The programmes that make up the welfare state vary from nation to nation and from time to time, and the balance between markets and government, and free enterprise and social protection is perennially in question. In contemporary political debate the welfare state seems to be mostly viewed asa problem rather than a solution, and welfare programmes appear constantly on the defensive. ThisVery Short Introduction describes the modern welfare state, explaining its historical and contemporary significance and arguing that far from being 'a failure' or 'a problem', welfare states are an essential element of contemporary capitalism, and a vital concomitant of democratic government.In this accessible and entertaining account, David Garland cuts through the fog of misunderstandings to explain in clear and simple terms, what the welfare state is, how it works, and why it matters.ABOUT THE SERIES: The Very Short Introductions series from Oxford University Press contains hundreds of titles in almost every subject area. These pocket-sized books are the perfect way to get ahead in a new subject quickly. Our expert authors combine facts, analysis, perspective, new ideas, andenthusiasm to make interesting and challenging topics highly readable.