The book traces the political history of the concept of social policy. Social policy originated in Germany in the mid 19th century as a scholarly term that made a career in politics. The term became more prominent only after World War II. Kaufmann, the doyen of the sociology of social policy in Germany, argues that social policy responds to the modern disjunction between state and society diagnosed by the German philosopher Hegel. Hegels disciple Lorenz von Stein saw social policy as a means to pacify the capitalist class conflict. After World War II, social policy expanded in an unprecedented way, changing its character in the process. Social policy turned from class politics into a policy for the whole population, with new concepts like 'social security', 'redistribution' and 'quality of life' - and new overarching  formulas, 'social market economy' and 'social state' (the German version of welfare state). Both formulas have remained indeterminate and contested, indicating the inherent openness of the idea of the social.

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