Ideology and Social Policy

Topics: Capitalism, Liberalism, Mixed economy Pages: 6 (1987 words) Published: May 7, 2015
Ideology, Social Policy and the Welfare State.
Liberalism it could be argued was born out of the opportunity for the individual to prosper unfettered by the constraints of feudalist class structure. As the industrial revolution changed the demographic face of society, principles of laissez-faire provided, in theory, the possibility that as all men are innately equal, so was their opportunity to satisfy the basic human need for material gratification. The rationale of meritocracy was aligned with the idea of equality of opportunity but considered that intervention with social policy hindered fair redistribution of resources which occurred most effectively when left to the forces of the free market. The Utilitarian school of thought was structured around the central belief that a functional society should strive to provide the greatest happiness for the greatest number of its citizens. It proposed the idea that free trade stimulated economic growth which was symbiotic with high employment and that this in turn would create ever increasing markets for producers and manufacturers. Therefore it could be considered that early liberal thinking was centered round the idea of perpetual economic motion, as it was assumed that everyone from the entrepreneurs to the unskilled labourer would benefit from unrestricted markets. The Utilitarian response to the poverty and deprivation caused by industrialisation and urbanisation could be seen as a reflection of the moral or ethical character of the age where poverty was considered to be caused by the idleness of the poor. (Heywood 2012, Ch-2) The Poor Law Reform Act 1834 was a significant piece of legislation in the history of welfare and social policy and goes some way to reflecting this view. However regardless of the perceived injustice by modern standards, Crowther (1981) points out that often a pauper would be materially better off in the workhouse with the biggest imposition being the curtailment of his independence. The undeserving poor were defined as those that by their acceptance of entry into the workhouse presented evidence enough of “less eligibility”. The charge of cruelty can easily be levelled at this system as the only criteria for incarceration was poverty. Nevertheless, the workhouse combined some of the first instances of the institutions that replaced them over years of gradual reform. (Crowther, 1981. pp-2-53) In stark contrast to liberal ideology, the bases of socialist ideology are the principles of cooperation and collective endeavour. As wealth is produced by collective effort, socialism adhered to the principle of common ownership of productive wealth. It considered that competition promoted self-interest to the detriment of the common good. Whereby capitalism advocates individualism, socialists believed that the collective whole was greater than the sum of its parts. Questioning the liberal notion of the existence of innate equality, socialists reasoned that this disregards the innate inequality within the structure of capitalism. In Britain it took the form of Social Democracy advocating gradualism as a means for addressing capitalist exploitation of the working classes. By accepting the inevitability that the free market was the only viable method for wealth generation, it still attempted to maintain its ethical position on social justice. (Heywood, Chapter 4) Fully implemented by 1948 by Atlee’s Labour Government, the Social Insurance and Allied Services, commonly referred to as the Beveridge report was a significant blueprint for the welfare state designed to eradicate the five giant evils of disease, want, ignorance squalor and idleness. (Gov Archives) The success of the policy was dependant on full employment and underpinned by equal access to education and health care and state provision of housing, to be implemented by local authorities. A national minimum to protect the whole population from any form of loss of earnings was designed to consolidate...
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