Library Header Image
LSE Research Online LSE Library Services

Theories of the welfare state: a critique

Gough, Ian (1978) Theories of the welfare state: a critique. International Journal of Health Services, 8 (1). pp. 27-40. ISSN 0020-7314

PDF - Published Version
Download (1MB) | Preview
Identification Number: 10.2190/W1U7-NXMM-YUCQ-PVJ1


The article considers three major non-Marxist explanations of the modern welfare state: functionalist sociological theories, economic theories of government policy, and pluralist theories of democracy. Each is subjected to a critique and all are found wanting, in that none can satisfactorily explain the observable similarities and differences in state welfare intervention within advanced capitalist countries. Functionalist theories can explain the dominant trends at work within all countries, but not the immense diversity in state policies which still persists. Economic and pluralist theories can explain the diversity but not the determinant trends. This failing is related to the separation of objective and subjective aspects in historical explanation: the first school objectifies history, the second subjectifies it. The article concludes by asserting, but not arguing, that a Marxist approach offers a more fruitful way of understanding the welfare state, insofar as it rejects this separation.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 1978, Baywood Publishing Co. Inc.
Divisions: Grantham Research Institute
Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HJ Public Finance
H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare. Criminology
Date Deposited: 29 Jan 2015 15:46
Last Modified: 01 Jan 2024 20:24

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year

View more statistics