The cradle and grave of the welfare state
Breman, J. C.
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The social struggle which came about in industrializing and urbanizing Europe had as a prime objective, fought for by the up-and-coming trade union movement, better employment conditions culminating in a standard contract which conceded the right to collective action and representation, The social question in the Global North transpired from the realm of labor to one of citizenship and climaxed in the emergence of the welfare state. Although branded as welfare capitalism, the cost of life-cycle security and protection was provided by public funding and not born by the private owners of capital. A century later the tide of progress appears to have turned in the opposite direction. The punitive welfare reforms practiced in the USA might become standard for dealing with out-of-work in the front-running economies. In much of the Global South such outcasts are denied commodity value. Neoliberalism has terminated public schemes for poor relief. Classified as undeserving, the un- and underemployed are subjected to pauperization. In the perception of mainstream society they constitute a resourceless and dangerous underclass. The verdict of blame, despise and threat in the upperclass mindset suggests the return of social Darwinism. It spells the demise of social welfarism in a world which under the aegis of unadulterated capitalism is flooded with surplus labor, cast off as redundant to demand.
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