Liberalism, Perfectionism and Workfare

Analyse & Kritik 31 (1):159-180 (2009)
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Recent welfare reform has resulted in new work requirements for welfare recipients. These measures need to be justified, as they impair recipients’ freedom. This paper first repudiates economic justifications for these developments and argues that the dominant justification is perfectionist. But unlike workfare, perfectionism is not necessarily paternalistic. The second part of the paper outlines a liberal perfectionism which allows only for autonomy-enhancing politics. Though even such autonomy-enhancing politics cannot be made obligatory. The last section concludes that workfare’s paternalism cannot be attributed to perfectionist justifications, but rather stems from the narrow philosophy of work that is applied. The idea that enforced wage labour is a reliable tool for inducing autonomy is refuted. In the end, workfare needs to be rejected, as it is based on assumptions that are mistaken both normatively and empirically



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