Dr Linda Wong's study of the Chinese Ministry of Civil Affairs is a major work of social policy scholarship. It is far more than a description of the development of a central government department. Dr Wong sets her enquiry within the broad and diverse context of Chinese society and culture and explores the interplay between the formal and informal dimensions of its welfare institutions during a period of momentous social change. In the course of her research, Dr Wong has uncovered a wealth of new historical evidence regarding the development of Chinese social policy. She presents this material with commendable style and clarity. She goes on to analyse and interpret her findings with perspicacity and imagination.
Marginalization and Social Welfare in China will stand as a definitive and highly original contribution to the comparative study of social policy. It offers new insights into the distinctive characteristics of Chinese welfare institutions. It also challenges many of the old assumptions that have informed and shaped the work of Western social policy theories and model-builders.
The academic study of welfare institutions began in Western Europe and the USA. It started, however, as a distinctively British enterprise with the path-breaking poverty surveys of Charles Booth and Seebohm Rowntree and the great historical and institutional studies of Sidney and Beatrice Webb. This tradition of empirical enquiry and policy prescription continued to develop throughout the inter-war years. The main proposals of the Beveridge Report of 1942 were informed and influenced by the findings of these earlier investigations.
The subsequent implementation of Beveridge's proposals laid down the institutional foundations of the post-war British welfare state. Thereafter, an influential cadre of social policy analysts, notably Richard Titmuss, T.S. Simey and T.H. Marshall, David Donnison, Brian Abel-Smith and Peter Townsend created the intellectual framework within which the new discipline of social policy and administration developed throughout the 1950s and 1960s.
Most of the leading scholars of this time were collectivist or socialistic in outlook. The dominant normative approach to the study of social welfare during this period is exemplified in the writings of Richard Titmuss. It was an approach in which the growth of statutory social services from residual to