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Fiona Williams, Professor of Social Policy, Director, ESRC Research Group for the Study of Care, Values and the Future of Welfare.Text of Inaugural Lecture given on 11 May 2000.

‘Travels with Nanny, Destination Good Enough. A Personal / Intellectual Journey through the Welfare State’

This lecture is dedicated to my daughter and son, Rowan and Joe Deacon, as an acknowledgement of their love and support for me in both my careers.

When people ask me what I do and I say "I teach and research social policy", they say, "What’s that?" At this point something always stops me from saying what I want to say and instead usually in an understated and slightly indifferent sort of manner, I say, "Well … it’s about health care and social security … and things like that". And they say in an equally indifferent manner, "Oh, that’s interesting" and we move on to gardening or children. I kick myself because what I really would like to communicate is the reason why the welfare state – for me the central subject in social policy – has held my attention and excitement for over 30 years, and this is partly because the subject holds the big questions and the small details of our lives together in one frame. How a society organises and manages the welfare of its citizens tells us about its social and economic priorities, its hierarchies, its inequalities, its cultural practices, and its response to change. Above all, it’s about the moral choices we face – it tells us the answer, as Zygmunt Bauman points out, to that central ethical question each society must answer: "Am I my brother’s – or my sister’s – keeper?" (Bauman, 2000), that is, what are our responsibilities one for another? Who represents the ‘our’ and who ‘the other’? At the same time, we find out about these questions not only in the statistics about the distribution of health and illness, work or income or changes in family life, but in the everyday activities and experiences of people’s lives: visits to the doctor, coping on income support, the experiences of being cared-for:

Let’s take this example of a small news item in the Hampstead and Highgate Gazette

‘A disabled patient who requires help with bathing is having to endure the indignity of having his top half washed by staff from Camden Council’s social services department and his lower half by district nurses’

Hampstead and Highgate Gazette

9 February 1996

(quoted in G.Hughes and G.Lewis, 1998)

This small caption taken from the excellent book by Gail Lewis and Gordon Hughes, Unsettling Welfare, raises many issues: not only about the administrative question if whether it’s a health services or social services responsibility to bathe someone in their own home who cannot bathe themselves, but about deeper issues of dignity, intimacy, privacy and the body; who may touch whom, who do we trust to do this in our own homes, why are the ‘touchers’ in our society often low paid? And wider issues - how far are disabled people rendered disabled not simply by their disabilities but by the society in which they live? What meanings do our bodies – abled or disabled – carry for us? How do these meanings matter to us, and matter in different ways to each of us? So, for me, it’s the fact that the seemingly mundane and everyday track their way to much bigger social, cultural and moral questions, that makes the study of the welfare state exciting.


But what has my title, Travels with Nanny: Destination Good Enough to do with any of this? My family has urged me to explain it early on. I will deal with ‘Nanny’ now, ‘Good Enough’ later.

Welfare states in most of the industrialised West are in transition. The conditions which sustained the post-war welfare state introduced by William Beveridge after 1942, have changed. And the most potent challenge to the old social democratic post-war welfare state came first from Margaret Thatcher’s government after her election in 1979 when she rewrought the entire image of the welfare state, from an institution which could protect us from social ills to one which was responsible for creating our social ills. So, for example, when Lloyd George introduced old age pensions and social insurance in the first decade if the century and when William Beveridge expanded of the welfare state after 1945 with a NHS, family allowances and free education to 15 and then 16, the image presented to the public of the welfare state was of benevolent protector. In the cartoon below (Fig 1) the image is embodied in Lloyd George – seen here as a kind paternalist offering and sharing a vision of hope and renewal; Or else in the 1948 Punch cartoon, (Fig 2) portraying the NHS as Father Christmas the Universal Provider, or again, in Low’s cartoon (Fig. 3) of the welfare state leading onward to progress and civilisation.

Fig 1  Fig 2  Fig 3
Figures 1, 2 and 3

By contrast, by the time Margaret Thatcher was in power, the image of the Welfare State was being redefined, as the following quote shows.

"Effort, initiative and work are penalised; passivity and lack of will are rewarded. Administration of many benefits is highly paternalistic … A ‘nanny’ syndrome is created in which individuals surrender their autonomy and become dependants on the state…"

(S. Davies, 1986, Beveridge Revisited: New Foundations for Tomorrow’s Welfare, London, Centre for Policy Studies)

No longer was the Welfare State a benevolent male protector but an interfering, authoritarian controlling and female nanny, stripping us of our autonomy.

What Margaret Thatcher also initiated was a major transformation in the organisation of the welfare state, which even the Daily Telegraph’s cartoonist, Nicholas Garland, portrayed as a feat of wizardry upon a consenting and guileless public (Fig. 4). As John Clarke and Janet Newman’s work (Clarke and Newman, 1997) has analysed, where once the welfare state had aimed at universal, mass provision, run by bureaucrats and delivered by professionals, this restructuring sought to target, residualise and regulate state welfare through the mantra of the 3 Ms – Markets, Mixed Economies and Managers. It combined the three Ms with the three Es: Economy, Effectiveness and Efficiency. With the 3 Ms and the 3 Es, not for nothing was this said to represent the new ME, ME, ME society.

Slide 4
Fig 4

In the end, the New Right's vision of transforming the Welfare state only partly succeeded; where they failed, they created opportunities for New Labour to develop a new Third Way for welfare still contoured by the 3 Ms but tempered at the same time by a concern with social exclusion, greater employment opportunities and responsibilities as well as rights.

Accounts of the changes in the welfare state since the war usually focus upon the ebbs and flows of the economy or the changing political ideologies of governments. However, my own account of the transformations in and challenges to the old, post-war welfare state is different: it is driven much more by the voices and experiences of the grass-roots, rather than the rhetoric and ideology of politicians; it presents a complex picture of people's changing and often contradictory experiences of welfare as both users of and workers within the welfare state; it looks at how these have been articulated by newer forms of political constituencies of welfare activists - not just by the 'new' social forces of the 60s and 70s organising around women, anti-racism, around disability and sexuality - but also by the many welfare campaigning and self-help organisations around, for example, health needs, care needs, or as claimants of benefits (carers, pensioners) or as users of particular services, for example, maternity services, psychiatric services, Black and Asian Mental Health Support Groups, or as groups living with particular conditions - HIV/AIDS, or breast cancer. I shall argue that these grass-roots self-help activities and movements have contributed as profound a political critique of the post-war welfare state as the New Right and New Labour; that they have put on the agenda needs to do with personhood and well-being which have expanded our moral vocabulary of welfare. They have, above all, provided us with some of the strategies to answer one of the central questions of the 21st century: how do we combine a commitment to universalism in policies whilst respecting a diversity of identities, practices, needs and beliefs. This account is one which interweaves with my own biography, and I begin this journey in 1968.


In May 1968, I was finishing my undergraduate degree in Sociology and Social Administration in London. Like many of that post-war generation and the first in our families to go to University, I was eager for new ideas. So I was quite disappointed with what I was presented. Social administration (as social policy was then called) was, quite literally, about the administration and implementation of social policies. It's not that it wasn't interesting, it's just that it seemed to have little personal or political reference to the world of '68 outside the lecture room doors - of student rebellion, anti-imperialism and even the faint stirrings of a women's movement. One week in May 1968, I listened to a lecture by David Donnison on council house allocation, the next week to a talk in the same lecture theatre by Daniel Cohn-Bendit, one of the student leaders from Paris (now a Green MEP). One was turning me into an administrator for the state, the other an activist in and against the state. The strategy the latter presented - of forming alliances with the working class in order to defeat a system where, as this poster from the French worker-student demonstrations of May 68 shows (Fig. 5): it conjugate the verb ‘to participate’: I, you, he, we participate, but they profited, sounded more exciting than the prospect of social work.

Fig 5
Fig 5

It was not a difficult choice to make. But I avoided it for a time by going to study in Nigeria. My proposed thesis was, rather typically, a BIG theme: the impact of colonialism on West African women's autonomy. Big theme, good theme, but wrong person, wrong place, wrong time. I returned to London in the early 70s, placed my thesis notes in two black and gold Biba’ bags, and went into teaching welfare professionals.

The politics of the time reflected back on to a new analysis of the welfare state: a small growing body of literature presented the welfare state not as the outcome of rational planning and humanitarian progress but as an uneasy truce between the interests of capitalism for a healthy, disciplined workforce and the interests of the working class, on the other, for protection from poverty, unemployment and ill health. This analysis (a later and more refined version became known as the political economy of welfare in Ian Gough's and Norman Ginsburg's work (Ginsburg, 1979; Gough, 1979) fed into a political strategy for us as the new public sector professionals which relieved the tension of being agents of the state and committed to defend working class interests. We became active public sector trade unionists, developing radical rank and file movements. Trade union identities allowed us to both critique and distance ourselves from the authority that professionalism represented and be part of a working-class movement as a sort of new white-collar proletariat.

By 1973, the impact of the oil crisis led to public expenditure cuts and this fuelled the militancy of blue collar ancillary workers, nurses, even doctors, and white collar unions. It also created opportunities for alliances to defend the welfare state.

The politics of '68 (see Fig.5 again) had thus conjugated itself into a new public sector politics as this poster advertising a meeting in Camden in 1973 shows (Fig. 6).

Fig 6
Fig 6

This strategy of alliances against the cuts, however, important as it was in defending the jobs and conditions, especially of the increasingly Black, Asian and female low paid ancillary workers, faced new tensions and contradictions which we were only beginning to appreciate. We were beginning to realise defending against cuts in the welfare state had to go beyond the defence for 'more of the same'.

In 1973, I was Secretary of the Camden and Islington Public Sector Alliance. (See Fig. 7, Islington High Street, March 1973; I am the sheepdog in the beret on the right).

Fig 7
Fig 7

Local Social Security Counter Staff, not noted for their radicalism, threatened strike action for the first time over pay. On the eve of the strike, the Alliance faced a deputation from the local Claimant's Union - also Alliance members - urging suspension of the strike because it would hit families on benefit who were due to draw it the next day. This had a knock-on effect for social workers who were supporting the strike but would be pressed to make Emergency Payments for the claimants. For the claimants, Social Security counter staff were Public Enemy No. 1. For the counter staff, the claimants union was undisciplined. The situation exposed deep fissures of distrust between users and providers of welfare which we had hardly begun to make sense of.

What exposed even more these tensions was the unlocking of women's experiences of welfare through the activities of the Women's Movement. More importantly, however, it was their practices and strategies which began to resolve such tensions. Feminist politics was practical: if the housing department refused to provide a refuge for women to escape domestic violence, then create one; if no-one in authority would listen to women who had been raped or abused, then set up a rape crisis line; if women felt that doctors didn't listen to them, then push the health authority to provide a well-women centre.

Fig 8
Fig 8

By the second half of the 1970s, I was living in Plymouth with 2 small children and our Plymouth Women's Group did all these things and more. Practically, personally and politically, feminism reached those parts that other theories and practices couldn't. The radical theories of the welfare state up until then talked of welfare as a truce between capital and labour, for which read: it was a man-thing. What we experienced was that welfare was very much a woman-thing. Women were as central to welfare as welfare was important to them. They are more likely to be users of welfare services, and they make up the majority of providers as nurses, cleaners, teachers etc, or in an unpaid capacity as carers in the home. The welfare state has been the focus of women's claims for greater autonomy. The original demands of the Women's Liberation Movement - some of them reproduced in the Working Women’s Charter poster (see Fig.9) nurseries, fair deal for part time staff; contraception and abortion; equality in pensions and social security - were mainly claims upon the welfare state. At the same time, many areas of the post-war welfare state treated women as second-class citizens with no access to benefits in their own right but only as dependants on their husbands.

Fig 9
Fig 9

These activities in all parts of the country had a major influence on the subsequent provision of services. In setting up voluntary or part-subsidised women's services we attempted to pre-figure a new kind of relationship between provider and user - one which was neither hierarchical nor bureaucratic, not sexist, not racist, but was more equal and respectful. At the same time, women working within the welfare services also began to formulate new ways of working with clients, patients, and tenants, as well as challenging the structures of public services which found women and minority ethnic groups on the lower rungs. Defending against cuts in the welfare state had begun to go beyond the defence for 'more of the same'. This was the remit of a new journal set up into 1981 - Critical Social Policy which I have been associated with for the last 17 years.

Fig 11
Fig 11

At the same time feminism too was being challenged from within. Women were not a homogenous, uniform group; there were differences between us and differences in the way we experienced welfare. Age, disability, class, sexuality and, of course, ‘race’, all raised this issue of differences between us. For example, Black and Asian women had different stories to tell and different battles to fight, as this quotation from a book about the campaigns of African-Caribbean women in Britain shows:

"As mothers and as workers, we came into daily contact with the institutions which compounded our experience of racism. We were the ones who rushed to the police stations when members of our families got arrested. We were the ones who had to take time off work to confront teachers and the education authorities about the mis-education of our children. [This referred to the high numbers of Black children who were inappropriately labelled as subnormal. It has also been policy in some areas to 'bus' Black children to schools to disperse their numbers.] We were the ones who cleared up the debris when police entered our homes uninvited to harass and intimidate us. We were the ones who battled in out with the housing authorities, the social services and the DHSS as we demanded the right to decent homes and an income above subsistence level."

Beverley Bryan, Stella Dadzie, Suzanne Scafe, The Heart of the Race: Black Women's Lives in Britain, 1985

These may have been - still are - specific experiences, but they also touched experiences which were more generalised: of welfare professionals and workers who could be caring and compassionate, could improve and save lives, but of institutions which were remote, inaccessible, bureaucratic, indifferent to distress and in, the worst cases, especially in children's homes and old people's homes, abusive or neglecting of vulnerability.

The book 'In and Against the State' summed up these contradictory experiences:

"We seem to need things from the state such as child care, houses, medical treatment. But what we are given is often shoddy or penny-pinching, and besides, it comes to us in a way that seems to limit our freedom, reduce the control we have in our lives."

London-Edinburgh Weekend Group, In and Against the State, 1979

Paradoxically, it was the very generalisability of these experiences which the New Right Conservative Government tapped when it came to power in 1979, as my earlier quotation about the nanny state showed. It harnessed these dissatisfactions with ever-present anxieties about 'scroungers' to promises of freedom of choice in a new market of health, welfare and education provision, and to tax cuts. No longer were we to be passive and grateful citizens accepting what experts and professionals gave us, but active and discerning consumers exercising autonomy and self-reliance.

Back in the discipline of social policy, these experiences, campaigns, and policies drove a search for deeper ways of understanding the welfare state. My concern was that existing accounts of the development of the welfare state did not and could not account for the specific experiences of different groups - women, minority ethnic groups, disabled people, for example. An exclusive emphasis upon capital and labour obscured these. By the 80s, this had been modified by feminist critiques of welfare which insisted that ‘the family’ and gender relations ought to be central to understanding the welfare state. But even this was still not sufficient to explain the experiences which had been thrown up both by the campaigns I have mentioned and also by my research. At the heart of the organisation and provision of welfare in the twentieth century, in this and other countries, were conceptions, not only of family and of work, but also, running through them, of nation, nationality and nationhood. Those conceptions were as excluding as they were bonding.

Let me give you two examples:

In many ways the welfare state became central to the reconstruction of post-war Britain; it was the civilising mission brought home. Beveridge was clear as to the role of women in this: ’housewives as wives and mothers have vital work to do in ensuring the adequate continuance of the British race and British ideals in the world’ (HMSO, 1942, para.117). The ideal of the male breadwinner family was not only central to welfare policies and practices; it was central to the concept of British nationhood. However, labour shortages existed after the war and it was the recruitment of black British citizens from the Commonwealth which made the expansion of the welfare services possible. Now, the universalist services such as the NHS, National Insurance and education services which were part of Beveridge’s plan, incorporated an apparently egalitarian philosophy of treating everyone the same regardless of origin or status. Not only was this presumed upon a particular view of family life, but it also assumed white, Christian Britishness as the norms governing people’s needs and aspirations. This often led to a failure to recognise specific needs - for translation services, for housing - or for acceptance of cultural differences. So whilst these black and Asian workers might have built council houses, they didn’t have the residency qualifications to live in them, whilst they may have tended the members of white families in hospitals and homes, their own family lives were regarded as deviant, and they may also have been asked to show their passports before they could use these services. Universalism in practice meant uniformity and for those who did not conform, their needs were seen as pathological rather than specific. It was an exclusive not inclusive citizenship.

My second example comes from research I did for the Open University in the early 90s when I filmed interviews with residents at Meanwood Park Hospital in Leeds just before it closed. Several residents had been there since the institution opened as a Mental Deficiency Colony in the 1920s, and some of them were young women, segregated for life for being pregnant, poor, unmarried and lacking education. The constructions of nation in the first half of this century were underpinned by a eugenic fear of racial decline. Marie Stopes, the feminist and birth control campaigner, was so appalled with her son’s racial treachery when he announced his marriage to a woman who was shortsighted that she boycotted the wedding. However, it was so-called feeble-minded women who were considered the greatest threat. They were, in effect, institutionalised so that they no part to play in Family, Nation or Work.

My work developed this idea of the dynamics of changing but interrelated notions of Family, Nation and Work as being central to the construction of the welfare state (Williams 1989, 1992a, 1992b, 1993, 1995). Furthermore, when we look at the key moments of welfare reform in this country - Lloyd George in 1906, Beveridge in the 1940s, and reforms of the New Right and New Labour- it’s possible to see these as, firstly, responses to the destabilizing of Family, Nation and Work, and, secondly, as new ways of defining and re-articulating the meanings and practices of work life, family life and nationhood. This brings me to the present day in my journey.


I can now begin to explain the remainder of my title: 'Destination Good Enough'. What I am arguing is that from the 1970s campaigns by welfare users exposed the limitations of an exclusive rather than inclusive citizenship in post war welfare state. In doing this they also highlighted new risks to well being - for example domestic violence, racial violence, forms of discrimination, child sexual abuse, and environmental risks. Even though many campaigns are about particular needs, their voices are marked by a generality which is about more than just the redistribution of goods. This centres upon claims for the realisation of personhood, for respect, autonomy and dignity to be at the heart of welfare. What I want to suggest is that together these claims present an important part of the moral and political case for a new welfare society. But by 'moral' I don't mean an abstracted set of principles, but principles grounded in the claims and everyday experiences of users of services.

In recent academic writing, these forms of politics for the realisation of personhood have been referred to as the politics of recognition (Honneth, 1996, Taylor, 1994). That is, those struggles to assert their equal moral worth by marginalised groups signify an attempt to reject the disrespecting of a group’s dignity and personhood. As Charles Taylor puts it, due recognition is not just a courtesy we owe people. It is a vital human need (1994, p26).

But if the politics of recognition characterise our times, what then has happened to the politics of redistribution – of inequalities in income and wealth? It has become a lot harder over the last twenty years to argue in any self-evident way about closing the growing gap between rich and poor. But that doesn’t mean to say we can’t and shouldn’t. An argument which links questions of dignity and well being to distributive justice has been made in Richard Wilkinson’s book Unhealthy Societies (Wilkinson, 1996). Through cross-national comparison, he demonstrates that in the developed world it is not the richest countries which have the best health but those which have the smallest differences between rich and poor. In particular, psychosocial stress strongly influences ill health and death rates. And it is this which is higher and more generalised in more unequal societies. In other words, distributive justice is not just good for poor people; it’s good for everyone.

The principles of recognition I outline, therefore, have to be seen as part of, not an alternative to, a commitment to meeting people’s needs for security, a basic income, employment, health care, housing and education. These principles I have elsewhere called 'Good Enough Principles' (Williams, 1999). The term 'Good Enough' comes from the writings of Donald Winnicott, the paediatrician and psychoanalyst. Winnicott’s work in more popular form signified the good enough mother and proposed that it was not possible to be a perfect mother (or parent), rather we should aim in the circumstances in which we found ourselves to create the conditions of love and support in which our children could flourish. So rather than the welfare state as benevolent paternalist or overbearing Nanny, my image is that of a good enough welfare society whose principles will be sufficient to create the conditions for the mutual recognition of equal moral worth. Winnicott’s concern with the way in which the accomplishment of our independence is always dependent upon, and embedded in, our relationships provides, I think, a useful starting point for a discussion of good-enough principles for welfare.

Now, what most clearly marks the break between the old post-war welfare state and the attempts to reform it by both the New Right and New Labour is a new concept of the active and independent welfare consumer-citizen. For New Labour this finds expression in its emphasis upon responsibilities before rights and the importance in this of paid work. Where the principle of the market was central to the New Right's agenda, the principle of paid work articulates New Labour's agenda. It is the first responsibility of citizenship, rather than one of its central rights. It is through paid work that both mothers and fathers are seen to provide a good role model for their children (HMSO, 1998, p.58). Paid work, then, according to New Labour, is what we owe our government, our country, our families, our communities and ourselves.

Whilst I welcome this emphasis on paid work as important strategy especially where it means genuine full employment and more training, I also think we should be wary of elevating paid work as an overarching principle, and so I want to broaden the meaning of active welfare citizenship into four principles of recognition. I would suggest that paid work is just one element of the first principle of recognition which is that of Autonomy The second is that of Mutualism, the third is Inclusive Diversity and the fourth is the principle of Voice. Within these 4 principles I shall discuss some of the issues these invoke, as shown below:

Principles Þ Issues
Autonomy   Financial autonomy for self /household
Bodily integrity
Mutualism   Interdependence
Inclusive Diversity   Identity
Transnational welfare
Voice   Accountability


I shall come back to Autonomy, but I want to take first the principle of Mutualism. This is about respecting our needs for others - emotionally, financially, across generations and different social groups, as well as about needing to respect others. The three issues here I want to look at are Interdependence, Care and Intimacy.


A problem with the emphasis on paid work as the vector of responsibility is that it constructs a false separation between, on the one side, the supposed independence of those in paid work and, on the other side, a so-called 'dependency culture', some kind of separate underclass dependent on benefits. In practice, groups have campaigned for benefits and services as the means to help them get out of unwanted dependency. The Campaign in the 1970s for the Legal and Financial Independence for Women was established to challenge women's dependent status in relation to social security rights, taxation, tenancies, mortgages, bank accounts and so on. The Independent Living Movement was developed from local campaigns by disabled people in the 1980s to challenge - as this quote shows

Independent living is a freedom of choice to live where and how one chooses and can afford. It is living in the community, in the neighbourhood one chooses....It is freedom to take risks and freedom to make mistakes. It is the freedom to learn to live independently by living independently.

(Derbyshire Coalition of Disabled People, 1985)

- the way welfare institutions, policies and professionals construct disabled people as dependent. Secondly, by seeing those in paid work as independent we may fail to recognise that a paid worker’s independence is actually achieved through hidden systems of support upon those who care for that worker's children, clean his/her house, buy and cook his/her food, and so on. Personal autonomy is born out of our relationships of interdependence.

Mutualism and interdependence have to be at the heart of welfare: they also provide the rationale for a collective tax-based / contributory system. It is through interdependence that we can redefine the balance between rights and responsibilities, for there is a profound problem with a concept of citizenship which puts responsibilities before rights. First, people need security of basic rights before they can enact their responsibilities: at simple level - research shows that people on low benefits are less likely to take the risk of even a temporary job than someone better protected. Second, emphasising responsibility obscures the needs of those who have already paid their dues, such as pensioners. Third, there is a danger of double standards: rights for some (the comfortable of middle England?), responsibilities for others (carers, poor people). This leads to a situation where taxation of the higher earners becomes a sensitive issue rather than the quid pro quo for middle class privileges (of greater social capital, for example). Rights are the basis for the pursuit of autonomy; responsibilities, on the other hand, are the enactments of our interdependence


We have to acknowledge that we are all necessarily dependent on others, but at the same time challenge the institutions, structures and social relations which render some groups unnecessarily dependent. This touches the second issue: care.




On the whole we work to live, we don't live to work. And in that living we enact other responsibilities of citizenship - of caring, of loving and supporting each other: we learn, as Selma Sevenhuisjen has argued (Sevenhuisjen, 1998), the civic virtues of responsibilities, of tolerance of others, of recognising diversity - as much through care (if not more) than through paid work.

Some of the most important welfare campaigns over the last thirty years have been over the recognition of care and support. Women's demands have focused upon their needs as carers of children and of disabled and frail older family members. (Nurseries, subsidised support services, payments for carers, flexible work arrangements, inducements to encourage male partners to share caring responsibilities, have been amongst the demands placed before governments). At the same time, the disability movement has revealed ‘care’ to be difficult terrain. By talking about carers and cared-for we run the danger of suggesting that those who are cared-for are not themselves loving, caring agents in their own right. One of the strategies from the disability movement to empower disabled people to pursue independent lives has been the demand for so-called direct payments - that is, for disabled people to receive cash payments in order to employ carers of their own choice and to determine the type of support and assistance they require.

'Care', then, requires recognition but also careful negotiation of the different interests caught up in its discourse and practice, as this cartoon about community care suggests.

Fig 11
Fig 11

We all at some time care and are cared-for. And it is care as much as paid work which are the activities which bind us to one another. It is to the boundaries of care that I turn to next and that is intimacy.


The care relationship is often but not always an intimate one; the intimate relationship is usually, but not always, a relationship of care. The intimate sphere covers relationships based upon family ties, friendship, sexual relationships, as well as paid care relationships, and is undergoing significant change. A number of key shifts seemed to have been happening in intimate relationships: they are less about duty and more about mutually agreed commitment; they are less about achieving status and more about negotiating an identity; less about authority and more about consent; less about tradition and more about trust; they are less about honour and more about respect (Giddens, 1992; Beck and Beck-Gernsheim, 1995). However, to identify these shifts in emphasis is not the same as saying that this is what characterises intimate relationships, (Jamieson, 1998; Smart and Neale, 1999), for like the changes in autonomy and care, they have been uneven. Nevertheless, the aspiration that relationships can and should be more democratic reflects the questioning of unequal gender relations which emerged from the women's movement.

The greater concern for the quality of relationships rather than their conventionality also reflects the campaigns by gay and lesbian movements to gain recognition, rights and respect. The freedom to choose one's sexual partner, to have that relationship respected and to have access to the rights of heterosexual couples (joint tenancies, pensions, custody, parenting and so on) have been part of these movements' claims (Carabine, 1996).

If there has been pressure on welfare practice to recognise diversity in intimate relationships, there has also been pressure on the state to intervene to protect the vulnerable who are victims of violence and abuse in intimate relationships. Campaigns against child sexual abuse, domestic violence and abuse of people in institutional and residential care have characterised an approach to intimacy which places much higher value upon the quality of personal relationships. These campaigns point to another issue: that of bodily integrity which is an important aspect of the first principle of recognition I mentioned above – autonomy.

Autonomy      Financial autonomy for self /household
Bodily integrity


Bodily Integrity


The history of welfare interventions is, in part, the history of the identification and classification of fit and unfit minds and bodies (Foucault, 1965, 1973). The power of the professions of medicine, social work and education to observe and assess the body and the mind required the physical surrendering by patients of their bodies as well as the surrendering of their own knowledge about their bodies. However, from the 1960s a wide range of campaigns began to resist this.

Campaigns for Bodily Integrity


All of these campaigns centre upon the right of the individual to protect their body against external or internal risk. The body is a site of control, resistance and pleasure. It marks the physical boundaries of our sense of self, our own dignity and self-respect. In these terms, respect for the integrity of the body is fundamental to the maintenance of the autonomy of the welfare citizen.

So far I have looked at some of the issues associated with the principles of autonomy and mutualism. The third recognition principle I propose is that of Inclusive Diversity, and the issues I look at are Identity and transnational welfare.

Principles Þ Issues
Autonomy   Financial autonomy for self /household
Bodily integrity
Mutualism   Interdependence
Inclusive Diversity   Identity
Transnational welfare
Voice   Accountability



The idea that welfare policies might take account of different cultural, ethnic, national and sexual identities would have been quite 'foreign' to the architects of the post war welfare state, even though Britain had always been a multi-cultural society. I have called this principle ‘inclusive diversity’ because there are several ways in which it’s possible to acknowledge diverse identities yet still exclude or discriminate against them. First, a notion of diversity can suggest harmony and obscure inequalities in power. The campaign by black mental health groups to challenge the incarceration of young black men in prisons and mental hospitals was a challenge for racial justice against the stereotyping of African-Caribbean cultures rather than simply a demand for cultural diversity. Second, cultural stereotyping often assumes often that minority cultures are uniform, ignoring the fact that differences exist within groups. The organisation of Asian women in Southall, Southall Black Sisters, has vociferously campaigned for services for Asian women experiencing domestic violence often in the face of opposition from male community leaders. Third, cultural / ethnic / sexual identities may be imposed upon groups in static or essentialist ways that ignore the fact that time and place reconfigure cultural and ethnic identities, for example Caribbean and different Asian cultures in Britain are precisely that - cultures forged in the context of Britain. The hybridity of cultures hangs on the hyphens which join Black to British, Scottish to Asian or African to Caribbean, or hip to hop. Fixing identities in static ways can give rise to a justification for separatism - they have their schools, we have ours - but without shifting the relations of domination and subordination between different groups. The very fact that the word ‘ethnic’ commonly refers to minoritised ethnic groups suggests that those of white English ethnicity can take their ethnicity so much for granted that they do not have to reflect upon it. Yet we all of us speak from ethnic locations, even as we live and love across their boundaries. Given these complexities, New Labour's appeal to family, community and nation as the bases of solidarity and support may be insufficient. Those multiple identities which create forms of belonging, solidarity, resistance and support for groups, may be multiple, may cut across, indeed, may reconstitute the very meanings of family, community and nation.

Transnational Welfare


If multiculturalism disrupts the homogeneity of national identity, then the redrawing of nation state boundaries disrupts nationality - the principle at the very heart of eligibility to welfare - and creates one of the biggest challenges to twenty-first century welfare societies. The assumption of the twentieth century was that our access to civil and social rights is bounded by national/territorial/geographical boundaries. What we have seen over the last ten years is the redrawing of national and administrative boundaries, processes of devolution, the creation of supranational boundaries such as the EU, and the increase in people, especially women, crossing those boundaries as migrants, refugees and asylum seekers. In many European countries, migrants have limited access to social, civil and political rights yet they are part of a political economy which depends upon their labour. Globalisation without global order and the ready resort of weakened regimes to oppression and torture has increased the movement of asylum seekers.. The racialisation of welfare politics has become more pronounced in many European countries, as has the scape-goating of asylum seekers as 'scroungers': processes which feed each other. One of the areas this has manifest itself in Britain, a country with one of the lowest rates of asylum seekers in the West, is in the withdrawal of rights to cash benefits and social housing to asylum seekers. And it is migrant workers who provide precisely what our social insurance system most needs - the contributions of younger workers.

These forms of transnationalism have been matched by transnationalism in social movements, forging international links at grass-roots levels, in the growing significance of NGOs as political actors and mediators, and in the internationalisation of anti-poverty strategies. In the Diaspora space (as Avtar Brah calls it - Brah, 1996) that we all inhabit, 'Am I my brother's or my sister's keeper?' is a question now that has to be addressed as a human rights issue at national, European and global levels.


Fig 12
Fig 12

My last principle is voice where the issues are accountability, democracy and participation.

Voice      Accountability

Welfare is not just about budget deficits; it's about a trust deficit. People need services which respect them and provide them with autonomy and dignity. The more accountable, the more democratic, the more accessible the health, education and welfare services, the greater their legitimacy, the greater the sense of shared and consensual ownership.

In some areas accountability is urgent. The recent (1999) Interim Report from the Association of Community Health Council's Commission into the NHS said: ‘the system of accountability is the weakest since the NHS's launch in 1948.’

Democracy demands that the experience of the users of health and welfare services and their own definition of their needs is central to their organisation. What this challenges is the power of expert knowledge to monopolise the definition of what is wrong with us and what we need to right it. It demands a democratising of the relationship between users and providers both collectively and individually, and a sharing of expert and lay knowledges. Quality services require users and providers articulating together the way benefits and services should be prioritised and delivered. This depends upon both decent working conditions for workers as well as the restructuring of public sector careers and professions to reward joint working and training with communities and other agencies (Taylor, 2000). This is not just about joined up government but joined up communities whether based upon politics of identity / place. It requires long term investment to rebuild fragmented local networks.

We are caught up in major social, economic and political transformations in which a new welfare order is emerging. But what values will inform this new order? The answer I have given is a provisional one, for this question is the basis of the research programme on Care, Values and the Future of Welfare, funded by the ESRC, which I and my colleagues will be working on over the next five years, but I have argued, provisionally, that the principle of autonomy needs to be understood as part and parcel of the principle of mututalism, where interdependence and care underpin a collective basis to risk-sharing. In addition, the principle of inclusive diversity goes beyond tolerance of diversity and demands a reaccommodation to new forms of Family and Nation. The principle of voice underpins autonomy, mutualism and diversity and proposes a new democratic ideal which can forge unity through dialogues of difference. This last principle provides the means to translate what matters to people into what works for them - the ultimate test of whether these principles are, indeed, good-enough. I am talking about welfare not only as the means to active citizenship but as the very embodiment of an active and participatory citizenship. There are small signs, I believe, that this may be possible.





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