Science and Society 57 (4):420 - 440 (1993)

Welfare expenditure is under attack, so that a grasp of the determinants of welfare policy is timely. Neither functionalist nor instrumentalist theory, whether of a Marxist or mainstream kind, has been successful here. This paper offers a systematic presentation of the bourgeois state and of its interdependence with the economy, of which welfare policy is a key aspect. Controversially, the systemic necessity of welfare policy grounds a right to existence not adequately sustained by the value-form determination of the economy, reproduced by market mechanisms: formal equality of process does not ensure equity of outcome. The state is thus faced with a problem of managing the conflicting demands of economic efficiency and individual's right to existence, while at the same time maintaining the autonomy of the economy.
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