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date: 29 October 2020

Abstract and Keywords

One of the most striking features of Europe's postwar history is the emergence of the welfare state. Even though the first social policies had already been introduced in the 1880s, and while many of the organisational forms that became entrenched after 1945 were initiated in the first half of the twentieth century, the size and impact of the postwar welfare state was unprecedented. Even more remarkable was the widespread consensus with which structural social and economic reforms were implemented. The deep political and social rifts of the 1920s and 1930s and the lack of trust in democratic means to overcome these confrontations had been replaced by the acceptance of an interventionist state and parliamentary democracy as the way to solve conflicts about the way in which this state distributed social goods. The swift and consensual growth of the welfare state is also remarkable because most western European countries were governed by conservative governments, or coalition governments in which Social Democrats had to share power with conservative Christian Democrats and Liberals.

Keywords: Europe, welfare state, Social Democrats, Christian Democrats, Liberals, democracy, reforms, social goods

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