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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. ^ David Garland, "The Crisis of Penal Modernism", The Culture of Control: Crime and Social Order in Contemporary Society, pp. 53-73, University of Chicago Press (2002). ISBN 0226283844


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

External links[edit]

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Welfarism — Please support Wikipedia.
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2101 news items

The Hindu
Fri, 05 Feb 2016 11:30:00 -0800

These remarks symbolised, at one level, a flawed understanding of the scheme, and at another, a negative mindset about demand-driven welfarism. It took a distressed agrarian situation with the failure of the rabi crop and less-than-optimal rains for ...

The Straits Times

The Straits Times
Mon, 31 Aug 2015 14:13:27 -0700

The welfarism trap weakens work incentive and hobbles the development of entrepreneurship. In his speech at the British Chamber of Commerce in Singapore in 2004, Mr Lee Kuan Yew said: "Cradle-to-grave welfarism blunted the ambition of many budding ...


Tue, 11 Aug 2015 02:30:35 -0700

Of course, the easy option for Labourites is to blame tabloid scare stories about benefits claimants for people's rejection of welfarism. But voters' views are really based on their lived, day-to-day experiences, not the journalism of the Daily Mail ...


Tue, 02 Feb 2016 10:06:16 -0800

Abolitionists have been claiming that this would be the result of welfarism since the nineties, when it first started gaining noteoriety as a theoretical standpoint. What Ms. Newkirk fails to admit is that welfare reform, “genuine” or not, will always ...


Mon, 11 Jan 2016 10:22:30 -0800

The founders of welfarism – back through Beveridge to David Lloyd George and the Victorian reformer Edwin Chadwick – all recognised the dangers of creating what we now call a dependency culture, whereby state benefits sufficient to live on and ...
The New American
Thu, 28 Jan 2016 13:58:36 -0800

Having had a taste of socialism and welfarism, Argentines were reluctant to let it go. During the 1950s and '60s, what was generally a period of strong economic growth elsewhere in the developed world brought mostly economic decline for Argentina ...

Deccan Chronicle

Deccan Chronicle
Sat, 30 Jan 2016 12:15:00 -0800

If untouchability is all-pervasive, as you say, then do you suggest that all positive steps taken in the past six decades have failed in achieving their objectives? The affirmative actions were unveiled at a time when social “welfarism” was the nature ...

The Independent

The Independent
Wed, 13 Jan 2016 01:00:00 -0800

As I noted in The Independent on Sunday, the speech had strong echoes of Tony Blair: offering a third way between two caricatured extremes, welfarism versus the free market. In talking about "the scourge of worklessness", Cameron even sounded a little ...

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