Chapter 1: Social services, welfare states and places: an overview
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The chapter provides an overview of the debates on social services, a key component of both the service sector and the welfare state, highlighting the different socioeconomic underpinnings of these activities and proposing a number of analytical tools. In the first section, social services are positioned within the contemporary discussion about the service economy, the welfare state, social and territorial cohesion, as well as the post-Keynesian restructuring process. The specificities and key social and economic implications of these activities are stressed. In the second section, the importance of a time- and space-sensitive approach to analysing changes and understanding the great variety of national and regional restructuring trajectories is emphasised, and the notions of welfare ‘regimes’ and ‘models’ are reviewed. In the third section, the main restructuring trends at work since the 1980s and the effects of the 2008 financial crisis are ‘unpacked’, highlighting their key features and socio-economic implications and identifying relevant analytical dimensions. The importance of the ‘vertical’ division of authority within the state and of the ‘horizontal’ division of responsibility among providers is discussed, stressing the need to distinguish among the main ‘functions’ involved in delivering public social services: regulation, funding, coordination, production.

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