This essay will first explore definitions of the Welfare State as well as the New Right, the essay will look at background of how the New Right developed and what the New Right meant in relation to the Welfare State. The essay will explore arguments that the New Right had against the Welfare State, using examples of social policies and analysing how these arguments were reflected in these social policies between 1979 and 1997.
Firstly, it is important to look at what is meant by the term welfare in order to understand the welfare state, as although there is an association, there is also a difference. “Welfare refers to the well-being of individuals or groups and, by implication, those measures which can help to ensure levels of well-being through provision of education, health services, managed housing, and social security benefits.” Scott, J. and G. Marshall, (2005:698). Here, ‘welfare’ applies to all and requires responsibility of individuals to ensure the whole of society is benefited, while ‘Welfare state’ is: “A term referring to a form of capitalist society in which the state takes responsibility for a range of measures intended to ensure the well-being of it’s members, through providing education for children, access to healthcare, financial support for periods out of the labour market, and so on.” Scott, J. and G. Marshall, (2005:699).
Here, the ‘Welfare State’ allows the state or government to take responsibility of individuals’ well-being, ensuring the consequences of individuals’ actions within society comes to a benefit. The welfare state was first developed in the 1940’s within Britain after the post-war establishment, it was considered to be “an organ of the community whose role was to serve the welfare of its citizens and respect international law, as opposed to the tyrannical ‘warfare’ state” Lowe, R. (2005:13). Society at the time accepted the term and its meaning, looking to a way forward of having security, or ‘social security’ reducing fear of poverty.
“Welfare states differ widely, however, in the ways in which they make such provision: for example, whether there is an emphasis on insurance contributions of paid workers and building up entitlement, whether provision is targeted at the less well-off and means-tested, or whether provision is conditional primarily on citizenship.” Scott, J. and G. Marshall, (2005:699). There are different views of how far the ‘welfare state’ should be involved with individuals and their actions within society, this allowing for different social policies to be implemented according to different social factors.
The welfare state, post-war, used a Keynesian outlook and system, where policies: “were consistent with, the intervention of government through fiscal and monetary techniques to regulate demand and encourage full employment.” while “Beveridgian social policies were intended to contribute to the development of comprehensive welfare services, access to which would confer a sort of social citizenship.” Alcock, C. Payne, S. and M. Sullivan, (2004:32). This shows how important development of capitalism was to the Keynesian welfare state at the time.
The different theories of the role of the state also varied; including traditional views on the role of the state include those from Classical liberals, which portrayed two contrasting views. The first including the view form the ‘negative liberal’ who argued that the role of the state should be kept to a minimum as individuals should be free in their actions rather than being influenced by those in power, while the second, views from ‘positive liberals’ who argue that the state should look for alternative means of dealing with social problems, still taking on the role of ensuring the well-being of it’s citizens.
A more contemporary view of the role of the state in Britain includes that of the New Right and the Thatcher administration, this introduced a new way (or reintroduced an old way) of thinking toward the welfare state in 1979, with a major influence from classical liberal views. The New Right “represented a radical break with social democratic values – most visibly in rhetoric but also in practice…Frequently listed beliefs include commitment to the free-market, to individual freedom, and to the reduction of state intervention and welfare; a populist morality and authoritarianism.” Scott, J. and G. Marshall, (2005:447).
The final point made here being the most important as the New Right were very much against the welfare state wanting to ‘roll back’: “much of the new right critique of the welfare state emphasised the values of monetarism over keynesianism.” Alcock, C. Payne, S. and M. Sullivan, (2004:124), the development of capitalism being an important factor to the New Right way of thinking therefore being against the welfare state as it could cause economic problems as individuals become more dependent of the state rather than being independent and being part of the economy and labour force:
“the emphasis is on an analysis of the damage which it is claimed welfare state do to the individual and to the economy and on providing a vision of an alternative utopia.” Alcock, C. Payne, S. and M. Sullivan, (2004:125). The New Right, as well as the Classical Liberal, has two different views of the role of the welfare state, including Neo-liberalism and Neo-conservatism. Neo-Liberals try to find alternatives to the welfare state, emphasising the economic problems surrounding the idea of relying upon the welfare state.