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The Changing Meanings of the Welfare State: Histories of a Key Concept in the Nordic Countries

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The Changing Meanings of the Welfare State

Histories of a Key Concept in the Nordic Countries

Edited by Nils Edling

352 pages, 19 illus., bibliog., index

ISBN  978-1-78920-124-6 $145.00/£107.00 / Hb / Published (January 2019)

ISBN  978-1-80073-205-6 $34.95/£27.95 / Pb / Published (November 2021)

eISBN 978-1-78920-125-3 eBook

View CartYour country: - edit Request a Review or Examination Copy (in Digital Format)Recommend to your LibraryAvailable in GOBI®


“With its conceptual history focus, the volume problematizes the importance of the empirical concept in relation to a more analytical one that is related to the history of ideas. Thus, reforms that today are understood as characteristic of a welfare state did not necessarily take place with the welfare state as a leading concept.” • Scandinavian Studies

“This book will be of great use and inspiration to researchers working with political history and welfare history, for political scientists and historians, for students and experienced. {It] is recommended!” • Historisk tidsskrift

“In the best tradition of Begriffsgeschichte (conceptual history à la Koselleck), this thoroughly researched book offers fascinating histories of the changing meanings of the welfare state in the Nordic countries. It is the first systematic study of this key term of social policy language in the Nordic countries available in English.” • Journal of Interdisciplinary History

“This is a book many have been waiting for, not least researchers who have been concerned with the history, development and status of the welfare state…This is a very important and interesting book that provides a lot of new knowledge of the history of the concept of the welfare state. It is a book that we have missed in the international research literature, and it will undoubtedly be a standard reference in and far beyond the Nordic countries for anyone interested in studying or disseminating knowledge about the welfare state.” • Tiddskrift for Velferdsforskning (Journal of Welfare Research)

The Changing Meanings of the Welfare State fills an important gap in the social policy language literature of recent years. It makes for enjoyable and informative reading.” • Sven Hort, Linnaeus University

“With its impressive conceptual and thematic coherence, this book will become an excellent ‘encyclopedic’ contribution to the field.” • Johannes Lindvall, Lund University


In discussions of economics, governance, and society in the Nordic countries, “the welfare state” is a well-worn analytical concept. However, there has been much less scholarly energy devoted to historicizing this idea beyond its postwar emergence. In this volume, specialists from Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Norway, and Iceland chronicle the historical trajectory of “the welfare state,” tracing the variable ways in which it has been interpreted, valued, and challenged over time. Each case study generates valuable historical insights into not only the history of Northern Europe, but also the welfare state itself as both a phenomenon and a concept.

Nils Edling is a professor of history and work as a teacher and researcher in the History department at Stockholm University. His current research is on the conceptual history of the Swedish welfare state. He has previously studied the emergence of unemployment as a social problem in Denmark, Norway and Sweden and he has been active in different Nordic welfare history research networks since the 1990s.

Subject: History (General)History: 20th Century to PresentPolitical and Economic AnthropologySociology
Area: Northern Europe


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