The Labour government has often argued that it is attempting to find a ‘third way’ in politics, appearing to take its inspiration from Anthony Giddens and, in relation to Labour's pensions policy, Giddens' notion of ‘positive welfare’.
Noting that the government maintains that ‘pensions are all about security’, and that it has declared the importance of this position throughout its reform of UK pension provision, this article critically examines the nature of the ‘security’ its reform is likely to deliver. Using the work of Giddens, it notes the importance of the concept of ontological security, and the relevance of trust to security. From this basis, and drawing upon the work of both Giddens and Niklas Luhmann, it goes on to consider whether the government's reforms of the three pillars of pension provision in the UK – state provision, occupational provision and personal provision – are capable of delivering greater security in pension provision.
It concludes that, quite apart from the potential criticisms of the conception of positive welfare itself, the government's apparent adoption of such an approach has failed to appreciate adequately the importance of ontological security to any understanding of welfare. As a consequence, it is suggested that the practical outcome is reform that is likely to create much less security in pension provision than either Giddens' approach, or indeed regular government pronouncements, might suggest.