‘Liberalism, Citizenship and the Welfare State’

Julia S O'Connor, Gillian Robinson

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


This chapter is based on the argument that aspects of liberalism have influenced the development of the welfare state irrespective of regime categorization. The negative influence of neo-liberalism in restructuring welfare states since the 1980s has been widely identified and is discussed in this paper where it is situated within the context of a discussion of the key tenets of liberalism that still have, a sometimes positive, sometimes negative and often contradictory influence on western welfare states. The economic dimension of liberalism, with its emphasis on the primacy of the market, is one dimension of the configuration of ideas embodied in liberalism that have relevance to welfare state analysis. This configuration includes individualism, moral egalitarianism and universalism although the particular liberal denotation of these concepts has to be borne in mind and their implications for social policy examined in the context of the dual character of contemporary liberal democracies. The twin pillars of these societies are a capitalist economic system and a democratic political system. The central issue that must inform analysis of welfare states in such systems is the balance between these pillars and the extent to which inequalities associated with the market are modified through the democratic system. The implications of this analysis of liberalism, in its various dimensions, are that a cultural dimension is an essential component of an explanatory framework for cross-national welfare state research and that the contemporary influence of liberalism is not confined to neo-liberalism; a positive liberal influence on policy development, if considerably modified by other streams of thought, may be more pervasive than is often assumed.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCulture and the Welfare State
EditorsWim van Oorschot, Michael Opielka, Birgit Pfau-Effinger
PublisherEdward Elgar Publishing
ISBN (Print)978 1 84542 389 6
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 2008


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