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The ethics of welfare to work in the UK (and beyond...)

By Hartley Dean

Abstract

The foundations of 'mature' welfare states in 'developed' capitalist countries, especially (but by no means exclusively) in the English speaking world, are changing. At one level such change reflects the economic imperatives associated with globalisation. Social protection for workers in rich nations depends increasingly on the outcome of international competition for capital investment and therefore the extent to which domestic labour market participation can be promoted, labour force costs can be constrained, and/or labour productivity can be maximised. At another level, however, the change reflects shifting political orthodoxies and moral assumptions. The social protectionist ethic is giving way to an ethic of self-responsibility (e.g. Bauman 1993, Rose 1999). This paper aims to explore the shifting ethical foundations of the 'welfare-to-work' or 'workfare' state (Peck 2001; Lødemel and Trickey 2001; Jessop 2002). It will be argued that the shifts entailed are more complex and multi-layered than might at first appear. To do so, the paper starts with a discussion of the historical context, with particular emphasis for illustrative purposes on the example of the UK. The second part of the paper offers a critical analysis of competing moral discourses and ethical concepts of responsibility. The final part of the paper presents a heuristic taxonomy of welfare-to-work regimes and presents a critique of dominant approaches to welfare-to-work

Topics: HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare. Criminology
Year: 2006
OAI identifier: oai:eprints.lse.ac.uk:3909
Provided by: LSE Research Online
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