The ‘passive’ welfare state was accused of promoting a dependency culture. ‘Active’ welfare and the ‘what works?’ approach of Britain’s New Labour government is allegedly implicated in an age of post-emotionalism, in which people are largely indifferent to the needs of others and committed primarily to their personal well-being. This paper seeks first, to extend recent debates about agency and motivation in social policy and relate them to the notion of post-emotionalism. Second, it draws on a recent empirical study of popular and welfare provider discourses, which suggests that popular opinion can accommodate an appreciation of human interdependency, while welfare providers remain committed to a public service ethos. None the less, Third Way thinking is associated with a narrowing of solidaristic responsibilities. The problem for the future of health, social care and state welfare policies lies not with the imagined consequences of post-emotionalism, so much as with an ideological context that perpetuates a distorted ethic of responsibility
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