Gender and Welfare States

  • Marie LaperrièreEmail author
  • Ann Shola Orloff
Part of the Handbooks of Sociology and Social Research book series (HSSR)


Feminist scholars offer distinctive theoretical tools to conceptualize the relationship between gender relations and welfare states. Mainstream scholars have been responsive to this work, increasingly considering the centrality of gender to the transformations of contemporary welfare states, although some of the most important theoretical and political implications of feminist analyses have not yet been fully integrated. In this paper, we reflect on the theoretical and methodological challenges facing scholarship that aims to make gendered power relations central to the analysis of welfare states. We discuss the main implications of feminist analyses, centering on the significance of the gendered division of labor and power, and the way they have been or are yet to be integrated into our understandings of welfare states. Next, we examine scholarship on policies that are particularly significant for reflecting, reshaping and occasionally undermining the gendered division of labor. Finally, we offer two suggestions for improving our analyses of gender and welfare states. First, scholars should consider how social provision is always involved in the regulation of individuals and groups as well as redistribution; the relationship between the disciplinary and redistributive functions of the state should be analytically central for understanding the political shaping of gender relations. Second, we discuss the connection between state policies and social politics, briefly reviewing the political drivers underpinning policies that differ in generosity, scope of coverage, bases for entitlement, and in the goals they purport to address and logics they instantiate, and suggest that gendered political goals and identities be contextualized.


Gender Welfare states Social policies Feminist analyses 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Northwestern UniversityEvanstonUSA

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