Social welfare has a three-thousand-year history in Western society. This book offers a sociological framework that provides conceptual order to the countless details of that history, while highlighting its essentials. Social welfare in all its forms is based on one central concept--help. But there are many versions of help and multiple debates about those versions. The outcomes of some debates have led to withholding help, and these outcomes are an inescapable part of this domain, in the past and in the present. The major versions, their development, and the debates are carefully examined in this volume.Social Welfare in Western Society argues that in history five basic concepts of help have emerged. These five, explored and developed are: charity, based on a relationship between private donors and recipients; public welfare, based on a relationship between the state and its recipients; social insurance, based on a relationship between the state and beneficiaries of its programs; social service, based on people skilled in interaction providing skill-based time to their clients; mutual aid groups (sometimes misleadingly called self-help groups), whose members are simultaneously helpers and those helped. There are multiple versions of each of these five concepts now usually referred to as social policy issues. There are fierce disagreements about what is helpful and which supposed forms of help are harmful to the wider society.The book concludes that major debates have centered and continue to center around these major issues: Should the poor be helped or punished? Who is to blame? Do the poor have the same rights as other people? Who should pay? Who should decide? What is the effect of receiving welfare on incentive to work? Who should be helped? This is a masterful text designed for professional and public reading.