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February 13, 2006

The Mahdi Bunting.

Poor old Madeleine:

The problem, claim the authors, was the betrayal of the working class's vision of the welfare state as a system of mutual insurance - to tide one over a tough patch - and its transformation into a welfare state of entitlement and rights based on need. It had moral force, but to many interviewees it was unfair: anyone can live off the system, they complained.
To compound the sense of injury, the dogged white racism that provides a convincing rationale to many of what has happened is treated with contempt by the "do-gooders" of the welfare state - the social workers and housing officers. Not for the first time, the professional middle classes find grounds for moral superiority over the working class.
It was precisely these last that Michael Young predicted would be the price of a strong welfare state back in his first book on the East End, Family and Kinship, published in 1957 - one of the great works of popular sociology of the 20th century. For this new book Young (who died in 2002) and his co-authors went back to the communities he had interviewed in the 50s, and the findings prove his prescience.

Meanwhile, the bitter pill to swallow for the well-intentioned liberal is that while the welfare state may have saved many from dire deprivation, it has singularly failed to engage the active participation of its clients. Instead of being the engine of social democracy once envisaged, it has proved to be an engine of resentful alienation from the state.

So postwar "progress" may have served the middle classes well, materially and socially - they've still got their social networks, which they use for personal advancement, status and companionship - but it has served the working class much less well. Their brightest offspring are adopted and well rewarded, but the networks and self-respect of the communities from which they come have largely been destroyed.

So the entire post-war welfare state has had the effect of screwing the working class. And this was known and pointed to as it started. And has been repeated since. Yet, led by such as The Mahdi
herself and confreres at the smugly middle class Guardian, it has continued and thus continued to screw the indigenous working class.

Hhhhm. Who would have thought it, eh? So, are we about to see a reverse on the scale of a Melanie Philips?  Bunter herself beginning to argue for for the deconstruction of this failed state program? I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

Perhaps we should design a monument to The Guardian and all who sail in her? Perhaps just the masthead of the paper, writ large, and placed in one (or all?) of the appalling estates where chavs and neds suffer from the depredations of these failed policies. The inscription?

Look upon my works, ye Mighty, and despair!

Suitable, don’t you think?

February 13, 2006 in Politics | Permalink


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Pack the lot of them over to Syria for their Damascene conversion (or death, whichever comes first)

Posted by: Rub-a-dub | Feb 13, 2006 12:33:27 PM

The underlying reason for the disenchantment of the white working classes in Tower Hamlets with the welfare system seems to be the perceived favouritism shown to Bangladeshi families, largely very poor and many of them recent immigrants, in the allocation of social housing, which is incredibly scarce in the area. Of course, this wouldn't be such an issue if there was more social housing to go round. The sensible solution to this problem, as to so many others, is therefore to build more social housing.

Posted by: Jim | Feb 13, 2006 12:46:51 PM

Yes, if available resources weren't so limited, this would not be a problem. And resources happen to be finite only in this one very narrow and exceptional special case of conditions which, by chance, the residents of the Tower Hamlets happen unfortunately to have run afoul of. The special case to which I refer, of course, is "reality".

But seriously...

... how do you ... reinvigorate the relationship networks and stimulate the ethic of mutuality that is so vivid a memory among the elderly white East Enders

Easy! Within a generation or two after the whole thing collapses, the ones who rebuild that stuff will be the ones who survive.

The question she's asking is "how do you get people to behave differently without changing the incentives?". That's a really dumb question.

Posted by: P. Froward | Feb 13, 2006 7:46:19 PM

[i]how do you ... reinvigorate the relationship networks and stimulate the ethic of mutuality that is so vivid a memory among the elderly white East Enders[/i]

Easy. Get rid of the welfare state then wait a few years. They spontaneously emerged before so they will spontaneously reemerge (but maybe not in the same form as before).

Posted by: chris | Feb 13, 2006 10:30:28 PM

Failed government programmes aren't terminated; they're expanded.

Tim adds: Both true and sad.

Posted by: Ronnie Horesh | Feb 14, 2006 9:55:14 AM

I think Jim has a point.

The Welfare state hasn't worked in Tower Hamlets so we need more of it.

Posted by: JohnM | Feb 14, 2006 10:30:48 AM