Not So New Labour: A Sociological Critique of New Labour's Policy and Practice

Not So New Labour: A Sociological Critique of New Labour's Policy and Practice

Not So New Labour: A Sociological Critique of New Labour's Policy and Practice

Not So New Labour: A Sociological Critique of New Labour's Policy and Practice

Synopsis

New Labour has concentrated many of its social policy initiatives in reinvigorating the family, community and work in the paid labour market. But just how 'new' are the ideas driving New Labour's policy and practice?In this book, Simon Prideaux shows how New Labour has drawn on the ideas and premises of functionalism, which dominated British and American sociological thought during the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s.The book provides an accessible overview of the theories that underpin the policies of New Labour, including the often labyrinthine theories of Talcott Parsons, Amitai Etzioni and Anthony Giddens; examines the ideas of Charles Murray and John Macmurray, philosophers publicly admired by Tony Blair; looks at the sociological origin of debates and controversies that surround the provision of welfare in both the US and UK and considers the alienating effects that New Deal schemes may have in Britain today.Not so New Labour's innovative approach to the analysis of social policy under New Labour will be invaluable to academics, students and researchers in social policy, sociology, politics and applied social studies.

Excerpt

This book is written from a vantage point that tends to come from below. It looks up from personal experiences, setbacks and temporary successes in the industrial world to utilise a later, more appreciative (in terms of understanding) education. As a consequence, the book questions why benign interpretations of society – and, in particular, benevolent explanations of capitalism – can be held to be true. Overall, it is believed that the experience of how social policies actually impact upon oneself and, naturally, upon others, helps to inform the stance taken throughout. Unemployment, debt, concerns over healthcare and the future education of offspring have all played their part. and it is from the basis of this platform that the book has constructed many of its arguments.

In its most rudimentary form, the central premise of this work is the conviction that New Labour, when dealing with welfare, utilise the age-old sociological diagnoses and remedies of structural-functionalism to help counter and rectify the perceived ills of contemporary British society. However, this is not to suggest that New Labour are either aware of, openly display or even acknowledge their allegiance to such trains of thought. Nor is it to suggest that functionalism is the only influence behind Labour’s policies. More, it is an attempt to describe the way in which North American sociological thinking has directly or indirectly made an impact on the interpretations to which Tony Blair and his party attach to past, present and future social relations. Arguably, it is these interpretations that have led New Labour to adopt similar welfare-to-work policies as those already implemented and operational in the US; hence, the intention of this book to explore any shared theoretical foundations in an all-embracing attempt to reveal and explain the origins of the relatively pubescent ‘workfare’ schemes in Britain today.

Of course, the American connection with New Labour is not a particularly original theme. Only one year after Blair’s election victory, Stephen Driver and Luke Martell (1998) made it quite clear that they thought New Labour were heavily influenced by events on the other side of the Atlantic. Besides comparing Labour’s latest definition of social justice with the writings of Robert Reich (former Secretary of . . .

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