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Citizenship, Social Citizenship and the Defence of Welfare Provision

  • Desmond S. King and Jeremy Waldron


This article analyses the normative status of claims to the social rights of citizenship in the light of New Right criticisms of the welfare state. The article assesses whether there is any normative justification for treating welfare provision and citizenship as intrinsically linked. After outlining T. H. Marshall's conception of citizenship the article reviews its status in relation to: traditional arguments about citizenship of the polity; relativist arguments about the embedded place of citizenship within current societies; and, drawing upon Rawlsian analysis, absolutist arguments about what being a member of a modern society implies. Each argument has some strengths and together they indicate the importance of retaining the idea of citizenship at the centre of modern political debates about social and economic arrangements.



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1 See, for example. Taylor-Gooby, Peter, Public Opinion, Ideology and State Welfare (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1985). The 1986 British social attitudes survey revealed growing support for the institutions of the welfare state: see Bosanquet, Nick, ‘Interim Report: Public Spending and the Welfare State’, in Jowell, Roger, Witherspoon, Sharon and Brook, Lindsay, eds, British Social Attitudes: The 1986 Report (Aldershot: Gower Publishers, 1986). For an alternative view, and criticisms of these opinion polls, see Harris, Ralph and Seldon, Arthur, Welfare Without the State: A Quarter-Century of Suppressed Choice (London: Hobart Paperback No. 26, Institute of Economic Affairs, 1987).

2 See: Dryzek, John and Goodin, Robert E., ‘Risk-Sharing and Social Justice: The Motivational Foundations of the Post-War Welfare State’, British Journal of Political Science, 16 (1986), 134; King, Desmond S., The New Right: Politics, Markets and Citizenship (London: Macmillan, 1987); and Morgan, Kenneth O., Labour in Power 1945–1951 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1984).

3 See chapters in Rose, Richard, ed., Public Employment in Western Nations (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985).

4 See, for example: Friedman, Milton, Capitalism and Freedom (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1962); Hayek, F. A., The Road to Serfdom (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1944); and Hayek, , The Constitution of Liberty (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1960).

5 See Davies, David G., United States' Taxes and Tax Policy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986) regarding the United States.

6 See Gilder, George, Poverty and Wealth (New York: Basic Books, 1981). For a similar, but more effectively developed, thesis see Murray, Charles A., ‘The Two Wars Against Poverty: Economic Growth and the Great Society’, The Public Interest, 69 (1982), 316. Murray attributes the drop in husband-wife family units in the United States during the 1960s to the federal anti-poverty programmes associated with the Great Society: during the 1960s, he argues, ‘fundamental changes occurred in the philosophy, administration, and magnitude of social welfare programs for low-income families, and these changes altered – both directly and indirectly – the social risks and rewards, and the financial costs and benefits, of maintaining a husband-wife family’ (p. 15).

7 Friedman, , Capitalism and Freedom; Hayek, , Road to Serfdom and Constitution of Liberty.

8 See, for example, Nozick, Robert, Anarchy, State and Utopia (New York: Basic Books, 1974), Chaps 7–8.

9 See figures in: King, , New Right; King, Desmond S., ‘The State and the Social Structures of Welfare in Advanced Industrial Democracies’, Theory and Society, 16 (1987), 841–68; and Robinson, Ray, ‘Restructuring the Welfare State: An Analysis of Public Expenditure, 1979/80–1984/85’, Journal of Social Policy, 15 (1986), 121.

10 Goodin, Robert E., Reasons for Welfare (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, forthcoming 1988); Plant, Raymond, Equality, Markets and the State (London: Fabian Tract no. 494, 1984); and Plant, , ‘Needs, Agency and Rights’ in Sampford, C. J. G. and Galligan, D. J., eds, Law, Rights, and the Welfare State (London: Croom Helm, 1986).

11 See, for the general argument, Esping-Andersen, Gosta, Politics Against Markets (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1985) and ‘Power and Distributional Regimes’, Politics and Society, 14 (1985), 223–56; and, for Britain, King, , New Right, and recent publications of the Fabian Society, for example, Mann, Michael, Socialism Can Survive (London: Fabian Tract no. 502, 1985).

12 Marshall, T. H., ‘Citizenship and Social Class’, Class, Citizenship and Social Development (New York: Doubleday, 1964). This essay was first published in 1949.

13 Marshall, , ‘Citizenship and Social Class’, pp. 84, 92.

14 Marshall, , ‘Citizenship and Social Class’, p. 71.

15 Marshall, , ‘Citizenship and Social Class’, p. 72.

16 Marshall, , ‘Citizenship and Social Class’, p. 72.

17 As Marshall himself notes, ‘education … is a service of a unique kind’ since ‘the education of children has a direct bearing on citizenship, and, when the State guarantees that all children shall be educated, it has the requirements and the nature of citizenship definitely in mind. It is trying to stimulate the growth of citizens in the making. The right to education is a genuine social right of citizenship, because the aim of education during childhood is to shape the future adult … Education is a necessary prerequisite of civil freedom’. Marshall, , ‘Citizenship and Social Class’, pp. 81, 82.

18 Marshall, , ‘Citizenship and Social Class’, p. 82.

19 Marshall, , ‘Citizenship and Social Class’, p. 72.

20 Marshall, , ‘Citizenship and Social Class’, p. 75.

21 Marshall, , ‘Citizenship and Social Class’, p. 80.

22 Marshall, , ‘Citizenship and Social Class’, p. 81.

23 As another scholar argues, ‘welfare statism is the twentieth century's response to the demands of citizens – however articulated – for material protection from contingencies that are beyond their privately organized capacity to resist’, Friedman, Kathi V., Legitimation of Social Rights and the Western Welfare State: A Weberian Perspective (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1981), p. 15.

24 See also King, , New Right, and Parker, Julia, Social Policy and Citizenship (London: Macmillan, 1975).

25 With regard to the first set of issues, much of the debate has occurred within stratification studies, where Marshall's essay was ‘one of the seminal works which resulted in the reorientation of the whole discussion of the class structure in capitalist societies’ according to Lockwood, David, ‘For T. H. Marshall’, Sociology, 8 (1974), 363–7. Arguments about citizenship informed Dahrendorf's, RalfClass and Class Conflict in Industrial Society (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1957) in which he considers the accuracy of Marshall's claims about the equalizing impact of social rights. The argument here is about empirical accuracy not normative validity. Dahrendorf contends that Marshall's thesis neglects the social distribution of power: though greater equalization through citizenship rights has certainly occurred, it has not resolved the conflicts centred on class. More recently, Giddens considers also the utility of Marshall's claims as a possible refutation of the centrality of class conflict. He argues that citizenship rights cannot be separated from the contradictory forms of modern capitalism, and more specifically, since the rights of citizenship do not extend to the workplace – where class conflict is most persistent according to Giddens – Marshall's thesis is an in adequate account of contemporary Western democracies: see Giddens, Anthony, A Contemporary Critique of Historical Materialism (London: Macmillan, 1981), pp. 226–9. A more sympathetic treatment of Marshall's arguments is contributed by Turner who argues that the pursuit and establishment of citizenship rights has altered the nature of capitalist society in a fundamental and positive way: Turner, Bryan S., Citizenship and Capitalism (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1986).

26 Such a proposal is advanced by Parker when she observes that, ‘the idea of citizenship implies that there should be no stigma attached to the use of public services, either because of popular attitudes condemning dependency or as a result of deterrent administrative procedures or poor standards of provision’. Parker, , Social Policy and Citizenship, pp. 145–6. In this regard, the provision of education and health services in Britain conforms more closely to the model of citizenship rights than, say, the provision of supplementary benefit. We will examine such distinctions in a little more detail in section 4.

27 Marshall, , ‘Citizenship and Social Class’, pp. 102–3, our emphasis.

28 Marshall, , ‘Citizenship and Social Class’, p. 117.

29 We are grateful to Robert Goodin for drawing this distinction to our attention. See Goodin, 's Reasons for Welfare, Chap. 4 on ‘Community’.

30 Marshall, , ‘Citizenship and Social Class’, p. 84.

31 This is the view which Giddens appears to ascribe to Marshall's analysis. See Giddens's, AnthonyProfiles and Critiques in Social Theory (London: Macmillan, 1982).

32 Aristotle, Politics, trans. Sinclair, T. A. (Harmondsworth, Middx: Penguin Books, 1962), Bk III, Chaps 1, 13.

33 Plato, , The Republic, trans. Lee, Desmond (Harmondsworth, Middx: Penguin Books, 1974) and The Laws, trans. Sound, T. J. (Harmondsworth, Middx: Penguin Books, 1980).

34 Aristotle, , Politics, Bk II, Chap. 7.

35 Machiavelli, N., The Discourses (Harmondsworth, Middx: Penguin Books, 1970).

36 Rousseau, J. J., Discourse on Political Economy, trans, and ed. Cole, G. D. H. (London: Dent, 1966), p. 134.

37 See Lukes, Steven, Power: A Radical View (London: Macmillan, 1974) and Marcuse, Herbert, One-Dimensional Man (London: Sphere, 1964).

38 Aristotle, , Politics, Bk III, Chap. 13.

39 Aristotle, , Politics, Bk III, Chap. 5.

40 Plato, , The Republic, Bk VI, 495e.

41 As de Tocqueville puts it, once the workman becomes habituated to the concerns of, say, his particular place on the assembly line, ‘he no longer belongs to himself, but to the calling which he has chosen … In proportion as the principle of the division of labour is more extensively applied, the workman becomes more weak, more narrow-minded, and more dependent’; Tocqueville, Alexis deDemocracy in America, ed. Mayer, J. P. and Lerner, Max (New York, Harper & Row, 1970), Bk II, Chap. 20. This seems to mean then that the workman lacks the necessary qualities for citizenship: an open and broad mind, an independent point of view, and sufficient experience of the world beyond his own hovel or workshop to allow him to address himself intelligently to the great and general issues of politics.

42 As John Stuarl Mill puts it: ‘those whose bread is already secured, and who desire no favours from men in power, or from bodies of men, or from the public, have nothing to fear from the open avowal of opinions’. On Liberty (London: Dent, 1972), Chap. 2, para. 19.

43 ‘We receive, we hold, we transmit our government and our privileges, in the same manner as we enjoy and transmit our property’, Burke claimed, as an inheritance from the past and a responsibility for the future (Burke, Edmund, Reflections on the French Revolution (Harmondsworth, Middx: Penguin Books, 1969), p. 120). He insisted therefore that ‘by the spirit of philosophic analogy’, we should conclude that the skills which are developed in those who are used to handling landed property are the very skills which we should want the citizen to exercise. These are skills which are unavailable to the common masses, who ‘immersed in hopeless poverty, could regard all property … with no other eye than that of envy. Nothing lasting, and therefore in human life nothing useful, could be expected from such men’ (Burke, , Reflections, p. 134).

44 Hegel, G. W., The Philosophy of Right, ed. Knox, T. M. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1967), para. 4.

45 Bentham, Jeremy, The Theory of Legislation, ed. Ogden, C. K. (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1931), p. 113.

46 Benlham, , Theory of Legislation, p. 111.

47 See Hayek, F. A., Law, Legislation and Liberty (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1973, 1976 and 1979), 3 vols.

48 Some of these points are discussed in Marshall, T. H., The Right to Welfare (London: Heinemann, 1981), pp. 83–4. For the motion of a right to welfare, see Waldron, Jeremy, Nonsense Upon Stilts: Bentham, Burke and Marx on the Rights of Man (London: Methuen, 1987), pp. 156–60.

49 Weber, Max, ‘Politics as a Vocation’ in From Max Weber, ed. Gerth, Hans and Mills, C. Wright (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1948), p. 77.

50 Walzer, Michael, Spheres of Justice (Oxford: Martin Robertson, 1983), p. 62.

51 Walzer, , Spheres of Justice, p. 84.

52 Walzer, , Spheres of Justice, p. 68.

53 Walzer, , Spheres of Justice, p. 84.

54 Walzer, , Spheres of Justice, p. 66.

55 Walzer, , Spheres of Justice, p. 67. See Goodin, , Reasons for Welfare, Chap. 4, for a general critique of ‘community’ in arguments of this sort.

56 Rawls, John, A Theory of Justice (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1971).

57 Rawls, , Theory of Justice, pp. 275–84. Minimum provision in this context is discussed in Waldron, Jeremy, ‘John Rawls and the Social Minimum’, Journal of Applied Philosophy, 3 (1986), 2134.

58 Flew, Anthony, The Politics of Procrustes: Contradictions of Enforced Equality (London: Temple-Smith, 1981).

59 Nozick, , Anarchy, State and Utopia.

60 Hayek, F. A., Law, Legislation and Liberty (London: Routledge, Kegan & Paul, 1976), p. 100.

61 Rawls, , Theory of Justice, pp. 138–9.

62 Rawls, , Theory of Justice, p. 13, our emphasis.

63 Rawls, , Theory of Justice, p. 13.

64 Rawls, , Theory of Justice, pp. 176–8.

65 Rawls, J., ‘The Idea of an Overlapping Consensus’, Oxford Journal of Legal Studies, 7 (1987), 4; see also Rawls, , ‘Kantian Constructivism in Moral Theory’, Journal of Philosophy, 77 (1980), 515–72. For a critique of this relativism, see Waldron, , Nonsense Upon Stilts, pp. 166–72.

* Department of Politics, University of Edinburgh; Jurisprudence and Social Policy Program, School of Law, University of California, Berkeley, respectively. This is a joint work, authorship is listed alphabetically. The authors wish to thank the following for comments upon an earlier draft: Mike Adler, Ruth Adler, Nigel Bowles, Vinit Haksar, Neil MacCormick, Peter Morriss, Kim Scheppele, Janet Siltanen, Albert Weale and participants in the University of Edinburgh's Department of Politics seminar. They are also grateful for the advice and suggestions of Robert Goodin, co-editor of this Journal.

Citizenship, Social Citizenship and the Defence of Welfare Provision

  • Desmond S. King and Jeremy Waldron


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