The aim of this book is to outline a variety of ideological perspectives on welfare and to consider how these ideas are reflected in a range of social policies. It is important to realise at the outset that ideas have an important part to play in setting the tone and defining the parameters of political activity and that when governments develop their policies they often do so within constantly changing ideological frameworks. Ideologies do not stand still, nor do they develop in isolation of the policies and debates engineered by governments. Ideologies develop as a result of successes and failures of government initiatives and in response to circumstances that can sometimes appear beyond the control of government. This book looks at ideological debates about the role of the state in tending to the general welfare of the citizens and concentrates, in particular, on the development of ideas and policies in such areas as the benefits system, housing, health care and education. Ideologies provide us with numerous interpretations of economic, social and political life. We can pose questions about who should be responsible for financing health care and to what extent the state should provide benefits, subsidise housing or provide education. It is often the case that the answers to these questions owe more to our ideological assumptions about the character of humanity than to distinct views on social issues. Each ideology has its own distinctive way of viewing human characteristics, of interpreting economic and social affairs, of considering the legitimate functions of the state and of challenging and changing the way we live. By looking at ideologies, we have access to a range of critical perspectives on contemporary society and a broad spectrum of possibilities for the future.
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