Indian Sociologists

Indian Sociologists

Question

What is a welfare sate ? Why is A.R. Desai critical of the claims made on its behalf ?

Answer
I. Meaning of welfare state : A welfare state is that which looks after the welfare of the people concerning with different aspects political, economic, social, religious, cultural developmental, etc. of the people.lt is a passive state following the democractic pattern of government ensures freedom equality, fraternity, human rights and case for the society as well as areas and region of the country.

II. Desai criticism of the claims made by welfare state : The modern capitalist state was one of the significant therms that interested A.R. Desai. As always, his approach to this issue was from a Marxist perspective. In any essay called “The myth of the welfare state”,Desai provides a detailed critique of this notion and points to it many shortcomings. After considering the prominent definitions available in the sociological literature, Desai identifies the following unique features of the welfare state :

III. Functions of the state and its areas :

(i) A welfare state is a positive state. This means that unlike the ‘laissez faire’ of classical liberal political theory, the welfare state does not seek to do ‘only the minimum necessary to maintain law and order. The welfare state is an interventionist state and actively uses its considerable powers to design and implement social policies for the betterment of society.

(ii) Democracy as an essential condition : The welfare state is a democratic state. Democracy was considered an essential conditions for the emergence of the welfare state. Formal democratic institutions, specially multiparty elections, were thought to be a defining feature of the welfare state. This is why liberal thinkers excluded socialist and communist states from this definition.

(iii) Followers of mixed economy (private as well as public sectors are allowed to work simultaneously) : A welfare state involves a mixed economy. A ‘mixed economy’ means an economy where both private capitalist enterprises and state or public owned enterprises co-exist. A welfare state does not seek to eliminate the capitalist market, nor does it prevents public investement in indusry and other fields. By and large, the state sector concentrates on basic goods and social infrastructure, while private industry dominates the consumer goods sector.

(iv) Text criteria of performance of the state : Desai then goes on to suggest some test criteria against which the performance of the welfare state can be measured. These are :

(a) Freedom from poverty, discrimination and security for all : Does the welfare state ensure freedom from poverty, social discrimination and security for all its citizens ?

(b) Equality of Income : Does the welfare state remove inequalities of income through measures to redistribute income from the rich to the poor, and by preventing the concentration of wealth ?

(c) Preference to real needs of community : Does the welfare state transform the economy in such a way that the capitalist profit motive is made subservient to the real needs of the community ?

(d) Stable development : Does the welfare state ensure stable development free from the cycle of economic booms and depressions ?

(e) Employment : Does it provide employment for all ?

Conclusion : Based on above arguments A.R. Desai concludes that the nation of the welfare state is the something of a myth. Desai also favours maintenance of political freedom, equality and some other democratic norms and values even under communalism. He strongly argues that political liberties and the race of law must be upheld in the genuinely socialist states.

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