In 2015 Jeroen Dijsselbloem, at that time chair of the Eurogroup, framed the so-called refugee crisis as a threat for well-developed welfare states in Europe. In his view, external borders must be guarded because otherwise “loads of people will come to demand support and they blow up the system.” 2 Dijsselbloem’s statement raises the question of how welfare has been used by policymakers to govern, coerce, mobilize and pacify their citizens and whether welfare has always been framed in such exclusive terms. Moreover, his unreserved approval of the welfare state may provoke reflection at a time of constant criticism when its bitter death is being forecast by many. In light of these constantly changing, intense and often controversial engagements with the welfare state in both academic and public debates, it appears to be timely to question whose welfare is precisely at stake in those discussions and to seek answers from a historical perspective.