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Two Conceptions of Welfare: Voluntarism and Incorporationism

  • Stephen Davies (a1)

The history of the welfare state is not only or even primarily a story of men and measures but also one of concepts and social ideals. Over the last hundred and twenty years or so, the body of policies, rules, and practices which we collectively term the welfare state has become the most prominent feature of politics and state activity in every developed country. This reflects not only institutional and procedural pressures on the political process during this period, but also the gradual permeation (to use a term employed by one prominent advocate of the welfare state) of all parties and arguments by a particular conception of welfare which has determined and limited the range and terms of debate. Both theoretical debate and concrete measures reflect pervasive assumptions and generalized arguments about the nature and content of collective and individual welfare, their preconditions, and their consequences.

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1 The advocate in question was, of course, Sidney Webb. For the strategy of “permeation,” see Shaw, George Bernard, ed., Fabian Essays (London, 1889).

2 Among British historians, “whiggish” or “whig history” means a historiography in which the present state of affairs, seen as both desirable and the end or goal of history, is taken as the starting point and the past is seen as an inevitable process by which the present came to be. The study of history then becomes the study of the past in order to justify either the present or a particular hoped-for and expected future, rather than looking at the past in its own terms. Among the alleged features of whig history are a tendency to anachronistic moral judgement and the evaluation of past persons and events as progressive or reactionary according to their perceived part in bringing about the ideal present. The classic original of this was the history of the British constitution as recounted by Thomas Macaulay and Henry Hallam; see Macauley, , History of England from the Accession of James II, 4 vols. (London: Longmans, 18551861), and Hallam, , The Constitutional History of England (1827; reprint, London: Garland, 1978). For the most famous critical account, see Butterfield, Herbert, The Whig Interpretation of History (London: Bell, 1931). Some of the many works which show a whiggish approach to the history of the welfare state are Roberts, David, Victorian Origins of the British Welfare State (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1960); Fraser, Derek, The Evolution of the British Welfare State: A History of Social Policy since the Industrial Revolution (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1984); and Gregg, Pauline, The Welfare State: An Economic and Social History of Britain from 1945 to the Present Day (London: Harrap, 1967).

3 The outstanding example of this is the work of the late Finlayson, Geoffrey, Citizen, State, and Social Welfare in Britain, 1830–1990 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994). See also, for example, Digby, Anne, The Poor Law in Nineteenth Century England and Wales (London: Historical Association, 1982); Rose, Michael, The Relief of Poverty, 1834–1914 (London: Macmillan, 1972); Williams, Karel, From Pauperism to Poverty (London: Routledge, 1981); and Jones, Gareth Stedman, Outcast London: A Study in the Relationship between Classes in Victorian Society (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1976).

4 Smiles, Samuel, Thrift (London: John Murray, 1897); Smiles, , Character (London: John Murray, 1872); Smiles, , Duty (London: John Murray, 1887); Smiles, , Self-Help, 2d ed. (London: John Murray, 1910); Emerson, Ralph Waldo, Complete Works (Edinburgh: Nimmo, Hay and Mitchell, 1897); Farrand, Max, ed., Benjamin Franklin's Memoirs (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1949); Charming, William Ellery, Self Culture (Boston, MA: Dutton and Wentworth, 1838); Hubbard, Elbert, The Philosophy of Elbert Hubbard (Boston, 1898); Barker, Joseph, Teachings of Experience: Or Lessons I Have Learned on My Way through Life (Leeds, 1869); Holyoake, George Jacob, Self-Help a Hundred Years Ago, 2d ed. (London, 1890); Mackay, Thomas, Methods of Social Reform (London: Sonnenschein, 1892); Craik, Dinah, John Halifax, Gentleman (London: Collins, 1856); Banks, Isabella, The Manchester Man (Manchester: Heywood, 1896).

5 For a short but instructive account of Dissenting voluntarism, see Bradley, Ian, The Optimists: Themes and Personalities in Victorian Liberalism (London: Faber, 1980). For a typical example of its arguments, see Briggs, John and Sellars, Ian, eds., Victorian Nonconformity (London: Edward Arnold, 1973), pp. 6263.

6 For just one very clear statement of this, see Charming, William Ellery, Thoughts on Power and Greatness Political, Intellectual, and Moral (Boston, 1828).

7 See, for example, Smiles, , Character, ch. 8, “Temper,” pp. 216–34. Another classic statement is Clarke, James Freeman, Self-Culture: Physical, Intellectual, Moral, and Spiritual (Boston: J. R. Osgood, 1880), pp. 399411.

8 For a recent discussion of the importance of continence to Victorians and its relation to other ideas, see Mason, Michael, The Making of Victorian Sexuality (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994); and Mason, , The Making of Victorian Sexual Attitudess (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994). The definitive work on the temperance movement in Britain is Harrison, Brian, Drink and the Victorians: The Temperance Question in England, 1815–1872 (London: Faber and Faber, 1972).

9 For an extended treatment of this, see Travers, Timothy, Samuel Smiles and the Victorian Work Ethic (New York: Garland, 1987). See also Briggs, Asa, “Samuel Smiles and the Gospel of Work,” in Briggs, Victorian People (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1990), pp. 116–39. For a more recent discussion of the historical development of the whole concept of work, see Joyce, Patrick, ed., The Historical Meanings of Work (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987). For a clear and typical statement of the principle of the moral value of work, see Clarke, , Self-Culture, p. 31.

10 See, for example, Channing, William Ellery, Lectures on the Elevation of the Labouring Portion of the Community (Manchester, 1840).

11 The idea of equal moral standing could be seen as implying, and often did mean, a rejection of the Calvinist notion of an “elect.” In this connection, it is worth pointing out the strong influence on voluntarist ideas of the part of Dissent Protestantism which rejected predestination or which espoused some form of Arminianism. Even those who continued to hold to predestinarian ideas of salvation rejected the idea that there was a visible body of the elect, and therefore held that all had to be treated on a presumption of equal moral worth.

12 See Smiles, , Character, pp. 3135, 299342.

13 Travers, , Samuel Smiles, pp. 360–63. For the interesting case of Japan, see Kinmouth, Earl, “Nakamura Keiu and Samuel Smiles: A Victorian Confucian and a Confucian Victorian,” American Historical Review, vol. 85 (1980), pp. 535–56.

14 Harrison, J. F. C., Learning and Living, 1790–1960: A Study in the History of the English Adult Education Movement (London: Routledge, 1961); Briggs, , “Samuel Smiles and the Gospel of Work.”

15 The quoted passage is from Smiles, , Self-Help, pp. 364–65. For the general point, see Harrison, , Learning and Living. For the distinction between the two literatures (self help and success), see Travers, , Samuel Smiles, passim, and esp. pp. 330–48. For Goodrich, see Goodrich, Samuel Griswold, Recollections of a Lifetime (New York: Miller, Orton, and Mulligan, 1856). The McGuffey readers were a series of popular works widely used in nineteenth-century America for both education and moral instruction. Most contained accounts of exemplary lives, fictional and nonfictional.

16 Smiles, , Self-Help, p. 450; Smiles, , Character, p. 11.

17 Smiles, , Thrift, pp. 288–89.

18 See Charming, , Lectures on the Elevation of the Labouring Portion of the Community, for a forceful statement of this. For another typical statement of this view, see Smith, Goldwin, “What Is Culpable Luxury?” in Lectures and Essays (New York: Macmillan, 1881). For one of many statements by Smiles, see his Character, p. 7.

19 See Smiles, , The Education of the Working Classes (Leeds, 1845), quoted in Briggs, , “Samuel Smiles and the Gospel of Work,” and in Harrison, , Learning and Living, p. 56. See also Channing, , Lectures on the Elevation of the Labouring Portion of the Community. For a historical survey and a powerful restatement of this, see Lasch, Christopher, The Revolt of the Elites and the Betrayal of Democracy (New York: Norton, 1995), ch. 3.

20 Smiles, , Thrift, pp. 286–87.

21 Harrison, , Learning and Living, passim, but esp. pp. 4356.

22 Channing and Webster are discussed in Lasch, , Revolt of the Elites, pp. 5658. For an example of a British work based on this analysis, see Wade, John, The Extraordinary Black Book; or, Corruption Unmasked (London: Effingham Wilson, 1831). For an account of the French origins of this analysis, see Halévy, Élie, The Era of Tyrannies: Essays on Socialism and War, ed. and trans. Webb, R. K. (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1965), pp. 21104.

23 Very little has been written about either the critique of wage labor by nineteenthcentury radicals or the idea of “free labor.” For the most extensive recent discussion, see Lasch, Christopher, The True and Only Heaven: Progress and Its Critics (New York: Norton, 1991), esp. pp. 203–16. For a discussion of Fitzhugh's argument, see Genovese, Eugene, The World the Slaveholders Made: Two Essays in Interpretation (London: Allen Lane, 1970).

24 Travers, , Samuel Smiles, passim. On the general issue, see Biagini, E. F. and Reid, A. J., eds., Currents of Radicalism: Popular Radicalism, Organised Labour, and Party Politics in Britain, 1850–1914 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991); for the contrary view, see Morris, Robert J., “Samuel Smiles and the Genesis of Self-Help: The Retreat to a Petit-Bourgeois Utopia,” Historical Journal, vol. 24 (1981), pp. 89109; and Kirk, Neville, The Growth of Working Class Reformism in Mid-Victorian England (London: Croom Helm, 1985).

25 Briggs, , “Samuel Smiles and the Gospel of Work,” p. 124. Harrison, , Learning and Living, p. 51, describes the distinction made by nineteenth-century observers between three routes to social improvement: by the state; by help from the upper and upper middle classes (e.g., via mechanics institutes and the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge); and by self-improvement on the part of the working classes. The 1869 quote is from Hardwick, Charles, The History, Present Position, and Social Importance of Friendly Societies (Manchester, 1869), p. 18.

26 Smiles, , Thrift, pp. 302–6; the quote is from p. 303.

27 The Poor Law was the minimal system of state relief of poverty in Britain, originally set up on a parish-based system in 1601 and funded out of a local property tax (the poor rates). In the early nineteenth century, concern grew over the rising cost of poor relief and the perception that the operation of the system was encouraging pauperism, i.e., welfare dependency. This led to the establishment of a commission of enquiry and, following its report, to the passage in 1834 of the Poor Law Amendment Act, which provided (1) that the condition of a person in receipt of relief should aways be worse than that of the lowest paid laborer (the principle of “less eligibility”); (2) that the administration of relief should be handled by large unions of parishes; and (3) that in order to get relief a person would have to enter an institution—the workhouse—with relief outside the workhouse (outdoor relief) being abolished. In practice, this third provision was not applied. The National Insurance Act of 1911 introduced a system of state insurance against sickness and unemployment, paid for by deductions from wages and compulsory contributions from employers. For a selection of extracts from original sources relating to this and the related question of state old-age pensions, see Evans, Eric J., ed., Social Policy 1830–1914: Individualism, Collectivism, and the Origins of the Welfare State (London: Routledge, 1978), esp. pp. 161–73, 272–82.

28 See Smiles, , Thrift, ch. 16, “The Art of Living,” pp. 358–78; and Smiles, , Character, pp. 3162. For Emerson's views, see, e.g., his Complete Works, pp. 2930.

29 Benson, John, The Penny Capitalists: A Study of Nineteenth-Century Working-Class Entrepreneurs (Dublin: Gill and Macmillan, 1983); Roberts, Elizabeth, “Working Class Standards of Living in Barrow and Lancaster, 1890–1914,” Economic History Review, vol. 30 (1977); Crossick, Geoffrey, An Artisan Elite in Victorian Society: Kentish London, 1840–1880 (London: Croom Helm, 1978); Crossick, Geoffrey and Haupt, Heinz-Gerhard, The Petite Bourgeoisie in Europe, 1780–1914 (London: Routledge, 1995).

30 Raines, Edward Jr., Education Best Promoted by Perfect Freedom (Leeds, 1834), quoted in Briggs, and Sellars, , Victorian Nonconformity (supra note 5), pp. 131–34.

31 Harrison, , Learning and Living, pp. 5057. See also Gardner, Phil, The Lost Elementary Schools of Victorian England (London: Croom Helm, 1984). An affiliated order, such as the Odd Fellows or Foresters, was a national friendly society made up of local branches (lodges), all affiliated to a national governing body.

32 See Mason, J. W., “Thomas Mackay: The Anti-Socialist Philosophy of the Charity Organisation Society,” in Essays in Anti-Labour History: Responses to the Rise of Labour in Britain, ed. Brown, Kenneth D. (London: Macmillan, 1974), pp. 290316.

33 Green, David, Reinventing Civil Society: The Rediscovery of Welfare without Politics (London: Institute of Economic Affairs, 1993), p. 30.

34 Ibid. See also Baernreither, J. M., English Associations of Working Men (London: Sonnenschein, 1889); Gosden, P. H. J. H., The Friendly Societies in England, 1815–1875 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1961); Gosden, , Self-Help: Voluntary Associations in Nineteenth Century Britain (London: Batsford, 1973); and David Beito's essay in this volume.

35 See Baernreither, , English Associations of Working Men, pp. 59, 142–51. See also Charming, William Ellery, Remarks on the Disposition which Now Prevails to Form Associations to Accomplish All Objects by Organized Masses (London, 1830).

36 See Mackay, , Methods of Social Reform (supra note 4), passim; Charming, , Remarks, passim; and Baernreither, , English Associations of Working Men, pp. 228–96.

37 There is a large and extensive literature on Dissent and its historical impact. The best survey by far is the monumental work of Watts, Michael R., The Dissenters, vol. 2, The Expansion of Evangelical Nonconformity, 1791–1859 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995). See also Bradley, , The Optimists (supra note 5). For one of Miall's many works, see Miall, Edward, The Bearing of Religious Equality on the Right of Individuals and Spiritual Communities (Manchester, 1873). One typical work from Dale is Dale, R. W., The Politics of Nonconformity (Manchester, 1871).

38 On Hole, see Harrison, , Learning and Living, pp. 119–37. For voluntary socialism, see Greenleaf, W. H., The British Political Tradition, vol. 2, The Ideological Heritage (London: Methuen, 1983), pp. 412–63.

39 For the views of James Fenimore Cooper and Francis Parkman, see Cawelti, John G., Apostles of the Self-Made Man: Changing Concepts of Success in America (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1965), pp. 7580. For the role of conservatives in creating and sustaining the British welfare state, see Greenleaf, , The Ideological Heritage, pp. 196262. See also Watson, George, The Idea of Liberalism: Studies for a New Map of Politics (London: Macmillan, 1985).

40 See the references and remarks in Baernreither, , English Associations of Working Men, pp. 59.

41 Webb, Beatrice, My Apprenticeship (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979), p. 147.

42 See Greenleaf, W. H., The British Political Tradition, vol. 1, The Rise of Collectivism (London: Methuen, 1983), pp. 269–72, for discussion of the role of eugenics. See also Finlayson, , Citizen, State, and Social Welfare (supra note 3), pp. 149–52. For contemporary discussions of the “underclass” and its growth, see, for example, Magnet, Myron, The Dream and the Nightmare (New York: William Morrow, 1993), and Mead, Lawrence M., The New Politics of Poverty (New York: Basic Books, 1992).

43 A recent work which looks at the changing debate is Green, David, Community without Politics: A Market Approach to Welfare Reform (London: Institute of Economic Affairs, 1996).

44 For an outstanding survey of the change and the related debate, see Finlayson, , Citizen, State, and Social Welfare.

45 On the Charity Organisation Society, see Mowat, Charles Loch, The Charity Organisation Society: Its Ideas and Work, 1869–1913 (London: Methuen, 1961). On the majority and minority reports of 1909, see McBriar, A. M., An Edwardian Mixed Doubles: The Bosanquets versus the Webbs: A Study in British Social Policy, 1890–1929 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1987).

46 On the social investigators and their impact, see Himmelfarb, Gertrude, Poverty and Compassion: The Moral Imagination of the Late Victorians (New York: Knopf, 1991).

47 See Hayek, Friedrich A., The Counter-Revolution of Science: Studies on the Abuse of Reason (Indianapolis: Liberty Press, 1979); Vincent, Andrew and Plant, Raymond, Philosophy, Politics, and Citizenship: The Life and Thought of the British Idealists (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1984); and Collini, Stefan, Liberalism and Sociology: L. T. Hobhouse and Political Argument in England, 1880–1914 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979).

48 Felling, Henry, Popular Politics and Society in Late Victorian Britain (London: Macmillan, 1979). Thane, Pat, “The Working Class and State ‘Welfare’ in Britain, 1890–1914,” Historical Journal, vol. 274 (1984), pp. 877900. For a typical response from a fraternal order in the United States, see “The Menace of Social Insurance,” The Fraternal Monitor, vol. 30 (1919), pp. 49.

49 Perkin, Harold, The Rise of Professional Society: England since 1880 (London: Routledge, 1990).

50 Cloward, Richard A. and Piven, Frances Fox, Regulating the Poor: The Functions of Public Welfare (New York: Pantheon, 1971).

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