This work presents a systematic historical and analytical understanding of Sri Lanka's social development. Instead of merely focusing on economic yardsticks, it studies the country's development in the conceptual framework of social policy, with an emphasis on the way current institutions reflect the impact of previous political conflicts and struggles.

The book critiques the country's social policy from the perspectives of the Western theories of ‘welfare state’ and development studies. It also provides valuable insights into the issues of modernization and democratization in colonial settings by analyzing the distinctive nature of the Sri Lankan colonial experience. The book also looks at the future prospects of development in Sri Lanka in view of the unfolding of the complex social and political milieu following the end of the twenty-five-year-old civil war in the country.

This book will be a seminal reference resource for students and researchers working in the fields of development studies, colonial studies, South Asian studies, sociology, history, and political science.

Retreat from the Welfare State

Retreat from the welfare state

Economic growth cannot sensibly be treated as an end in itself.

—Amartya Sen (1999)


The social democratic state that evolved in Sri Lanka during the late colonial state (1931–77) was not merely committed to liberal political institutions of the rule of law—a Westminster style constitutional government—but also one notably committed to the pursuit of the welfare objectives of achieving a greater measure of equity and fair treatment of all persons. With its strong emphasis on social development, as noted previously, Sri Lanka, as a third world country, stood out as an exception to the general pattern of minimising or subordinating the social sector to the priorities of economic growth such as capital formation through savings and financial incentives ...

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