The understanding of welfare states hitherto suffers from characteristic biases national, political and disciplinary. This paper proposes a generalized framework for international comparative research, which remains as neutral as possible to such biases. The guarantee of social rights for everybody and the issue of societal reproduction are taken as reference points to define the political criteria for social welfare. However, politics and social policies remain a partial aspect of the production of welfare in a given society. A theory of the welfare state has to take into account the interactions among household production, market production and associative forms of welfare production, on the one side, and of political interventions on the other.
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