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Spiritual Capital and Economies of Grace: Redefining the Relationship between Religion and the Welfare State

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 July 2012

Christopher Baker*
Department of Theology and Religious Studies, University of Chester E-Mail:


This article traces the trajectory of UK government social policy since World War Two, with particular reference to the shifts in the past 10 to 15 years towards concepts such as multi-level governance, localism, the Third Way and the Big Society. It describes the shifting relationships between institutional religion and the State during that period, tracking the ‘return of faith’ in government policy and social welfare as it seeks to address a number of intractable social and economic issues related to cohesion and inequality, as well as a perceived absence of moral and ethical norms within public life. The article proposes a set of new analytical concepts (based on recent empirical research from the US and the UK) which seek to describe and evaluate this new ‘post-secular’ relationship between faith and government. The article concludes that the new ‘post-welfare’ landscape will continue to play well to the existing strengths and positionalities of religion, faith and spirituality in the UK as the twenty-first century moves into its second decade.

Themed Section on Social Policy and Religion in Contemporary Britain
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2012

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