Professor, Danish Centre for Welfare Studies, University of Southern Denmark (SDU).
The ‘welfare state’ is a peculiar concept. On the one hand, almost everybody seems to care about it nowadays. We discuss the crisis, the sustainability or the renewal of the welfare state. On the other hand, both in academia and public debates we find a lot of confusion and divergence with respect to the meaning of the concept. In this lecture I will trace the global history of the concept from its origin in 19th Century Germany to more present-day uses. Tracing the career of a key political concepts offers interesting insights in patterns of conceptual diffusion as well as into the use of concepts as discursive weapons in political debates. Concepts might seem innocent tools for analysis but they are not.