The Historical Context

  • Rodney Lowe


The empirical analysis of welfare policy, as argued in Part I, needs to be informed by competing theoretical interpretations of the nature of both the welfare state and policymaking. It also needs to be placed in historical context. It is all too tempting to consider the overall development of policy — or to judge the relative success or failure of an individual policy — in isolation and according to some internal logic. Indeed a belief in incrementalism encourages this. However, it must be recognised that welfare policy was subject to external forces to which successive governments, distracted by other problems, responded within the constraints of what was deemed to be administratively and politically possible. The purpose of this chapter is to identify these various constraints and influences. What, in particular, was the economic context in which welfare policy developed and to what demographic pressures was it subject? Who held political power and how did this affect the priority accorded to welfare policy? How did the machinery of government at a central, regional and local level adapt to the more positive welfare role which the state had assumed? How receptive was public opinion, as represented by vested interests and the electorate, to the duties as well as the rights imposed by state welfare?


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Copyright information

© Rodney Lowe 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rodney Lowe
    • 1
  1. 1.University of BristolUK

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