In this paper I want to explore and 2begin to elucidate a fundamental problem in social welfare theory. The problem centers on the conception of the relation between individuals and social structure. Before proceeding with this task, it is important to note the senses in which the term "social welfare" will be used. The term has two basic senses, deriving from two more or less distinct intellectual traditions. In one sense the term refers to the provision of goods and services to needy individuals, either through government "transfers" or private philanthropy. In this comparatively narrow sense social welfare is a characteristic of industrialized societies (see Wilensky, 1975, for an empirical investigation of the determinants of welfare spending) and has to do with social workers, welfare institutions and the poor. In the second, broader, sense social welfare has to do with all the members and institutions of a society. This sense derives from the concerns of moral and political philosophers about the structure of society and the production and distribution of basic values (such as wealth, power, liberty, equality and happiness). Moralpolitical philosophy asks what values are desirable and how can they be justified, and, given a set of values, what kind of society and what kind of individual is most likely to lead to the fullest realization of those values.
"Philosophy, Sociology and the Theory of Social Welfare: A Conceptual Starting Point,"
The Journal of Sociology & Social Welfare: Vol. 3
, Article 2.
Available at: http://scholarworks.wmich.edu/jssw/vol3/iss4/2