In the Name of Liberalism: Illiberal Social Policy in the USA and Britain

By Desmond King | Go to book overview

9

The Future of Social Citizenship

RECALLING his time in a reconditioning camp in Glenbranter, 80-year‐ old Willie Eccles told a national newspaper that he was treated inhumanely and degradingly, reflecting that 'when I look back I realise that the way we were treated was not much different from the way the Nazis treated people'. 1 Another ex-trainee, Charles Ward, said the centres 'were like chain gangs without the chains. It was slave labour, They used to stand over us and bawl and shout at us to work harder ... None of us wanted to go there but we were forced to.' 2 Carrie Buck, the subject of the US Supreme Court's Buck v. Bell judgement in which Justice Holmes issued his celebrated warning that 'three generations of imbeciles' was enough, was unable to have children as a consequence of her sterilization. Stephen Jay Gould wrote about Buck when she was aged 72 and lived near Charlottesville: 'neither she nor her sister Doris would be considered mentally deficient by today's standards. Doris Buck was sterilized under the same law in 1928. She later married ... a plumber. But Doris Buck was never informed [about her sterilization]: 'I broke down and cried. My husband and me wanted children desperately. We were crazy about them. I never knew what they'd done to me.'3 Throughout Britain, under the New Deal for Lone Parents scheme, single mothers are called to Benefit Agency offices whose officers attempt to help them get jobs and off benefits. For some it is a welcome expression of concern by the state's caring officials; for others it is a bullying and demeaning intervention. 4 These US or British citizens were affected directly and significantly by the social policies examined in this study. To use the aphorism 'the magic spear that heals as well as wounds' (taken from Wagner's Parsifal5), liberal democratic states both

____________________
1
Quoted in Mark Austin, 'Revealed: "Slave Camps" of Labour's First New Deal', Sunday Times, 9 Aug. 1998.
2
Quoted ibid., emphasis added. His compulsion to attend is not explained in the article. 3 Gould (1981: 336), emphasis added.
4
It is a role which the Department of Social Security intends to expand, with an increasingly mandatory component. See 'Lone parents face benefit cuts', Independent, 27 Oct. 1998 and R. Taylor, 'Minister extends New Deal for lone parents', Financial Times, 27 Oct. 1998.
5
In Parsifal, the spear that pierced Christ's side was preserved in the Grail Castle but stolen by the magician Klingsor, who wounds Amfortas with it and carries it off to his own castle. Amfortas lives in constant pain, controlled only by the daily sight of the Grail. Parsifal

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