Welfare Economics on Labour - Dictionary of Arguments
Gaus I 218
Labour/work/welfare state/Welfare economics/Moon: the argument about the necessity for effective functioning, as opposed simply to having access to resources, has been most heated in the area of work. (Cf. >Welfare state/Welfare economics, >Welfare state/Political philosophy).
If democratic citizenship requires that all be enabled to participate fully in society, then people must have not only certain resources, but also certain capacities, skills, and dispositions.
Gaus I 219
One can acknowledge that people rely upon 'welfare' because their options are so limited, and so
their condition represents an indictment of the society rather than the individuals concerned, but
the fact remains that receipt of social assistance does not enable one to attain full citizenship or
membership in society. It simply sustains one in a marginalized condition. Social inclusion requires
more than receiving benefits.
Lawrence Mead: this line of argument has been advanced by a number of 'conservative' critics of the welfare state. Lawrence Mead (1992)(1), for example, argues that the character of poverty at least in America has changed in the past several decades, and that the social exclusion represented by poverty reflects the inability of poor people to act as rational agents in pursuit even of their own interests.* >Labour/Lawrence Mead.
Nikolas Rose: Nikolas Rose has pointed out that the emphasis on paid employment is not a monopoly of the right: 'From the "social democratic left", too, work [is] now seen as the [principal] mode of inclusion, and absence from the labour market the most potent source of exclusion' (1999(2), 163).
David Harris: In some solidaristic accounts, the emphasis on work invokes an older language of duties. In Harris's account, for example, the duties correlative to our welfare rights are
'strict obligations' and may be enforced by 'coercion' (1987(3): 161).
Marshall: In this, [Harris] echoes Marshall, who looked beyond the social rights of citizenship to consider the duties of the enriched and inclusive model of citizenship he advocated, including 'the
duty to work', which he thought was of 'paramount importance'.
Gotmann/Thompson: Similarly, Amy Gutmann and Dennis Thompson offer a justification for enforcing work obligations that draws on the idea of citizenship, arguing that 'work should be seen as a necessary part of citizenship' (1996(4): 293), because it is 'essential to social dignity'. Since 'earning is not only a means of making a living but also a mark of equal citizenship', paid employment has a 'political dimension' that 'provides a further justification for the obligation to work' (1996(4): 302).
Giddens: But this obligation to work is not, or is not merely, a demand to be made on the individual, one which he might reasonably wish to resist, for ultimately it is rooted in an ideal of social inclusion and active citizenship through which the individual's own interests and needs can be realized. Anthony Giddens sounds this theme in his call for 'the positive welfare society', in which 'the contract between individual and government shifts, since autonomy and the development of self - the medium of expanding individual responsibility become the prime focus' (1998(5): 128).
Nikolas Rose: (...) the contemporary 'organization of freedom' views individuals as best able to 'fulfil their political obligations in relation to the wealth, health and happiness of the nation not when they are bound into relations of dependency and obligation, but when they seek to fulfil themselves as free individuals', which depends 'upon the activation of the powers of the citizen' (1999(2): 166).
* It should be noted that Mead would reject the charactenzation of his position as 'conservative', arguing that at least in America the conservative position shares the liberal assumption that the poor are 'competent', and believes that the problem of poverty is caused by the way in which welfare programmes distort the incentives poor people face. The solution, then, is not to reform the poor, but to abolish welfare programmes. No doubt this view reflects the thinking of some conservatives, but other self-identified conservatives do view the issue in terms similar to Mead's.
1. Mead, Lawrence M. (1992) The New Politics of Poverty. New York: Basic.
2. Rose, Nikolas (1999) Powers of Freedom. Cambridge: Cambridge Umversity Press.
3. Harris, David (1987) Justifying State Welfare. Oxford: Blackwell.
4. Gutmann, Amy and Dennis Thompson (1996) Democracy and Disagreement. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
5. Giddens, Anthony (1998) The Third way: The Renewal of Social Democracy. Cambridge: Polity.
Moon, J. Donald 2004. „The Political Theory of the Welfare State“. In: Gaus, Gerald F. & Kukathas, Chandran 2004. Handbook of Political Theory. SAGE Publications_____________Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution. Translations: Dictionary of Arguments The note [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.
Gerald F. Gaus
Handbook of Political Theory London 2004