Welfare and equality
This chapter outlines three perspectives on welfare. These three perspectives are discussed in the same chapter because they have much in common. They all assume that a central goal of welfare is to reduce inequalities, and they all reject any attempt to explain the growth or persistence of poverty in terms of the behaviour and attitudes of poor people themselves. Together, these perspectives dominated thinking about welfare for much of the postwar period, both in Britain and in America. It will be seen, however, that these perspectives are based upon subtly different assumptions about human nature and motivation.
The perspective that is explored in the first part of this chapter starts from the premise that people are often motivated by a regard for the concerns and needs of others. It argues that the primary purpose of welfare is to foster and encourage these feelings of altruism and to give expression to them. In order to fulfil this purpose, however, welfare must first contribute to a broader redistribution of resources and opportunities. This is because a reduction in social inequalities is a precondition for the creation of a common culture and for the establishment of social relationships based upon altruism. Moreover, this redistribution can and must be achieved through social services which are themselves non-discriminatory and which foster a sense of community. At the heart of this perspective, then, is the belief that resources must be channelled to the poor within an infrastructure of benefits and services that are open to and used by all. As far as possible, entitlement to welfare should be universal and unconditional. It should not depend upon the incomes of claimants, and claimants should not be required to meet conditions regarding their behaviour or their character.
The most powerful and most influential exposition of this first perspective is to be found in the work of Richard Titmuss. It is widely acknowledged, however, that Titmuss's influence upon the British welfare debate continued