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Whereas Murray could take it as read that a majority of the American public would believe it to be in their own interest to cut back on the welfare paid to the poor, Field had to devise ways of securing popular support for the welfare reforms he was proposing. In his case, welfare had to channel the self-interest of not just the poor but of the electorate as well.


The problem, of course, is how to devise such a 'scheme'. How can the 'better-off majority' be persuaded that it is in their self-interest to support a benefits system that redistributes resources to the poor? Field's notion of 'Stakeholder Welfare' was an attempt to square this circle: to end the social exclusion of the poor by making their inclusion worthwhile to those who would have to pay for it2.

From this perspective, then, the tax and benefits system sets the 'rule of the game' and provides a framework within which people pursue their own interests. The first step in resolving any welfare issue is to ask 'how do things appear to those affected? What is being discouraged and penalised? How far are these signals buttressed by tangible incentives and sanctions? Welfare as the exercise of authority. The differences between this perspective and that of Murray or Field are simple and stark.

According to Lawrence Mead, the 'entire tradition of explaining poverty or dependency in terms of incentives or disincentives is bankrupt'. It is bankrupt, he argues, because the long-term poor do not respond to changes in the framework of financial incentives and sanctions in the way that Murray and Field assume. They do not respond because they are not competent, functioning, individuals who act rationally to further their interests.

On the contrary, they are the 'dutiful but defeated' who will not take advantage of opportunities for advancement unless forced to do so. The explanation of long term poverty, then, lies not in the perverse incentives generated by welfare but in the character of the poor themselves and in a culture of poverty which legitimates self-destructive behaviour.

It follows that the solution is to be found not in the creation of new opportunities or financial inducements but in the exercise of authority. The role of welfare should be to compel the poor to behave in ways that are conducive to their long-term betterment, and thereby promote the common good. This can be achieved most readily by making their entitlement to benefit or services dependent upon their behaving in specified ways. The most obvious example of such conditionality is, of course, workfare: the imposition of work requirements upon applicants for welfare.

In recent years, however, Mead and others have argued for a more authoritarian response to such problems as teenage pregnancies, homelessness and substance abuse. This campaign for authoritarian welfare has been conducted on several fronts. It has resembled a series of intellectual 'Punch and Judy' shows in which the 'new paternalists' - or 'Daddy Staters'! They have enjoyed considerable influence upon welfare policy in the US, although there is no space here to discuss either the details of their proposals or the evidence they produce in support of them5.

There are, however, three points about the underlying rationale of the new paternalism which should be made briefly. The first is that it embodies a particular view of the role of government, expressed here by Mead,. As Hobbes said, government's essential, if not only, purpose is to maintain public order , p. By public order Mead does not mean just law and order in the 'narrow, police sense' but all of the 'public conditions for the private assurance of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness'. Order in this sense is not something, which even the most liberal of governments could provide just by spending money.

If people are to serve each other in this way, however, they have to be both self-disciplined and competent. Not only must they avoid harming others - as Mill insisted - but they also have to fulfil the expectations of others, as parents, as neighbours, or as workers. It is this need for competence which Mead claims has been neglected in debates about citizenship.

The corollary, of course, is that those who do not function in this way can never be equal with those who do. Indeed it is this failure to meet the common obligations that delineates and defines the underclass6. It comprises those Americans who combine relatively low income with functioning problems such as difficulties in getting through school, obeying the law, working, and keeping their families together p. The second point is that an authoritative approach is presented as being feasible on the grounds that it represents an attempt to compel people to do what they know they should be doing anyway.

Mead's understanding of the 'culture of poverty' is quite different from that popularised by Oscar Lewis and others in the s. In Mead's account the culture of poverty does not shape the values and aspirations of the underclass but it does condone their failure to conform to agreed social norms. The task of public policy, then, is to 'close the gap between the norm and the welfare recipient's lifestyle' , p.

The third point is that many advocates of paternalism acknowledge that its effects may be short-lived. By definition, paternalism means treating the dependent poor as children, not in itself the most obvious way to promote self-reliance and self-discipline. In Mark Kleiman's words, the crucial question is whether paternalism 'tends to ameliorate or exacerbate the deficits in self-command which give rise to the need for such an intervention in the first place'.

To be truly effective, then, paternalism will have to change the culture of poverty. It will have to both create a more interventionist public bureaucracy and bring into being informal networks and private forms of social control which inculcate and foster the values of responsibility and self-reliance. It is here that the new paternalism blends into the 'harder' forms of communitarianism, discussed below.

Welfare as a transition to work. This perspective starts from the premise that poverty can never be alleviated by the payment of cash benefits. It inevitably reduces the incentive to work, it inevitably supports mostly single parents, and it automatically isolates and stigmatizes , p. The only way to avoid these flaws is to redefine welfare as temporary or transitional assistance. Cash benefits would be paid to those able to work for a limited period, during which they would receive education and training.

At the end of that time they would be expected to have found work, or, if not, take the public sector job which would be made available. Once in work they would be eligible for supplementary benefits and tax credits, and would have a guarantee of child care. There were three elements to the proposals that Ellwood put forward in his book Poor Support. First 'making work pay' - those who worked would not be poor. Second, the provision of child care and a guarantee that child support received from an absent parent would be made to the equivalent of half the minimum wage.

Third, a firm limit to the length of time for which welfare could be received. I believe that it is essential to make clear to all those concerned, both recipients and public, that the core support programme is a transitional one and the long-term support system is jobs p. It is apparent that this perspective draws upon elements of both the incentive and authoritarian approaches. Indeed it should properly be understood as a response to both. Teles, for example, notes how Murray and Mead 'opened intellectual space not only on the right but on the left as well, by making it difficult t avoid the fundamental quandries of social policy' , p.

Ellwood shares Mead's emphasis upon paid work and his willingness to withhold benefits from those who refuse to take a job. On the other hand he is not a paternalist. The pressures on claimants would be intense but they would be impersonal - they would not be subject to direct supervision or compelled to participate in any particular project whilst receiving transitional assistance. Like Murray. Ellwood assumes that even those most dependent upon welfare will be sufficiently rational to realise that they had to find a job before their transitional assistance was exhausted.

He differs from Murray, however, in his focus upon the problems of the working poor. Indeed he argues that both Murray and Mead are excessively pre-occupied with an urban underclass which represents only a 'tiny fraction' of the poor. Nevertheless, the most important difference between Ellwood and the two conservatives lies in his expectations of government.

For Ellwood the obligation upon claimants to act responsibly was matched by that of government to provide genuine opportunities. This, of course, reflects his doubts about the number of jobs that would otherwise be available. Building upon William Julius Wilson's more analytical work, Poor Support was trying to formulate a role for welfare that recognised the importance of both individual behaviour and the broader social forces which shaped that behaviour. It was this which made it such a potent source of ideas for politicians seeking a new approach to welfare reform, and Ellwood's notion of the mutual obligations of government and claimants became a leitmotiv of both New Labour in Britain and the New Democrats in the US.

Welfare as a mechanism for moral regeneration. This perspective starts from the premise that individuals do not always seek to advance their own interests. Nor do they necessarily have to be compelled to behave in ways that serve the common good. On the contrary, people sometimes act out of a sense of commitment; they act in a particular way because they accept that they have an obligation to do so.

That obligation may be to their immediate family, to communities of place or faith, or to the wider society. It may be rooted in blood ties, emotional commitments, religious or philosophical convictions or simply an acceptance of the need to reciprocate benefits or services received. What matters is that at least some of the time they are motivated by a sense of duty rather than a desire for betterment or a fear of punishment.

The focus here is upon those who argue that the central objective of welfare should be to foster and enhance just this sense of duty and of commitment. From this perspective welfare should look primarily to persuasion rather than to compulsion, to encouragement and moral argument rather than to financial inducements or penalties. Such arguments are associated most closely with communitarianism.

As Amitai Etzioni notes, a prominent theme of recent communitarian writing is that 'much of social conduct is, and that more ought to be, sustained and guided by an informal web of social bonds and moral voices of the community' , p. These new or so-called 'responsive' communitarians have sought to demonstrate that it is both desirable and possible to 'rely first and foremost on attempts to persuade, rather than coerce, people when seeking to promote pro-social behaviour'.

This perspective differs from those discussed earlier in three important respects. First, the communitarian literature is a very diverse one.

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Not all of those whose work is discussed here would accept the label, while those who do differ sharply in their attitudes towards the family, equality, or the proper role of government. Second, the breadth and diversity of communitarian writing means that the distinctions between it and the other perspectives are not always so clear-cut as those between, say, Murray and Mead, or Murray and Ellwood. The third difference, however, is the most important.

Communitarians have much to say about the role of welfare but only as part of a much wider agenda. Welfare reform is not their primary focus as it is for Murray, Mead or Ellwood. Modern communitarianism emerged in the s as a response to what its advocates saw as the excessive individualism of contemporary western societies. Its central claim is that this excessive individualism has produced a profound and damaging imbalance. Far too much attention is paid to the rights of individuals, the enjoyment of which safeguards their freedom and enhances their personal autonomy.

Far too little attention is paid to the social responsibilities of those individuals, the acceptance of which maintains social order and enhances the communities in which they live. Nowhere is this imbalance more stark or more fiercely defended than it is in the United States, and much communitarian theory has been forged in a bitter debate with libertarians on both the left and right of American politics8. There are three aspects of communitarian theory that may be relevant to CAVA's broader concerns.

The first is the argument that liberty is not licence, and that the former requires a measure of self-restraint on the part of individuals. In Spragen's words, communitarian liberals see themselves as defenders of the 'ordered liberty' which is 'so cherished and pursued by the liberal tradition'. Properly understood, freedom is not 'acquiescence to inclination' but 'autonomy - the independence of action proper to a rational being'.

The object of true liberalism, then, is the creation of a society 'in which people can be self-governing' , p. Libertarians, however, fail to recognise the source of such self-control. It is not acquired in isolation. Rather it is fostered and shaped by interaction with others, and especially by the expectations of family, friends and local communities. It is these pressures and expectations that are the cultural foundations of a free society. Those very foundations, however, are undermined in turn by libertarianism's refusal to distinguish between the political domain and that of personal morality.

Libertarians extend the same tolerance and acceptance of diversity to personal behaviour as they do to religious beliefs and political allegiances. For communitarians this is a fatal error which leads inexorably to the demoralisation of society. This is because the virtues that underpin liberalism are fostered and transmitted across the generations in families and local communities of faith and calling.

These are not in themselves liberal institutions. They depend upon tradition, authority, loyalty and fidelity. This means that they cannot be libertarian because they cannot leave individuals free to pursue their own choices and yet remain members. Morality is a matter of commitment not choices, and the cultural contradiction of libertarianism is that it destroys the very institutions upon which liberty depends. A second aspect of communitarian theory is its promotion of the idea of a common good, which can be identified and pursued through collective deliberation and action.

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What is most distinctive about communitarianism is not its judgementalism but its belief in the power of informal social networks and of moral argument to effect significant and lasting changes in personal behaviour. In the words of the Responsive Communitarian Platform,. Reflecting the diverse moral voices of their citizens, responsive communities define what is expected of people, they educate them their members to accept these values, and they praise them when they do and frown upon them when they do not , p.

For this to happen two conditions have to be met. First, communities have to agree upon the criteria with which they will decide what is and what is not reasonable behaviour. Second, a high proportion of those who are 'frowned upon' have to accept the moral claims made upon them by the community and change their behaviour without being compelled to do so. The belief that this is possible rests upon the prior assumption that people possess what James Q Wilson calls a 'moral sense' - 'an intuitive or directly felt belief about how one ought to act when one is free to act voluntarily'.

In order to achieve the remoralisation of society which communitarians seek, Wilson argues, it is necessary to understand both 'our persistent but fragile disposition to make moral judgements' and the 'aspects of human relations that must be cultivated if that disposition is to be protected and nurtured'. The notion of a moral sense is the third - and arguably the most significant - aspect of communitarian thinking for CAVA. Its central thesis is that people have a 'natural moral sense. To different degrees amongst different people, but to some important degree in almost all people, that moral sense shapes human behaviour and the judgements people make of the behaviour of others , p.

Wilson's account of the development of moral sentiments ranges from Aristotelian ideas about cultivation of moral habits to contemporary anxieties about the family. More than anything else, however, it is the idea of commitment which links Wilson and the communitarians, and which both seek to place at the heart of the debate about the family and welfare. For Wilson what is most important about moral sentiments is the fact that 'they have in common - in their origin and their maintenance - the notion of commitment'.

In contrast, he argues, the ideologies and intellectual tendencies that dominate contemporary debates have sought to replace the idea of commitment with the idea of choice. Freedom, however, is not 'unconstrained choice' but 'the opportunity to express themselves, enrich themselves, and govern themselves in a world that has already been organised and defined by a set of intuitively understood commitments'. According to Wilson, it was the 'fatally flawed assumption of many Enlightenment thinkers' that 'autonomous individuals can freely choose, or will, their moral life'. This has lead to 'institutions that leave nothing between the state and the individual save choices, contracts and entitlements'.

It is this breach which communitarianism seeks to fill, by balancing choice with commitment, contracts with covenants and entitlements with obligations. Other writers, of course, stress the importance of obligations. It was seen earlier that David Ellwood's proposal to recast welfare as transitional assistance rested upon a recognition of the mutual obligations of government and claimants. There is, however, a very important difference in that Ellwood justified the obligations placed upon claimants in terms of a contract: if the government fulfilled its side of the bargain, then they should fulfil theirs.

For communitarians, however, these obligations are much broader and more deeply rooted. They reflect the fact that individuals are not autonomous selves but are socially embedded in communities. At bottom, Phillip Selznick argues, responsibilities arise from social involvements or commitments. In Sacks more dramatic phrase, we 'owe duties to others because they are a part of who we are' , p.

The perspectives on welfare policy outlined above are not mutually exclusive. Nor do they necessarily correspond to specific policies. It is not difficult, for example, to find arguments in support of welfare to work programmes such as the 'New Deal' which draw upon authoritarian, contractarian, and convenantal arguments, often in the same speech and sometimes in the same paragraph. It follows that there are a number of ways in which they can be classified and typologies constructed9.

It is necessary to be even more cautious about extrapolating positions on parenting and partnering from these perspectives on welfare. That said, the paper now considers briefly the implications of the above for three issues which are central to CAVA's concerns; the understanding of family breakdown, gendered moral rationalities and decisions about paid work, and the assumptions about moral sensibilities which underpin ideas about 'good enough moral actors'.

There is, of course, no doubt that concerns about the family are at the heart of these debates. As Steve Teles has noted, welfare politics in the US 'is not a matter of interest aggregation or conflict' but is 'exceptionally dominated by issues of morality'. He argues that welfare provides a focus for commentators whose prime concerns lie elsewhere.

The debate affords a forum for 'social and value conflicts that would exist with or without the poor. Family decomposition, the decline of the work ethic, and the erosion of personal responsibility are social trends occurring throughout American society. However, to discuss them directly would inevitably lead to fingers being pointed at a large group of American citizens. The politics of morality are generally more effective when the finger can be pointed at someone else. Welfare and the population it serves provide that someone else , p. It is important to acknowledge, however, that there is a difference of focus between the welfare and the family debates, and between Britain and the US.

Carol and Bren, for example, argue in their Critical Social Policy essay that 'moral agitation' around the family in Britain has centred on divorce. It is, they suggest, 'divorce itself' which has come to symbolise 'everything that is wrong with late modern societies' This is true of some communitarians From the other perspectives, however, 'family breakdown' is synonymous with the increase in the number of never married mothers, and especially young black never married mothers.

Murray, for example, is dismissive of concerns about divorce Much is made of the changes in family structure that swept America in the s and s. Statistically, however, the changes in family composition among the white not-poor were negligible. If these families broke up more often, new two-parent families regrouped. Meanwhile, the structure of the poor black family was transformed , p. Similarly, Mead argues that this transformation has given rise to a new 'politics of conduct' that is 'simply more salient than the politics of class'.

The inequalities that stem from the workplace are now trivial in comparison to those stemming from family structure. What matters for success is less whether your father was rich or poor than whether you knew your father at all , p. A further complication is that although conservatives may agree that female headed households are the problem, they differ sharply over the solution. Murray, for example, is adamant that it is 'illegitimacy' sic which is of overwhelming importance in understanding the emergence of an underclass, and that the preoccupation of both policy makers and commentators with the work levels of the poor is misguided.

As he summed up the argument for a British audience in ,. Communities in which large proportions of the children are born without fathers end up with enormous social problems. The 'kicker' to this point of view was that this is true whether or not the mothers are working. If a welfare reform bill succeeds in moving large numbers of women off the welfare rolls, but does nothing about the illegitimacy ratio, it has achieved nothing , Mead's counter argument is that working mothers are better mothers because they command more respect, and that in any case governments 'know almost nothing about how to confine childbearing to marriage'.

Gendered moral rationalities. The ways in which mothers decide how to combine paid employment and their parenting and other responsibilities will be an important focus of Strands Three and Four of the CAVA project. This issue has also been at the forefront of the debate in the US, where the dominant welfare programme is targeted almost exclusively at lone mothers. Not surprisingly there is now an extensive literature on the ways in which those mothers decide whether to seek a job or to remain on welfare.

The American evidence points to a complex interaction between cultural and economic factors. An increased incentive may tip the balance in neighbourhoods where many lone mothers are already in work, but it will have little impact if the prevailing norm is to remain on welfare.

More generally, the extent to which welfare policies should rest upon assumptions about 'rational economic wo men' has been widely debated in the literature. Mead's assault on the 'competence assumption' has already been noted, while back in Etzioni published The Moral Dimension: Towards a New Economics. This was a forceful critique of the assumptions about human motivation and behaviour that underpinned economic thinking which anticipated many of the themes of responsive communitarianism.

In particular it argued that although individuals are able to act rationally to advance their own interests - as economists assume - their capacity to do so is 'deeply affected by how well they are anchored within a sound community and sustained by a firm moral and emotive personal underpinning'. In contrast, both Murray and Ellwood could be said to assume a high level of rationality on the part of welfare claimants.

In Murray's case this should be qualified by an acknowledgement of three points. First that he does not suggest that there is an immediate correspondence between benefit levels and behaviour above a threshold note 1. Second that his discussion of the 'rules of the game' also encompasses the moral expectations conveyed by welfare programmes and, third, that he has come to place more and more emphasis upon the role of culture in explaining why patterns of behaviour persistent after welfare entitlements have been heavily curtailed.

If I understand Ellwood's position correctly, his response to Simon's argue would be to argue that he does not wish to 'make work pay' in order to promote economic activity but in order to remedy a profound injustice. The central theme of Poor Support was that the welfare system 'mocks the efforts of the working poor'. These families are playing by the rules. Unfortunately they are losing the game , p. Others, however, have suggested that the emphasis upon paid work within American welfare reform owes as much to beliefs that this will afford a better role model for children as it does to expectations that this will provide an escape from poverty.

As Christopher Jencks, for example, has argued. The most cost-effective use of an unskilled mother's time is usually caring for her children, not serving burgers while someone else cares for her children. The rationale for putting these mothers to work is political and cultural, not economic , p. There is, however, one point upon which almost all US commentators agree: the imposition of work requirements upon welfare mothers is seen as inevitable at a time when almost all married mothers are in paid employment.

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As Ann Orloff has noted, the old welfare rules 'seemed to make possible staying at home to look after children at public expenses - exactly what isn't guaranteed to any other mother or father' , p. Similar arguments have, of course, been advanced by British critics of Simon's position Lister, The moral senses and creative moral agents.

A final point is the question as to how far a commitment to view the welfare subject as a creative moral agent requires us to engage with the literature on the moral senses. What, for example, is the linkage between Carol and Bren's notion of people as 'good enough moral actors' and James Q Wilson's discussion of moral sentiments, or Bauman's argument that the loss of certainties wrought by post modernism creates opportunities to be fully moral? When liberal critics pointed out that the rise in the number of lone parents coincided with a fall rather than an increase in benefit levels, he replied that 'welfare does not bribe poor women to have babies, it enables them to do so'.

Once benefits had reached a threshold of adequacy, he argued, then subsequent fluctuations above that level would make no difference. When fellow conservatives complained that he neglected the role of personal character, he responded by arguing that the 'perverse incentives' generated by the benefit system were creating new patterns of behaviour which were then becoming self-perpetuating.

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The mechanism through which this was happening was a change in the values held within low-income communities. Whereas Losing Ground had argued that it 'is questionable whether social policy in a free society can create values that broadly affect behaviour', he later claimed that when. Community values and expectations of male behaviour are changed, and with them the behaviour of young men and women who never touch an AFDC cheque , p.

The defining characteristic of Stakeholder Welfare was to be that people own the welfare capital created by their contributions and those of their employers. This, Field argues, is essential if welfare is to reflect the growing demand for what he calls social autonomy in contemporary industrial societies. It is not simply a question of securing a basket of goods and services, but of 'deciding oneself on what and when to put objects into the basket'. It is this growing emphasis on personal control which has lead to a withdrawal from 'old fashioned collective efforts' which deny 'people the choice and timing which is now increasingly becoming a premium' There remains, however, the central difficulty that if 'Stakeholding' is to be an inclusive concept, then ways will have to be found of paying contributions on behalf of those unable to pay them for themselves.

There can be no redistribution within the schemes from the better off to the poorer contributors, and so these contributions will have to be paid by government. Throughout the book Murray presents his data in a form which equates the black population of the US with the poor and the white population with the non-poor. This is despite the fact that there were in some