Concepts and Language of the Welfare State

The key Concepts
Research in this area involves detailed comparative studies of key concepts such as 'welfare state' or 'democracy', studies of the language of social policy as well as specific discourses such as welfare state criticism.

This research interest has opened ways for new theoretical perspectives bringing also the history of literature and literary theory into use and discussing the interplay between literature and the development of the welfare state.

Obviously, more people have read popular novels than key policy documents. At present, our activities in this field can be grouped into three major topics: 


1. How does the welfare state talk?
Several members of DaWS are engaged in the project Language and Concepts of the Welfare State, financed by the Danish Research Council for the humanities 2009-2013. This cross-disciplinary project involves historians, political scientists and scholars studying the history of literature. The ambition is two-fold:

  • First, the aim is to develop an empirically based knowledge about the way we talk and have talked about the welfare state on different arenas (political, public and literary) as well as how the welfare state talks.
  • Second, the theoretical ambition is to connect conceptual history, narrative theory and political analysis in order to develop better research methods for studying the origins and developments of key concepts and social policy language.

For further information contact Klaus Petersen.

2. Researching the Danish Model
Second,  members of DaWS are involved in a research project on the comparative history of the term 'welfare state' in Denmark, Britain, Germany and the US from the 1840s until the 1960s.

This ambition of this project is to rewrite the standard narratives of the origins of the terms 'welfare state' and 'Wohlfahrtsstaat' as well as to map out conceptual diffusion across national borders. On the basis of this work researchers at CWSR are involved in book projects on Social Policy Language in OECD countries and The Concept Welfare State in the Nordic Countries.

For further information contact Klaus Petersen.

3. Literature and Welfare
Third, a group of DaWS researchers are investigating the relationship between the welfare state and modern literature. The core group belongs to the project Welfare State Narratives (financed by the Velux Foundation).

Coming from literature studies this group analyses visions of welfare in specific literary work (for instance how elderly are portrayed), the role and thinking of authors both on the literary and public scene, as well as how the welfare state (for instance cultural policies) might have influenced modern literature.

For further information contact Anne Marie Mai.

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