Neo-Liberal Ideology: History, Concepts and Policies

By Rachel S. Turner | Go to book overview
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Welfare: The legitimacy of state provision


Like the market in the previous chapter, the concept of welfare forms part of the matrix of key propositions that sit at the core of neo-liberal ideology. Welfare is absolutely essential to neo-liberalism's formation as a distinctive ideology. Yet whilst the concept of welfare may serve as one of the linchpins of neo-liberal discourse, other adjacent concepts connected with welfare the minimal state, equality of opportunity, personal respon sibility, self-reliance, negative rights reinforce and operationalise it. Analysing these concepts as part of neo-liberalism's wider 'idea environment' would help not only to clarify the meaning of neo-liberal political language, but also, more significantly, to establish common agreement over values and a hierarchy of ends and purposes in society. At the core of this analysis is the intractable question of what constitutes an improvement in well-being and how this level of well-being is most effectively attained. For neo-liberals, this is a question of finding an acceptable rationale for state intervention: an issue bound up with ethics and efficiency. Indeed, neo-liberalism arguments on welfare are constructed within an ideological framework; they inevitably draw on the schism between the state and the market, the public and the private, outlined in the previous chapter. The neo-liberal attitude to the welfare state is a fundamentally hostile one. Unlike the market, welfare or 'welfarism', for neo-liberals, is a pejorative term; one which engulfs other liberal concepts such as individual rights and justice, and perverts their proper meaning. The chapter will, however, point out that, while neo-liberals may be apprehensive about the notion of a welfare state, they are not opposed to the concept of


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