Ipswich Unemployed Action.

Campaigning for Unemployed Rights.

Privatising Welfare: Tony Judt.

with 2 comments

On Privating Welfare – and the Unemployed.

Last weekend a leading thinker, Tony Judt, put into polished words what most of us would say in blunter ones (here).

In effect, privatisation reverses a centuries-long process whereby the state took on things that individuals could not or would not do. The corrosive consequences of this for public life are, as so often, rendered inadvertently explicit in the new “policy-speak”. When British politicians and civil servants bother to justify the abandonment of traditional public service monopolies, they talk of “diversifying providers”. When the UK work and pensions secretary announced plans in June 2008 to privatise social services – including short-term palliative welfare-to-work schemes which enable Whitehall to publish misleadingly low unemployment figures – he described himself as “optimising welfare delivery”. The chief shortcoming of the old public services was the restrictive regulations and facilities – one-size-fits-all – with which they were notoriously associated. But at least their provision was universal, and for good and ill they were regarded as a public responsibility.

The rise of enterprise culture has destroyed all that. A private company does not present itself as a collective good to which all citizens have a right. Unsurprisingly, there has been a sharp falling off in the number of people claiming benefits and services to which they are legally entitled.

The result is a hollowed-out society. From the point of view of the person at the bottom – seeking unemployment pay, medical attention, social benefits or other officially mandated services – it is no longer to the state, the administration or the government that he or she instinctively turns. The service or benefit in question is now often “delivered” by a private intermediary. As a consequence, the thick mesh of social interactions and public goods has been reduced to a minimum, with nothing except authority and obedience binding the citizen to the state.

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Written by Andrew Coates

March 23, 2010 at 11:50 am

2 Responses

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  1. I caught this program last night on Radio 4 it is a damning indictment of this government’s “help” for jobseekers and yet more evidence that those at the top have both taken their eyes of the ball and arn’t listening to people on the frontline who are effected by their half arsed policies.

    you can listen to the program again on the BBC IPlayer by clicking on the link below to take you to the program page and then clicking on the listen again button

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/8580519.stm

    Lowestoft's Finest

    March 24, 2010 at 12:46 pm

  2. “…with nothing except authority and obedience binding the citizen to the state.”

    Fortunately, we’re not all obedient.

    Spanner

    March 24, 2010 at 1:05 pm


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