Myths, Narratives and Welfare States: The Impact of Stories on Welfare State Development

Bent Greve, Professor of Welfare State Analysis, Department of Social Sciences and Business, Roskilde University, Denmark

‘Bent Greve investigates the stories we tell ourselves about the welfare state and its workings. This book is not only a quick and authoritative reality check on these stories, it is also a path-breaking study of how such popular narratives influence social policy across Europe.’

– James Wickham, Trinity College Dublin, Ireland

This unique book explores the question of whether different myths and narratives have an impact on the development of welfare states. After discussing the various definitions of ‘myths’ and ‘narratives’, Bent Greve disentangles their relationship with the welfare state, referring also to debates on welfare chauvinism, deservingness and retrenchment.

Greve discusses why some myths are particularly persistent and why some narratives may have a stronger impact than others. Incorporating ideas about how decision makers select and present information as well as how fake news can influence development, the book unravels narratives and perceptions about welfare scroungers, migrants and the misuse of the welfare system. Rejecting a number of long-standing myths about welfare states, Greve concludes that they have had a limited impact on welfare states’ spending and development as attitudes towards welfare have remained fairly stable over the past decade. 

Taking a novel approach to understanding how welfare states operate and change, with a focus on European states, this book will be critical reading for academics and students of social policy and political science. 

For a sample read chapter one

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