In this excellent paper, Zachary Morris seeks to address an important and politically timely question – Why are some welfare state programmes more susceptible to retrenchment than others? The paper examines why the major disability benefit programme in the United States has proved resistant to austerity measures while the comparable disability programme in Great Britain has been repeatedly scaled back. This engaging comparative analysis reveals that both structural differences matter greatly, as does the way that policy ideas are communicated to the public. In Britain, the portrayal of beneficiaries as underserving proved critical for constructing the need for retrenchment. Continue reading Policy & Politics announces the 2017 winners of the Early Career and Best Paper Prizes→
I will be presenting a paper at the 2016 Social Policy Association Conference in Belfast in July. The paper looks at the impact of austerity on voluntary sector organisations campaigning and delivery of welfare services. Austerity has had a devastating impact on the most vulnerable people in society.
These are the people that voluntary sector organisations were often set up to represent and serve. Given this the paper asks whether voluntary sector organisations are, in the current period, complying with or resisting austerity. When we take a long historical view we see the repeated failure of the market, state and the voluntary sector to meet welfare need. We have moved from feudal obligations to the poor through the ideal of a universal welfare state to a mixed welfare model and now to austerity and the withdrawal of welfare. Continue reading Are voluntary organisations complying with or resisting austerity?→
Over the festive period, spare a thought for the 1% lowest earners in the UK. Read on if you care…
The Conservatives won a narrow majority in May 2015. The result shocked a London based commentariat. This was hardly surprising as the Capital swung to Labour and London remains where life’s winners congregate, a place from where losers must be expelled. It was life’s losers who did not turn out to vote for the main alternative on offer, a watered-down version of Conservative austerity being sold to them by Ed Miliband. We were then told that the Labour Party did not appeal enough to those who were aspirational and wanted more, including people who wanted more largely irrespective of who had to have less. But perhaps fear and fantasy greatly appealed too, an eighth of the English electorate voted for the UK Independence party (UKIP).
by Zach Morris, School of Social Welfare, University of Berkeley, USA
The Department of Work and Pensions recently released the statistics for those who died after being found “fit for work,” and thus ineligible for disability benefits in the U.K. The Guardian reports that nearly 90 people a month are dying after being found fit for work. Caution is due, however, before interpreting the outcome of the assessment process as the cause of these deaths. Yet, the emergence of these figures and their wide reporting in the press shed light on how the public is coming to perceive the country’s recent experiment with disability benefit cuts. The growing attention to this issue could lead to increasing support for disability benefit recipients, which, as reported in my P&P article on the topic and shown below, has been in decline for many years. If so, now may prove an opportune time for political entrepreneurs Continue reading Setting the stage for another reform? Changing narratives around disability benefit recipients in the UK→
Here’s a sneak preview of our October edition which will be published at the end of this month. Read on to scan this post for links to the articles in this forthcoming edition. If you have difficulty accessing the full text, it may be because your institution doesn’t subscribe to Policy & Politics. If that’s the case, do try our free trial or recommend the journal to your librarian.
Opening with a tour d’horizon entitled Crises, crisis-management and state restructuring: what future for the state?, Bob Jessop provides an insightful critical overview of what constitutes ‘the state’. In exploring a range of challenges to the state, some of which ‘condense’ into crises, he offers some thoughts on the future of the state, its management of crises and its challenges.
Continuing with the theme of the state, but with a specific focus on welfare, Peter Taylor-Gooby argues powerfully about the critical need for a welfare state, particularly in the context of harsh spending cuts which affect the poorest and most vulnerable groups in society. In his article Making the Case for the Welfare State, he argues for more inclusive discourses around welfare, so reframing the way people think about work, reward and welfare.
Craig Berry’s article also addresses the issue of welfare. In Citizenship in a financialised society: financial inclusion and the state before and after the crash, he unpacks the ‘financial inclusion’ agenda which has been extensively promoted by successive UK governments. This agenda, he argues, can ‘empower’ individuals to play an enhanced role in ensuring their own financial security without relying on the state. However, in his subsequent critical analysis, he reveals its more covert aspects, such as the increased hidden risks that ‘financial inclusion’ exposes individuals to, in order to secure macroeconomic growth at all costs.
There is further exploration of the role of the state, this time in relation to the markets, in Allan Cochrane and Bob Colenutt’s piece on Governing the Ungovernable: spatial policy, markets and volume house-building in a growth region. They deconstruct the global rhetoric promoting the role of private markets in the provision of new housing and how it masks a more complex reality. They offer perceptive critical reflections on the consequences of policies that sanction ‘light touch’ state involvement in a housing development market shaped by the priorities of powerful corporate actors.
Exploring a wide-ranging array of other policy issues, this edition of Policy & Politics also includes an article by Gary Bridge and Deborah Wilson called Towards an interactive sociological rational choice approach to theorising class dimensions of school choice. By exploring the value of two established perspectives on decision-making, they develop a third framework for explaining how school choices are made by parents in the UK. They argue that using this new framework could result in policy benefits such as reducing social class differentials between schools and subsequent educational outcomes.
In a similar vein, Annette Hastings and Peter Matthews proffer a new approach for analysing middle class service use in their article on Bourdieu and the Big Society: empowering the powerful in public service provision? Building on Bourdieu’s theory of practice to theorise middle-class use of public services, they proffer a new theoretical framework and evidence how engagement with the state is a classed practice, producing benefits for those already empowered. They conclude with a call to action to policy scholars and practitioners to fully understand how advantage comes about, so that it can be challenged if it is unfair and leads to detrimental outcomes.
Last but not least, Keerty Nakray explores the concept of gender budgeting and the challenges to operationalising gender justice in India in her article on Gender budgeting and public policy: the challenges to operationalising gender justice in India. In a thorough analysis of the Indian gender budget statement of 2005, Nakray demonstrates how incomplete the process was. It failed to take into account all the gender budget procedures that needed to be implemented in order to achieve tangible gender equality outcomes, despite being viewed as a progressive development by the transnational feminist movement. She highlights that gender budgets should be further consolidated within central administrative mechanisms to result in more gender sensitive approaches to governance.
That was rather a whistle-stop tour through this month’s edition packed with impactful research findings. I do hope it’ll encourage you to click through to read the articles themselves.
I hope you enjoy the issue. Feedback always welcome!
All recent governments in the UK have pursued ‘financial inclusion’ at the individual level, as part of the broader agenda around ‘asset-based welfare’, that is, efforts to enable individuals to play an enhanced role in ensuring their own long term financial security through asset ownership.
by Birgit Pfau-Effinger, Professor of Sociology and Research Director of the Centre for Globalisation and Governance, University of Hamburg, and Professor for Comparative Welfare State Research, Dept. of Political Science and Public Administration, University of Southern Denmark
New welfare state policies for family care work
In the ‘housewife marriage’––the dominant form of the family in most mid-20th century European societies––senior care was mainly organised as unpaid work in the private family household, and was the wife’s duty. Since the 1990s most welfare states have strengthened the attendant social rights and infrastructure to the advantage of senior citizen care provision. As a consequence of this welfare state change, informal, unpaid work in the private sphere of the family has, in part, been transformed into formal, paid care work in the formal employment system outside the family. Several studies have analysed this change in a cross-national perspective (see Pavolini & Ranci, 2008).
It is curious how little traction the idea of the social investment welfare state (SIWS) has had in British social policy discussion. The basic idea behind SIWS is that some forms of public social spending contribute positively to creating an innovative economy. Spending on education, skills and active labour market policy are the most obvious elements, but spending on high-quality childcare is also part of the concept. This is partly for its contribution to early-years education but also for making life reasonable for the two-parent-earner family that increasingly characterizes the most productive economies. Of course, elements of this enter British discussions, especially education, but it comes in piecemeal, whereas it gains most strength Continue reading The social investment welfare state: the missing theme in British social policy debates→
What do social democratic parties do after they regain power after the Third Way? This was the guiding question for our study of the public policies of the current Danish social democratic government (2011-2015). The Third Way (TW), with Britain’s New Labour as its forerunner, was at first a successful strategy for many European social democratic parties to regain power after long bourgeois incumbencies in the 1980s and 1990s. However, it usually ended in electoral disaster since TW policies did not square with the preferences and values of many social democratic core voters who then abstained or shifted to Continue reading Where next after the third way?→