Re-thinking the social divisions of welfare implications for intersectional inequalities and redistributive justice

The School has organised a series of workshops, supported by the UK Social Policy Association, to explore the significance of Richard Titmuss’s work.

Sixty years ago, Richard Titmuss published ‘Essays on the Welfare State’ - a seminal text underlining the moral and functional legitimacy of social interdependency between citizens. Titmuss (1958) sought to expand and re-vision public understandings of ‘welfare’ to highlight fiscal and occupational fields of state assistance that run alongside public social transfers and services. In doing so, Titmuss challenged the notion that ‘welfare’ is the reserve of the working class by outlining what the middle and upper classes receive through state subsidy and support. Sixty years on, developments in UK social policy demonstrate the on-going relevance of Titmuss’s work. Equally however, there is a need to re-think the social divisions of welfare thesis and its application to the present context (Mann, 2009). Doing so makes it possible to explore more expansive questions concerning redistributive justice that relate to:

  • the regressive potential of ‘public’ welfare and its bearing on intersectional inequalities;

  • the role of corporate welfare in consolidating (and obscuring) social divisions of ‘work’ and welfare; and

  • social interdependency between citizens and the civic subjectivity of ‘losers’ and ‘winners’ in welfare politics.

To consider these questions and the issues surrounding them, the School of Sociology and Social Policy at the University of Leeds is organising three half-day workshops of presentations and debate between invited speakers and delegates. Each workshop will close with a panel discussion to consider key lessons and issues identified surrounding the relationship between vertical and horizontal inequalities.

Workshop 1: Regressive ‘Public’ Welfare: Implications for Intersectional Inequalities, University of Leeds

Since 2010, administrative shifts in entitlement have undermined the redistributive functions of the tax-benefit system in the UK. Social policy analysis has tended to explore how these shifts affect material and symbolic inequalities across a) the income distribution or b) social groupings. However, less attention has been given to their effects on the relationship between vertical inequalities of resource and horizontal inequalities of social difference. Where a more multi-dimensional consideration of the distributional effects of social policy has been undertaken, great insight is possible about the changing status and relationship between vertical and horizontal inequalities that are produced and sometimes sustained through welfare intervention and recalibration (e.g. Hall et al, 2017). This event will explore these issues and pose a number of empirical and normative questions about the distributional role of social policy in light of entrenched intersectional inequalities. This event will extend consideration of the regressive potential of welfare intervention and how this interacts with categories of social difference such as gender, race and ethnicity, disability and age.

This event will be held on 14 June 2018. Find out more and book a place.

Workshop 2: Corporate Welfare: Consolidating & Obscuring Social Divisions in ‘Work’? York St John University

Having considered the regressive potential of ‘public’ welfare and its implications for intersectional inequalities, this event will seek to broaden out understandings of ‘welfare’ to include and consider the ‘corporate’. Whilst Titmuss (1958, 1976) acknowledged that private sector organisations indirectly benefit from state subsidy and support through occupational and fiscal welfare, there has been less attention given to the different forms of corporate welfare directly received by private sector organisations. Recent research into the scale and extent of state reliefs, transfers and in-kind assistance received by and through businesses highlights the need to expand the social divisions of welfare framework in order to address questions concerning redistributive justice (e.g. Farnsworth, 2013). This includes questions about the ‘beneficiaries’ of corporate welfare and the role of the market economy in delivering ‘benefits’ to all workers. In this respect, this event will consider the role of corporate welfare in consolidating (and obscuring) social divisions of work and welfare and the inequalities that are accommodated therein.

This event will be held in November 2018. Further details will be available soon.

Workshop 3: Public Understandings of Inequality & Civic Subjectivity in Welfare Politics, University of Leeds

This event will explore the relative merits of attending to subjective perceptions of social position amidst economic restructuring and the explanatory fruits this offers for understanding the role of welfare politics in the social reproduction of inequalities and difference. Consideration will also be given to public perceptions of inequality, the moral and explanatory frameworks that underpin public attitudes and the policy preferences deemed appropriate and possible as a result. Titmuss’s (1958) original intention was to underline the role of social interdependency between all citizens. Beyond public understandings of welfare and inequality, delegates will explore how this interdependency might be deployed in ways that make it possible to mobilise civic subjectivity in attempts to move towards redistributive justice. This will involve theoretical and empirical examination of the civic subjectivity of political agents and what bearing shifts in welfare politics have on the collective (dis-) identification of citizens and the constrained possibilities this presents.

This event will be held in Spring 2019. Further details will be available soon.