Towards a Citizens’ Welfare State

Theory, Culture and Society 18 (2-3):91-111 (2001)
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Notions of recognition and difference do not inform the mainstream debate about welfare reform, which is, instead, dominated by a dichotomous discourse of active modernization vs passive ‘welfare dependency’. The article challenges this dichotomy within the context of New Labour’s welfare reform agenda in the UK. It argues, first, that welfare reform should treat improvements in social security benefits not as promoting ‘passive’ welfare but as complementary to labour market activation policies. Second, it redefines active welfare to incorporate notions of active citizenship, which construct welfare subjects as actors in the political process of welfare policy-making and delivery. As a framework for this position, the article discusses three ‘R’s of welfare reform, risk protection, redistribution and recognition, together with the further two ‘R’s of rights and responsibilities. It concludes by emphasizing the importance of a rights agenda both to tackling poverty and exclusion and to recognition politics.



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