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Doing The Right Thing: Labour’s Attempt to Forge a New Welfare Deal Between the Individual and the State

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Publication details

JournalSocial Policy and Administration
DatePublished - Mar 1999
Issue number1
Number of pages13
Pages (from-to)91-104
Original languageEnglish


This paper explores the rhetoric behind the Labour Government’s welfare reforms. Recent publications and statements emanating from the new administration indicate the extent to which Labour feels comfortable with notions of communitarianism and stakeholding. The influence and (potential) impact of these two concepts upon welfare policy is explored through the works of Macmurray, Etzioni, Hutton and, in spite of his departure from Government, Field. The paper argues that in attempting to create a welfare system based largely on conditions of work, set firmly within a framework of self-help and individual responsibility, Labour’s reform agenda is concerned with the establishment of a new moral order for welfare in which individuals are urged to “do the right thing”: that is, to take control of their own welfare and ultimately to be responsible for meeting their own needs whenever possible. The Government presents this attempt to forge a welfare settlement between the individual and the state as both new and inclusive. However, it is concluded that such claims are contentious as the Government’s “new” approach echoes old individualistic ideas about the causes and solutions to poverty, and may also result in the exclusion of some citizens from publicly financed welfare.

    Research areas

  • welfare reform, communitarianism, RESPONSIBILITY

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