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Modern Capitalism and the State: the Contradictions of State Welfare and Corporatism

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Comparative Sociology and Social Theory
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The contours of modern capitalist societies vary considerably. The preponderance of capitalist enterprises in the sphere of production may be the single most important influence on the shape of the social structures of these societies, but it is not determining in the strict sense. Chief among the forces which act to modify the effects of market relations on social life is the state. In all industrial capitalist societies during the twentieth century, the state has played a growing role in effecting a redistribution of resources among its citizens through the expansion of welfare provision, although recent decades have seen some reversal of this trend in response to the widely discussed ‘crisis’ of the welfare state. State bodies also play a role in modifying the impact of capitalism through market regulation, the legal and political frameworks within which market forces operate being subject to considerable variation. At its most extensive within capitalist societies, this regulation takes the form of corporatism, with state bodies engaging in far-reaching planning activities in the economic and social arenas. The broad move away from corporatist arrangements during the final quarter of the twentieth century has been interpreted by some commentators as a reflection of a more general reduction of the state’s activities as the boundaries of public and private responsibilities are re-drawn.

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© 1997 Graham Crow

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Crow, G. (1997). Modern Capitalism and the State: the Contradictions of State Welfare and Corporatism. In: Comparative Sociology and Social Theory. Palgrave, London.

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