William Beveridge: A Biography

William Beveridge: A Biography

William Beveridge: A Biography

William Beveridge: A Biography

Synopsis

This new edition of Harris's biography of William Beveridge draws upon extensive new archive material about his private and public career. It expands the account given in the first edition of the origins and reception of the Beveridge Plan, and shows how the tortuous character of Beveridge's personal and emotional history helped to shape his contribution to twentieth-century social reform.

Excerpt

Beveridge's three years as a leader-writer on the Morning Post coincided with many important developments in British politics and social policy. These years -- late 1905 to mid-1908 -- saw the emergence of a significant parliamentary labour movement, the redefinition of pauperism and poverty by the Royal Commission on the Poor Laws, the spread of new concepts of fiscal redistribution, and the beginnings of non-stigmatic state welfare policies in the form of old-age pensions and subsidized school meals. Throughout the period there was an upsurge of interest in social policy questions -- an interest that to a certain extent transcended the conventional boundaries of party, ideology, and social class. It was within this context that Beveridge began to formulate his mature political beliefs -- some of which were later modified, whilst others were to underpin his social philosophy for the rest of his career. It was during this period that he came close to embracing, and then eventually rejected, certain principles of theoretical socialism. It was during this period that he first acquired a commitment to reform not merely as an end in itself but as a medium of citizenship and as an instrument of social and political integration. It was during this period that he first acquired his lifelong mistrust of all forms of direct democracy, and his preference for a centralized, enlightened, and supposedly impartial administrative state. It was during this period that he first acquired his characteristic dislike of means tests, selective welfare, and discretionary official inquiry into private lives; and, finally, it was during this period that he first developed a deep suspicion of abstract theory and an abiding preference for what he described as 'opportunist common sense'. To illustrate and illuminate these attitudes this chapter will look closely at three main aspects of Beveridge's ideas during his Morning Post period. First, at the growth of his wider political convictions; secondly, at his responses to some current social and political issues; and thirdly at the development of his views on questions of social reform.

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