Social policy and the welfare state

Social rights were in the past developed in order to ease the most negative effects of early capitalism. The development of social rights was mostly understood as the result of attempts to make civil rights essentially work by removing the barriers that blocked the full and equivalent exercise of civil and political rights. Capitalist market relations, poverty and insufficient education tended to lessen these latter rights to mere formalities, a disagreement that formed the necessity for social policy. The development of the welfare state according to this explanation is the historical process by which members of a national community as citizens became inclusively permitted to the material promises of civil freedom and political fairness.

There is surely that the expansion of social welfare has certainly contributed to the material promises of both civil and political parity. The more widespread post-war welfare states, whether they belong to the moderate, social-democratic or conservative regime surely meant a significant step in the improvement of the quality of life for various citizens. In the time of welfare development and consolidation, from around 1945 to 1975, the implication of citizenship was not much discussed; the significance of social citizenship was taken for granted and the motive for an extension of social rights seemed rather evident. While first published in 1950, Marshall’s Citizenship and Social Class received little attention, particularly outside the United Kingdom.

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For Marshall, of course, rights were critical to the nature of citizenship. Marshall divided them into three types:

1. Civil rights, that is, those rights necessary for individual freedom-liberty of the person, freedom of speech, thought and faith, the right to own property and to conclude valid contracts, and the right to justice, which are provided for, Marshall argued, by the legal system.

2. Political rights, such as the right to participate in the exercising of power as a member of a governing body or an elector of such a body, allowed for by the nature of the democratic system.

3. Social rights, such as the rights to welfare, education, security and well-being, as befits a member of civil society, and allowed for by the Welfare State.

(T.H. Marshall, 1950, 75).

Such definitions obviously change, and, as Dwyer stress, these differences tend to reflect ideological differences transversely political parties on the question of human nature.

Dwyer was critical of Marshal, he asserts that people think the welfare state must not be just a channel to direct resources downwards, but must also be an organization of reciprocity, that offers good prospects and support for those who contribute, but do not waste resources on those who fail to do so. People must share an essential set of rights and tasks, which can mean receivers of welfare must put up with sure rules (Dwyer, 2004, 57).

Whereas neo-liberals and neo-conservatives on the right underlines individual freedom and self-management above community or society participation, those on the Left invert the distinction. In all cases, although, issues have been heaved time and again on those concerns which are debarred from the discourse on citizenship rights. Marxist critics of Marshall have pointed to the absence of economic rights from his list.

In the era of welfare reform and welfare cynicism, there has been much more discussion about, and contested explanations of, citizenship. At the same time with the rise of the welfare state ‘crisis’ (a notion that must be used with great caution) citizenship arose as a central idea in many discussions, both scientific and supporting. It has been used by academics trying to grasp and explicate recent transformations in welfare states, by politicians reformulating the relations involving citizens’ rights and duties vis-à-vis the state, among social organizations and social movements inquiring disintegrating and new forms of social consistency and community life and by global institutions such as the EU to name and frame the position of citizens concerning the nation-state and supranational levels of policy making. Within this framework Marshall’s text on citizenship has been rediscovered.

The historical sequence Marshall presented is uncertain. Marshall argued that citizenship consists of civil, political and social mechanism that corresponds to succeeding phases in the history of capitalist countries. Eighteenth-century civil rights recognized individual freedom, nineteenth-century political rights inducted political freedom, and twentieth-century social rights provided the foundation of social welfare. This series of citizenship rights suggests a comparatively autonomous development in which every new step of citizenship consequences progressively from a previous step. As a result, social rights are viewed as more advanced than political rights. Though, on closer inspection the association between various rights seems to be less sequential.

The inspiration of sequence and progress is mainly relevant for current developments. What does welfare state economizing, for instance, mean for the assumption of the constant advancement of citizenship? Current developments show that citizenship rights do not mechanically develop in a more advanced form, but that drawbacks and backlashes might also occur. For instance, access to social security entitlements and the rank and terms of benefits has lately been limited in many European countries. Moreover, the excellence of social services, such as education and health care, has decreased in diverse countries, as there are sometimes long queues. Such developments endanger the idea of universality, as the expansion of the National Health Service in the UK clearly illustrates. Thus, it is not clear that social citizenship in itself is the end of a sequence. Instead, it needs to be endlessly re-evaluated and redefined.

Though, the comparison between New Labour’s approach and that of neoconservative goes considerably deeper than shared rhetoric, though. For both, there is a strong temper to regard the replacement of voluntary activity for state-provided services within ‘civil society’ (what Alexander calls the ‘informal non-state’) as both a political and a moral advance (Alexander 1995:34). Now, we do not doubt that there can be many instances where such agencies have a important role to play, but we are concerned that here as elsewhere in New Labour’s repertoire, there tends ever more to be a assertive insistence that the private sector and the assistance of independent not-for-profit organizations, should in principle be preferable to provision by the state. The obvious risk is that this project of redefining ‘community’ as a congeries of voluntary organizations and behavior within a reinvigorated ‘civil society’ might insidiously erode an ever-widening range of citizenship entitlements.

It is, besides, not only New Labour’s critics on the Left who have distinguished a strand of disingenuousness in these efforts to present the party as competent of combining support for sturdily neo-liberal economic policies with the renaissance of a strong commitment to a revived citizenship agenda. The neoconservative philosopher Roger Scruton has highlighted what he sees as clear parallels between Thatcherism and the practice of New Labour in office. Reminding his readers that out of office, New Labour spokesmen repeatedly castigated ‘the “culture of greed” which … they associated with big business, with the city, with free trade and free markets’, Scruton argues that in office and under Tony Blair:

“Business is still firmly in the driving seat. The Prime Minister appoints business moguls to the House of Lords with the same unconscionable eagerness as Margaret Thatcher … Look at Labour policy in any of the areas in which the capitalist giants have an interest – Europe, EMU, mergers and monopolies, the environment, agri-business – and you will see electoral promises and moral convictions crumbling before the imperatives of trade. The argument has been accepted, as it was accepted under Thatcher, that prosperity means growth that growth means globalization, and that globalization means the abolition of local restraints … Mr. Blair describes himself as a Christian Socialist: he is no such thing. Like Baroness Thatcher, he is a nineteenth century liberal. He may never have said ‘you can’t buck the market’ but he acts as if it were true”.

(Scruton 1998, 24)

However, citizenship as recognition and empowerment obviously represents a form of political identity. Nothing here essentially requires the presence of a state in the accepted sense of the term. Actually, for citizenship to mean membership and empowerment within a civil society is as meaningful-and truer to its origins-as for it to mean an indenture made between an individual and a political state. Also, the degree to which this form of political identity can facilitate the empowerment of the individual seems to rely very much on the extent to which citizenship discourse is permitted to take place within an invigorated public sphere. Similarly, for nationalism to denote respect for one’s culture is as meaningful, and almost surely more important, than for it to mean obedience to one’s political structure; but again, for this to become politically empowering, it needs conditions that make public debate possible.

Including citizenship extends the territoriality to take in the entire world and all its (human) inhabitants, while ‘non-modern’ citizenship aspects to the citizen primary membership and sense of commitment to a non-territorialized (typically culturally defined) group. Though, these interpretations have been rendered trivial by the centrality of one dominant understanding which has leaned to assume a relationship between citizenship and the idea of the state.

Citizenship rights to have extended to include social rights, women still had not attained basic civil or political rights. In several cases political rights emerged before civil rights for women, and served as a essential power-base for them. Different groups may attain different stages of citizenship rights at different times. Vogel offers a sharper evaluation of Marshall’s perspective, pointing out that the exclusion of women from the citizenship society was a direct. Consequence of the emergence of such entitlements for men. From such a viewpoint, then, the very notion of citizenship can be associated to theories about the patriarchal nature of modern Western societies, in a similar element to the Marxist critique of social democracy and citizenship rights as conflict-reducing but system-serving attempts to evade more structural inequalities.

If Citizenship excludes it become pluralistic. Instead of facing the seemingly unattainable task of encouraging a sense of universal human membership, educators are asked instead to underline the multiplicity of identities and memberships. In this respect, the kinds of memberships one might talk concerning may very well be at a more local level than the nation-state. If education seeks to support diversity and the respect for others, it needs to show how there are no universal identities which inevitably exclude all others. Multicultural education for global citizenship means, specifically, that one can identify with one’s street, with one’s neighborhood, with one’s family, with one’s ethnic or religious background, with one’s nation-state., or with the world as a complete. In short, citizenship is not-should not-be only about identification with or membership of the world as a whole. Instead, it is concerning the rich diversity of such memberships and identifications that make up this globe.