Crises of the welfare state, resilience, and pessimism of the intellect

Kevin Farnsworth, Zoe Margaret Irving*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The crises faced by welfare states have now endured for significantly longer than the counter-period of stability, calm and cooperation between the 1940s and 1970s. Systemic crisis of welfare states tied to the contradictions of capitalism, and the exogenous crises for the welfare state that have afflicted its expansion have, however, been met by faith in its resilience evidenced in its economic functions and popularity. We question the basis for optimism by examining the ‘state of the welfare state’ in the context of the social goals envisaged in the 1940s and the extent to which these are evidenced in contemporary social policy arrangements. We present a case for more ‘pessimism of the intellect’ in assessing welfare futures to better underpin welfare state scholars’ tendency towards ‘optimism of the will’.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages16
JournalSocial Policy and Administration
Early online date9 Jan 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 9 Jan 2024

Bibliographical note

© 2024 The Authors.


  • resilience
  • welfare state crisis
  • welfare pessimism

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