Change in the concept of state-from laissez faire to Social Welfare state

Administrative law is recognised as the most outstanding legal development of the 20th century.The 19th century was characterised by the welfare state wherein there was minimum government control, free enterprise, contractual freedom, etc. Individualistic theories flourished in this period.The state played a negative role. It was primarily a police state which helped in maintenance of law and order, protecting the nation from external aggression, dispensing justice to its citizens and collecting taxes for financing such activities.However, in the 20th century, the evils of this system were realised.


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Due to contractual freedom and freedom of enterprise, there was unequal distribution of wealth. This led to several socialist movements specially ones in which the grievances of labourers was voiced. Thus, a need was felt that the state shall be more than a police state. It shall help in alleviating the poor, regulating individual enterprise and most importantly bringing about social justice. This led to the establishment of the social welfare state.This may be seen even in case of India. Before independence, India was essentially a police state as the British were more interested in furthering their own interests rather than working for the welfare of the people.

However, the concept of social welfare was taken up immediately after independence especially after the adoption of the constitution.The preamble to the constitution states that India shall be a socialist, secular, democratic, republic and must provide justice, equality, rights, freedom, etc. to all.Also, right to free and compulsory education for children upto 14 years is now a fundamental right.Further, various social legislations such as the Factories Act, Minimum Wages Act, etc. have come into the picture.

Post Contributed By:

Abhishek Bhargava

Indian Institute of Legal Studies | Law College in India



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