economy
  • Means testing
  • Neoliberalism
  • Pauperism
  • Poor
  • Poor laws
  • Poverty
  • Retrenchment
  • Social citizenship
  • Social security
  • Welfare
  • Welfare policy
  • Welfare rights
  • Welfare state
  • Welfare stereotypes

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