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Welfarism is a form of consequentialism. Like all forms of consequentialism, welfarism is based on the premise that actions, policies, and/or rules should be evaluated on the basis of their consequences. Welfarism is the view that the morally significant consequences are impacts on human (or animal) welfare. There are many different understandings of human welfare, but the term "welfarism" is usually associated with the economic conception of welfare.[citation needed] Economists usually think of individual welfare in terms of utility functions. Social welfare can be conceived as an aggregation of individual utilities or utility functions. Welfarism can be contrasted to other consequentialist theories, such as classical utilitarianism, which takes utility among agents as directly accessible and measurable.

Welfarist views have been especially influential in the law and economics movement.[citation needed] Steven Shavell and Louis Kaplow have argued in an influential book, Fairness versus Welfare that welfare should be the exclusive criteria by which legal analysts evaluate legal policy choices.[1]

Penal welfarism[edit]

Penal welfarism is a theory in the study of criminal justice which holds that prisoners should have the right and the positive motivation to gain opportunities for advancement within the criminal justice system.[2]

Outcome utilitarianism, welfarism, and sum-ranking[edit]

Sen (1979) provides the following two definitions:

"Welfarism: The judgment of the relative goodness of alternative states of affairs must be based exclusively on, and taken as an increasing function of, the respective collections of individual utilities in these states."

"Sum-ranking: One collection of individual utilities is at least as good as another if and only if it has at least as large a sum total."

Sen makes the statement: "It is easily checked that welfarism and sum-ranking together are exactly equivalent to outcome utilitarianism." He then proceeds to criticize outcome utilitarianism by criticizing each of its two components: first sum-ranking, and then welfarism.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Louis Kaplow and Steven Shavell, Fairness versus Welfare (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press 2002) ISBN 0-674-00622-4
  2. ^ Garland - the crisis of penal modernism


  • Amartya Sen, 'Utilitarianism and Welfarism' in The Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 76, No. 9 pp. 463-489. 1979.

External links[edit]

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Mon, 23 Mar 2015 02:33:45 -0700

So I departed from welfarism because it sapped a people's self-reliance and their desire to excel and succeed. I also abandoned the model of industrialisation through import substitution. When most of the Third World was deeply suspicious of ...

The Argus

The Argus
Thu, 16 Apr 2015 04:08:56 -0700

I would deduce by her comments on socialism and welfarism that she is politically of a right wing persuasion. I would remind her that it was Margaret Thatcher with her ideological agenda that created a divisive society of haves and have nots. I would ...


Mon, 13 Apr 2015 22:15:00 -0700

Long ago when the crisis in AAP had just erupted, I had tweeted, that "It's a clash of ideas, it's a clash between ultra leftism and the new idea of welfarism." Very recently, I was once again asked by a very senior and respected journalist "What is ...
Daily News & Analysis
Mon, 13 Apr 2015 16:41:03 -0700

As a matter of fact, Bill Clinton had once famously remarked that welfarism as we know it has reached an end. He was perceived as a man who adopted the Reagan approach of soft conservatism of middle-class family values, including thrift. In the 1990s ...

Herald Sun

Herald Sun
Sun, 12 Apr 2015 04:26:15 -0700

Mr Johns' report also notes how our modern welfarism turns some children into possessions — even meal tickets. In this case, “Chloe represented nothing more to (her mother) than a means by which her income could be enhanced by obtaining support ...

Huffington Post

Huffington Post
Mon, 09 Feb 2015 11:19:48 -0800

The evolving field called compassionate conservation, in which the guiding principle "First do no harm (link is external)" stresses the importance of individual nonhuman animals (animals), is gaining increasing global attention because most animals ...

Daily Mail

Daily Mail
Fri, 27 Mar 2015 17:20:49 -0700

After visiting 11 countries, from Australia to the USA, from Sweden to Singapore, it is impossible to avoid the conclusion that our addiction to welfarism — far from promoting economic security, decent standards of living, and individual prosperity ...

Asian Correspondent

Asian Correspondent
Sun, 12 Apr 2015 21:30:00 -0700

Singapore's allergy to welfarism, under Lee Kuan Yew, has made it seem as if those who are jobless deserve what they get. They are either lazy bums or plain stupid. For a long time, the government has failed to recognise that a third category of people ...

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