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Principles of social welfare: an introduction to thinking about the welfare state.

Spicker, Paul


Paul Spicker


Author's note, 2013 Principles of social welfare was my second book. First published 1988 by Routledge, ISBN 0-415-00630-9 and 0-415-00631-7. The rights to publish have reverted to me,and I am making it freely available on the internet. The book was submitted for publication in 1986, and published in 1988. I think it reads well for its age. Theory does not date rapidly; most of the arguments are still worth considering. (I still sometimes refer students to Benn and Peters, Social principles and the democratic state, published in 1959.) While there is much else to be said on the subjects covered, I think they can still be useful as an introduction to normative theory in social policy. However, there are references here that will seem dated. When it was published, Russia was still the Soviet Union, Germany was divided, and in Britain the Thatcher government was in power. The agenda of social policy has changed, too. I have not attempted to update the argument or the material. In my later work, I have returned to several of the themes examined here, and in almost every case I have come to think about the issues differently. Freedom, equality and altruism are discussed in different terms in Liberty, Equality, Fraternity (Policy Press, 2006). (The differences are considerable: for example, there are 5000 words on freedom here, and 25,000 in the later book.) I reviewed welfare, individualism and collectivism and the role of the state in Reclaming individualism (Policy Press, 2013). I offered a different view of social norms and the state in The welfare state: a general theory (Sage, 2000). Ideologies and power are discussed in M Mullard, P Spicker, Social Policy in a changing society, Routledge 1998. Rights and democracy have been discussed in different articles. Possibly more important, I came through my contact with European ideas to appreciate a range of arguments for solidarity, diversity and difference. It should be clear, then, that there is very little left in this book that I would still argue in the same way. The book presented here is much the same as the 1988 edition, with two main differences. The first is that this version is somewhat closer to the manuscript that I originally submitted. The second change is that one of the chapters seemed to me to be too dated to be useful. In the discussion of inequality, I made the mistake of focusing too strongly on contemporary information on Britain, which is no longer appropriate. I have left it out, and altered the later chapter numbers. Bearing in mind the nature of Internet circulation, I also made some other small alterations in cases where the terminology used in the 1980s is not now considered appropriate. Foreword (from the 1988 edition) This book is about social policy and administration, which is a field of study mainly concerned with 'social welfare' and the 'social services'. Social policy is not a self-contained academic discipline. The book attempts to draw material together and to offer insights into a set of problems from a variety of perspectives. The source material has been taken from politics, sociology, philosophy and economics, as well as from the literature on social policy in its own right; there are occasional references to work from history, psychology, anthropology or law. But it is not possible to deal with each topic in depth in a way that would satisfy the demands of each discipline, and usually it is not even desirable. In its original form, the material may have been only obliquely relevant to social policy; the point that is of interest is how it reflects on the issues in the study of social welfare. For that very reason, the book should be of some value to people who approach it from various disciplines. It will not give them a comprehensive statement of the debate in their own subject, but it should offer an insight into other areas of study which can be applied to their own particular interests, and a range of illustrations from the field of social welfare. The book discusses social policy in conceptual terms; it is analytical rather than prescriptive. Many of the books which have been written on social policy from a theoretical perspective concentrate on issues of political ideology, packaging the ideas together in terms of 'left' and 'right', or recognisable 'isms'. (Examples of this approach can be found in George and Wilding, 1977; Room, 1979; Taylor-Gooby and Dale, 1981; Mishra, 1981; Forder et al., 1984; or Open University, 1985). There is a great deal in this approach which is worthwhile, but for reasons which I explain in the final chapter, the basic method is not adequate to understand the concepts and values applied to welfare. This book is different. It focuses on principles as discrete elements in the formation of social policy. The concepts it deals with are interrelated in fact, both because ideas like norms and altruism, rights and freedom, or democracy and the state inform and reinforce each other, and because the practical examples often raise many issues besides the ones immediately under discussion. However, to make things clearer, the ideas are presented as if they were fairly distinct from each other. At each stage, examples are given which are intended to demonstrate the application of the arguments to problems in social policy. I hope the result will be an essential complement to the standard texts on the subject.


SPICKER, P. 2013. Principles of social welfare: an introduction to thinking about the welfare state. [Self-published]

Book Type Monograph
Publication Date Dec 31, 2013
Deposit Date Oct 30, 2013
Publicly Available Date Oct 30, 2013
Publisher Self-Published
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