A Handbook of Comparative Social Policy, Second Edition
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A Handbook of Comparative Social Policy, Second Edition

Edited by Patricia Kennett

The current context of social policy is one in which many of the old certainties of the past have been eroded. The predominantly inward-looking, domestic preoccupation of social policy has made way for a more integrated, international and outward approach to analysis which looks beyond the boundaries of the state. It is in this context that this Handbook brings together the work of key commentators in the field of comparative analysis in order to provide comprehensive coverage of contemporary debates and issues in cross-national social policy research.
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Chapter 10: Social development and social welfare: implications for comparative social policy

James Midgley


Previously regarded as a highly specialized and even exotic activity, comparative inquiry in the field of social policy has now become commonplace. Mirroring the accessibility of global information, and the ease with which people travel and communicate internationally, publications on international social welfare now appear regularly, international content is increasingly incorporated into local journals and textbooks and students are routinely exposed to developments in other countries. Several new journals dedicated to international social welfare have also been established. These developments reflect a rapidly expanding interest in international social welfare in many parts of the world and especially Europe and North America where comparative inquiry has been vigorously pursued. However, comparative social policy inquiry still faces many challenges that have not been adequately recognized or addressed. One problem concerns the way the field has been defined and shaped by scholars in the Global North. This has resulted in what may be called a ‘mainstream’ approach that focuses almost exclusively on government welfare provision and uses a Western ‘welfare state’ perspective to conceptualize the field. Mainstream social policy writers have paid little attention to discourses emanating from other regions of the world that focus on indigenous welfare phenomena and define social welfare in ways that differ significantly from the mainstream welfare state approach.

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