“THE WELFARE STATE” concept is often being used without being really defined.
Frequently in the political dialogue – and in social work teaching – you have the impression that participants do not have congruous ideas about the significance of the word. Since discussions about the WELFARE STATE and SOCIAL WORK always concern ways of affecting relations and behaviour of individuals, it seems fair to connect the discussion of THE AUTONOMY of the individual client to some common understanding of welfare state.
The general understanding of “THE WELFARE STATE” can be described as follows:
a state organization (including local public authorities) in a predominantly market organized
This state organization is intervening in 4 welfare functions, that is: 4 aspects of the
relation between individual (client) and society
1) provision (maintenance) of persons, who a) cannot themselves sell (or should not sell) their work-power, and b) are not by law provided for by wife/husband or children /parents
2) care in case of disease, and compensation in case of disablement, and shelter/asylum for those in need thereof
3) education – socialization for all (children), including childcare, and including socialization
of adolescents and rehabilitation of criminal offenders.
In most discussions of “THE WELFARE STATE” it is implied that it functions in a society
where production and distribution of goods and services mainly are organized in the market way. An implied understanding dating back to liberal church fathers, who “deducted” social organization from a “character of man” as a creature who organises trades in market and human reproduction in family, market and family being so to say spontaneous or natural (God-given) organizations. Often you hear the phrase that THE WELFARE STATE should (only) compensate for market deficiencies, and intervene (only) when family fails to socialize its offspring. The very concept of intervention presupposes the existence of (spontaneous, natural) structures, in which someone can intervene.
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