Rhetorics of Welfare: Uncertainty, Choice and Voluntary Associations

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First, precisely because the state has played a leading and dominant role in the organization of welfare which can be traced back as least as far as the last century Lundstrom and Wijkstrom, it is not entirely clear how important voluntary associations are in civil society. These communal ties in contemporary Sweden have in recent years been challenged by migration and multicultural pressures on the one hand, and by economic decline and globalization on the other.

However, Sweden has in our view retained a sense of nation-ascommunity which is quite unlike that in the United Kingdom. This issue is illustrated by, for example, the problems of integrating Muslim communities and Islamic institutions into the emotive or sentimental national community, where the communal bonds have a distinctively religious flavour Kamali, Therefore, in the Scandinavian case, there is a sense in which, while there is a clear separation between community and state, there is no political space for genuine pluralism.

Associative democracy theory offers a pluralistic alternative to social democracy. It has a distinctively English tradition, and an influential contribution to a pluralistic version of this democratic theory has been presented by Paul Q. Hirst, who has in The Pluralist Theory of the State and Representative Democracy and its Limits developed early democratic theories from the work of G. Cole, J. Figgis and H. In Britain, the interest in pluralist associations in the post-war period grew out of a recognition of the importance of intermediary groups in combating the growth of electoral dictatorship.

For Hirst, the health of a modern democracy depends on the presence of a plurality of selfgoverning associations, voluntary associations and communal groups. These groups and associations are clearly outside the state. Hirst recognizes that there must be deliberate political initiatives by the state to support such groups, for example through economic subsidies and a favourable legal environment aimed at decentralizing welfare and public services but at the same time maintaining common minimum standards and entitlements.

The state is important in providing an enabling environment within which a vigorous civil society can recover from the negative consequences of Thatcherite policies of economic liberalization. It was elaborated to include stronger notions of participation, but it was initially a defensive response. In this discussion of the theory of associative democracy, we would argue that it is particularly important to remain sensitive to significant historical and cultural differences between societies.

In Great Britain, the idea of a national community has always been fragmented by a divided kingdom and thus the United Kingdom has been primarily held together by monarchy as expressed through parliamentary institutions. In cultural terms, the various components of the kingdom have remained separate and distinct. The classic sociological studies of economic class in Britain have recognized this critical cultural dimension of the class structure: for instance, Coal is Our Life or The Uses of Literacy Hoggart, , or The Making of the English Working Class Thompson, Unlike Scandinavian communities, England has been a pluralist society in being constituted by an ensemble of different, separate and often conflictual communities.

These communities have often been regional, local and class based. They have been combative associations to protect workers or regions or religious denominations from the state. The apex of this critical tradition was Culture and Society — Williams, Alongside these cultural differences, there are important historical contrasts between Britain and Sweden in terms of class formation. Social citizenship in Britain, as T.

The first issue concerns the relationship between the state and plural communities.

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As Max Weber recognized, there will be a degree of social closure in competitive situations where there is scarcity. The question 18 Rhetorics of Welfare then becomes how these communities can be regulated to achieve communal outcomes. It is the role of the state to insure a secure legal framework within which there can be socially beneficial competition for resources rather than social conflict. In Britain, it is clear that the voluntary sector is very dependent on government support Kendall and Knapp, This criticism has been argued forcefully by those political theorists who entertain the doubt that state power can be diminished by a greater reliance on voluntary associations.

The second problem is that Hirstian pluralism does not necessarily have an adequate account of the economics of welfare. A competition between communities and associations for welfare benefits might promote a spiral of rising claims and expectations resulting in inflationary demands on governments.

Lastly, there is little in the way of contemporary empirical examples within these schemata. Indeed, of those we are given, the example of Italian governance provided by Hirst appears over the period of the s to undermine the overall conception Hirst, A similar ideological position has been taken in Australia by the Howard government in the post-Keating liberalization of the economic environment. These governments have assumed that broadly speaking market strategies can be applied to welfare provision in order to achieve economies.

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These changes to welfare expenditure in Australia have occurred against the background of a declining economy, a falling dollar, weak exports, a greying population and global uncertainty. Following a conventional political strategy, the new Liberal government in Australia could point to the size of the national debt and the growing imbalance between imports and exports as evidence of Labor mismanagement and the need for economies in public expenditure. Of course, the main problem with constraining public expenditure on welfare, health and education is that the marketization of welfare delivery must, other things being constant, increase social inequality.

It is here that voluntary associations can play an important role. Obviously voluntary welfare groups can in principle supplement or even replace government functions in service delivery, and in that sense voluntary associations can step in to fill the gap left created by deregulation and privatization. In so doing, we seek to highlight the market trajectory of associationalism as opposed to the state trajectory.

The arguments against the role of voluntary associations in this area are of course 20 Rhetorics of Welfare obvious. Voluntary associations cannot guarantee equality of service provision and, where such associations are dependent on unpaid female labour, voluntary workers will be exploited. In this capacity, voluntary associations would disguise the inadequacies of government policy, by providing some minimal support for marginalized and deprived social groups. While the negative consequences of profit-centred marketization are well known, traditional welfare agencies have tended to become remote and bureaucratic, accused often of being insensitive to client needs.

Uncertainty, Choice and Voluntary Associations

Markets would not necessarily destroy communities, provided there is a legal regulatory framework which would provide certain minimal guarantees about equality of provision for minority or dependent groups. However, our view of the importance of voluntary associations is political and social, rather than economic and financial. From a political and sociological point of view, our interest in such intermediary groups is driven by a concern for their potential contribution to the vitality of civil society, to the development of democratic institutions, and to the fostering of compassion, altruism and civic virtue.

Voluntary associations can function as schools of democracy, because they offer an experience of or potential for training in the basic procedures of democratic governance. The classic example from British social history is the role of Methodist lay preaching and Bible classes which provided working men with training in literacy, public Contested Rhetorics 21 speaking, and lay leadership Semmel, The major historical peculiarity of Australia as a nation state was that the existence of the state preceded the creation of a civil society.

In the early decades of colonization between and , Australia was settled through the imperialistic intervention of the British state by convicts. With the loss of its American colonies, British governments looked towards south-east Asia and then Australia as a solution to their prison problems. Australia is the classic case of a society within which the individual was regarded as dangerous and corrupt, and thus in need of correction and reform.

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Colonial Australia was a Benthamite experiment in which, through the moral intervention of the state, a panoptic transformation of individuals became possible Collins, Women were seen to have a major role to play in the moral regulation of a frontier society Summers, In this early period, the main function of the state was to guarantee the supply of cheap labour.

Australia was quickly transformed into a capitalist white society through the Wakefield scheme and settlement by free men, who came to Australia to mine for gold, create sheep stations and settle the land McMichael, Population expansion followed the discovery of gold fields in Victoria in the s, but the settlement of the land eventually came to depend on squatters.

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Australia developed all the principal characteristics of dependent settler capitalism, with striking parallels with Argentina Duncan and Fogarty, In Australia, industrial disputes, conflicts and wage settlement took place within the legal framework of national and compulsory arbitration. With these transformations of the basis of Australian society, there has been an evolution of the concept of citizen to become a more inclusive concept Davidson, While migrant voluntary associations have played an important part in cultural and economic assimilation, they have also been manipulated by the political parties in the interests of electoral politics.

In conclusion, Australian society initially was created by the state, which played an essential role during the early stages of colonization. Economic growth has produced a dominant tradition of individualism and, more recently, of free enterprise. Although the primary legal and governmental framework of Australia is taken from English common law traditions, agrarian settlement created a sense of community which was to some extent defined by opposition to aboriginal occupancy of the land.

The notion of community in Australia is partly defined by class communities, by ethnic pluralism and by a racial notion of Otherness which embraces both Asian and Aboriginal peoples. We can expect the global economic pressures on national states to continue over the next decade as the financial crises of Asia, Russia and Latin America slow the growth of the global economy. Voluntary associations are likely to continue to function in economic environments which place significant demands for enhanced performance on a range of social institutions.

If the large mass of voluntary associations were affected thus, we would be looking at a scenario of the marginalization of the sector. Statism The development or reinstatement of centralized state planning and control of welfare. State-bounded associationalism A move towards associative democracy where state control over welfare administration remains relatively high. Voluntary associations would become more central in the delivery of welfare operating in quasimarkets largely controlled by the state.

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The following chapters address in more detail some of the issues raised here. Note 1 Though Swedish examples are used here, the Scandinavian model is based upon the development of post welfare systems in Denmark, Norway and Sweden. Arguably, this model of a social democratic welfare state can be extended to a Nordic model with the inclusion of Finland and Iceland.

In response to the problems of legitimacy, there were political pressures on democratic governments, which produced large and inflexible welfare bureaucracies, which were seen to be inefficient and unresponsive to client needs. Given the competition between capitalist enterprises, the tendency of the rate of profit to fall created an economic crisis within which the state exercised the role of policeman.

This neo-liberal promotion of the market-place as the engine of private freedoms was in some respects a return to the doctrine of J. A classical welfare democracy had never been accepted as an objective of social policy. Social modifications of the free market came under attack from sociologists like Nathan Glazer, who attempted to show that welfare benefits and tax thresholds for young black single parents, typically female, prevented them from entering the labour market and forced them into a lifetime of dependency.

There was therefore in the late s an ironic convergence of rightwing and left-wing criticism of the welfare system, which embraced liberal capitalism, mass democracy and bureaucratic welfare. Welfare capitalism was basically a strategy of political reformism, which could radically transform the fundamental problems of capitalism as a system of exploitation. In Britain, the Thatcher years witnessed a concerted attempt to roll back the state, contain expenditure on welfare and promote a new culture of enterprise. The welfare system was criticized as an albatross around the neck of the entrepreneurs who were the real wealth creators in the system.

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By the s, governments were reluctant to undertake large expenditures on public utilities where these required considerable investment and higher taxation. The solution, 28 Rhetorics of Welfare adopted with gusto by the Kennett government of Victoria, was to sell off ageing public utilities at relatively low cost to multinationals who are able to increase costs to customers and to rationalize supply outside the confines of democratic accountability.

It also involved the privatization of state utilities, reduction in centralized welfare provision and the removal of trade restrictions such as import duties and quotas.

Rhetorics of Welfare

There was also an attempt to create internal markets or quasi-markets to discipline welfare services and increase the efficiency of public utilities. The appeal of managerialism is tied up with notions of increased autonomy and initiative, efficiency, enterprise and accountability. It secures legitimacy by the rhetoric of subsidiarity and responsiveness to client needs. But managerialism also exists in an auditing environment, which requires detailed regulation and control of operations and functions.

These contradictions between market freedom and social regulation are nicely represented in the popularity of two influential sociological publications whose titles describe the two poles of these contradictory developments, namely Risk Society Beck, and The Audit Society Power, The concept of risk society attempts to grasp the social consequences of a deregulated social environment where the dangers of global pollution from unregulated market forces are a necessary feature of the process of modernization. Both risk and regulation are fundamental, but contradictory, aspects of contemporary social structure.

Basically the speed of this transformation took everybody by surprise, and ironically probably only Talcott Parsons, in some relatively obscure articles on communism and democracy in the early s, anticipated some of these political developments Robertson and Turner, One consequence has been an increase in ethnic tensions as unemployed youth embraced the fascist politics of the extreme right. In eastern Europe and Russia, fundamentalist Islam has also grown in response to the collapse of the communist party system, where Islam appears to present the only alternative to Western capitalism.

In addition, by the risks of global capitalism had become evident in the Asian meltdown, the financial crisis in the world banking systems, and the consequence political tensions in Indonesia, South Korea and Malaysia. The third major change to contemporary society has therefore been globalization.

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