For much of the second half of the twentieth century, it was widely accepted that the modern state could — and therefore should — perform the providential role; ideally, without intruding excessively upon the liberties of its subjects, but where intrusion was unavoidable, then in exchange for social benefits that could not otherwise be made universally available. In the course of the last third of the century, however, it became increasingly commonplace to treat the state not as the natural benefactor of first resort but as a source of economic inefficiency and social intrusion best excluded from citizens’ affairs whenever possible. When combined with the fall of Communism, and the accompanying discrediting of the socialist project in all its forms, this discounting of the state has become the default condition of public discourse in much of the developed world.
14 September 2011
From Tony Judt's 2008 Reappraisals -