The Worm at the Root: An Exploration of the British Welfare Case

  • Nicholas Deakin
Conference paper


In contrast to some other contributors, who are presenting models of welfare in their countries, I am invited to consider “the British case.” This may be nothing more than a backhanded tribute to that celebrated British characteristic: pragmatism. But I suspect it would have greatly irritated William Beveridge. Whatever else you may say about the approach embodied in his report on social insurance, (and there have been a great many criticisms over the years, covering the whole spectrum from new right to feminist) it most certainly presented a coherent model. Indeed, it is possible to write the history of welfare in Britain over the last fifty years as a long retreat from the clarity of Beveridge’s model (cf. Hills et al., 1994). It is not for nothing that the periodic attempts to provide a consistent framework for new developments are regularly presented as a “new Beveridge” (Fowler, 1985; Borrie, 1994). It is also striking that we are currently in the middle of a series of (largely polemical) attempts to reinterpret Beveridge. This is not so much a reflection of the national mania for anniversaries, I suggest, as of a widespread perception that current policy and, indeed, practice on welfare lacks any focus or sense of direction. So, like the Michelin green guides, I start with un peu d’histoire.


Labor Market Welfare State Economic Affair Postwar Period Welfare Expenditure 
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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 1997

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  • Nicholas Deakin

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