Neo-Liberal Ideology: History, Concepts and Policies

By Rachel S. Turner | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 6
Welfare: The legitimacy of state provision

INTRODUCTION: WELFARE AND IDEOLOGY

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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