Welfare states in Western countries are facing a growing demand of personalized social services because of the de-standardization of individual needs and the dramatic differentiation of societal risks. Across Europe a reflective narrative is developing, fuelled by social movements, user-led organizations, intellectuals, politicians, policy makers, front-line social workers and public officers, which underlines the relevance of “the person” conceived as a medium to be enabled and re-formed: western societies need to improve and activate people, so that they became able to actualize very abstract and complex social possibilities and opportunities. Social solidarity now means helping people decide, organize and control personally what they need, as well as tailoring welfare services on their specific life-projects. The aim of the essay is to show what kind of institutional and cultural transformations are needed for this paradigm shift that is challenging the Principal-Agent model and its whole governance culture, on which were based modern welfare states.
Keywords: Personalized Service Provision; Reflective Narratives; Cultural Alignement; Societal Poliarchy; Paradigm Change.