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Fair Conditions and Fair Consequences? Exploring New Labour, Welfare Contractualism and Social Attitudes

  • Daniel Sage (a1)

This article explores the intention and effects of New Labour's ‘conditional’ welfare-to-work strategy. Conditionality has been the subject of substantive debate, with New Labour distinguishing its own contractualist welfare reforms from alternative strategies, often associated with ‘punitive’ US workfare. This article assesses whether New Labour's attempt to fashion what is described as ‘reciprocal responsibility’ in welfare arrangements avoided the commonly cited by-products of workfare. To achieve this, evidence is presented from the British Social Attitudes series, which shows a profound hardening of attitudes towards the unemployed. In light of these findings, the evidence supports arguments about the adverse effects that welfare contractualism can have for wider social relations.

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S. Driver and L. Martell (1997) ‘New Labour's communitarinisms’, Critical Social Policy, 17, 52, 2746.

P. Dwyer (2004) ‘Creeping conditionality in the UK: from welfare rights to conditional entitlements?’, Canadion Journal of Sociology, 29, 2, 265–87.

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R. Plant (2003), ‘Citizenship and social security’, Fiscal Studies, 24, 2, 153–66.

P. Taylor-Gooby and C. Hastie (2002) ‘Support for state spending: has New Labour got it right?’, in A. Park (eds.), British Social Attitudes: The 19th Report, London: Sage Publications.

P. Taylor-Gooby (2004) ‘The work-centred welfare state’, in A. Park (eds.), British Social Attitudes: The 21st Report, London: Sage Publications.

R. Walker and M. Wiseman (2003) ‘Making welfare work: UK activation policies under New Labour’, International Social Security Review, 56, 1, 329.

S. White (2000) ‘Social rights and the social contract: political theory and the new welfare politics’, British Journal of Political Science, 30, 3, 507–32.

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Social Policy and Society
  • ISSN: 1474-7464
  • EISSN: 1475-3073
  • URL: /core/journals/social-policy-and-society
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