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date: 24 May 2022

Abstract and Keywords

This synoptic introduction guides the reader through the major themes in this comparative analysis of the developed welfare states. It first outlines the origins of the welfare state and its development down to 1940. It then considers the impact of the Second World War on social policy and traces the apparent successes of expanding welfare state regimes in the thirty years that followed the war. It then assesses the critique and challenges that arose for this welfare state settlement from the mid-1970s onwards and the idea of a ‘crisis of the welfare state’. These challenges were simultaneously ideological, political, economic, and demographic, and are sometimes seen to have created new circumstances of ‘permanent austerity’. The contemporary welfare state faces a set of challenges very different to those which arose after 1945 in which the near-future context is set by the continuing impact of the Great Recession after 2008 and the new world of social policy created by COVID-19.

Keywords: origins, Golden Age, austerity, demographics, recession, COVID-19

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