ABSTRACT

The premise of this chapter is that the concept of crisis is a useful way of organising discussion about welfare state developments in recent decades. Welfare states have since the 1970s been confronted by a series of challenges, pressures, constraints and limits. The source of these challenges and constraints has varied, over time, between countries and among analysts. Official, in some sense, acknowledgement of the arrival of a welfare state crisis was marked by a conference in 1980 organised by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), a body which represents the advanced liberal capitalist countries, and the publication of its proceedings the following year (OECD, 1981). Since the 1990s the source of the challenge has been subtly reconceptualised and identified with globalisation, one of the most fashionable social science concepts of the 1990s and beyond. Since the topic of globalisation is the subject of Chapter 22, it will not be dealt with here.