David Garland is probably the most influential current analyst of crime and penal policy, and almost all discussions of their contemporary history are influenced by The Culture of Control in particular. So it is no surprise that his new book on the welfare state has attracted many reviews in criminology journals, despite saying almost nothing about crime. However, his work on penality has in various ways always emphasized the significant interdependence of punishment and welfare (not coincidentally the title of his first book). Garland’s brief but magisterial and penetrating analysis of the welfare state should, and doubtless will be, a major presence in criminology, as well as in social science and public debate. The Welfare State is written with the sophisticated skill, scholarship and style demonstrated in all David Garland’s work. In its short space, it incorporates a definitive account of the history and meaning of the welfare state, with due sensitivity to variations in its form and the vigorous debates that have always surrounded it. In addition, the book constructs a significant theoretical thesis that is thought provoking, but also will no doubt prove controversial. The book begins with a blunt question: ‘What, in fact, is the welfare state?’ (p. 1). There is no straightforward or simple answer to this, as the first chapter ‘What is the welfare state?’ shows. An ad hominem clue to the complex and multifaceted character of the welfare state is that its advocates as well as its critics come from all points of the political spectrum. It is also noteworthy that many writers whose work is widely seen as providing theoretical justifications for the welfare state disavow the term, including Beveridge, Marshall, Titmuss and Rawls. Nowadays it is most common to think of the welfare state as the pet of the Left and a bete noire of the Right. But many of its architects were conservatives (e.g. Bismarck, R. A. Butler). Many more were l(L)iberals who were hostile to socialism, such as Beveridge and Keynes. Whilst in Britain we associate the welfare state above all with the 1945 Labour Government, its leaders were democratic socialists who were for the most part staunchly anti-Communist. The clue to this apparent conundrum is that, as David Garland argues cogently, far from being opposed to capitalism (as conservative orthodoxy has claimed since the rise of neoliberalism), the welfare state is functional for a market economy. This insight was recognized early on by Marx, whose account in Capital of the Factory Acts, one of the first modern state interventions to protect the working class, showed that in the first place the legislation was necessary for capitalism. This was because it sought to regulate the tendency of an unfettered free market to drive workers so hard that minimal standards of labour health and welfare—the primary source of productivity and profit—were destroyed. As David Garland shows, the welfare state has three distinct but interdependent facets. The first is the provision of welfare for the poor. This conception is the one that is most reviled by the welfare state’s right-wing opponents and is the most controversial, in large part because it has an inescapable redistributive element. While there is probably a broad consensus at least in principle for relieving the suffering of the poor at a minimal level, there are fierce controversies, vigorously stirred by the popular media, about identifying genuine need and desert, and sanctioning abuses and malingering. The second element is the universal provision of certain services that are regarded as general social rights and founded on social insurance principles. They include old age pensions, public health and education. Epitomized by the sacred status of the NHS in British society, these are widely popular and untainted by the stigma that has become attached to the terminology of ‘welfare’ after decades of neoliberalism. The third element is the commitment to manage the economy to achieve high levels of employment and prosperity. The architects of the post-World War II welfare state saw this as crucial and believed it possible through Keynesian techniques in the domestic sphere, underpinned crucially by the Bretton Woods scheme for regulating international financial flows that Keynes played a large part in negotiating. Even though the Keynesian consensus was shattered in the 1970s with the advent of neoliberalism, governments remain committed in principle to trying to manage economies, albeit by monetary and supply-side techniques. All societies have some ways of addressing problems of poverty and seeking to insure against the vicissitudes of health, age and misfortune, as Garland charts. However, growth of state responsibility for this is primarily a modern phenomenon, requiring the emergence of strong relatively centralized states. Garland sketches the processes by which this was accomplished, probing also the variety of forms in different political economies and cultures. Various trajectories towards increasing state social insurance, service provision and economic security culminated in the post-World War II welfare states that became universal (albeit with somewhat different forms) in the West. This was the ‘fully-fledged version’ labelled by Garland ‘Welfare State 1.0’. As he sums it up: ‘In the 1950s and 1960s, welfare states expanded in scope and ambition, becoming vast machines for economic growth and social governance, deploying a myriad of laws and regulations, and spending between 20 and 30 per cent of GDP’ (p. 46). They encompassed five institutional sectors: social insurance, social assistance, publicly funded social services, social work and personal social services, and economic governance. While the universality in the West of some version of Welfare State 1.0 reflected the post-War Keynesian and welfarist consensus, there were clear variations. These are encapsulated by Esping-Andersen’s celebrated typology of social democratic, conservative-corporatist and liberal regimes, cited by Garland and already influential in criminology, especially in the burgeoning comparative political economy of penality. In the final chapters, Garland traces the deconstruction of Welfare State 1.0 since the 1970s, as the rise of neoliberal economic management ousted the Keynesian consensus. This tendency affected all versions of the welfare state, but most markedly and rapidly the United States, the United Kingdom and other liberal regimes. Garland pinpoints various roots of this. In the economic sphere, a combination of factors undermined the capacity of nation states and international institutions to regulate economies in the Keynesian style. Widespread economic downturn and fiscal pressures triggered the abandonment of the Bretton Woods system for managing and regulating currencies internationally. The most visible and dramatic precipitant of the ensuing years of ‘stagflation’ was the 1973 OPEC oil price shock. This resulted in the dominance of neoliberal economic policies (in brief a fetishization of ‘free’ markets, squeezing and much tighter monitoring of public expenditure, deregulation of labour and capital markets and international financial flows). This meant that the growth of globalization, initially stimulated by advances in communications technologies, was accompanied by the virtually unfettered growth of international markets and corporations. Neoliberalism in the economic sphere was interdependent with shifts in culture towards greater individualism, private consumerism and less concern for public welfare, to some degree an unexpected progeny of the 1960s counter-culture, which had originally had strong left and communitarian elements. National governments lost much of their independent capacity to manage economies in a way that was conducive to high-spending and redistributive Welfare State 1.0 models. However, even in the most neoliberal countries, welfare state programmes survived but gravitated towards a new paradigm, ‘Welfare State 2.0’. This involved a shift away from the redistributive and non-universal aspects that became increasingly demonized in the popular media and public opinion. More recently, further pressures have developed in the wake of the 2007/08 financial and economic crashes and the emergence of what David Garland refers to as ‘new social risks’. These include the much more precarious nature of employment for many because of the growing bifurcation of labour markets. An increasing proportion of jobs offer little or no security or benefits, and insufficient pay for subsistence. There are also significant demographic shifts such as the much more diverse forms of family and personal relationships, aging populations and growing international migration. This makes for highly contested arguments about the appropriate arrangements for ‘Welfare State 3.0’. Some voices are most concerned about the plight of the excluded and the ‘precariat’ and seek 21st-century versions embodying the ‘Spirit of ‘45’ that inspired ‘Welfare State 1.0’. Against them are the neoliberal advocates of ever more fiscal austerity and disciplinary sanctions for those receiving welfare. The thesis running through David Garland’s inspiring book is that welfare states are not only functional for capitalism but also necessary for its survival. They provide a counterbalance to the downside of the creative destruction that Schumpeter saw as characteristic of capitalism. They provide insurance against the vicissitudes of economic and personal fortune, services (health, education etc.) to reproduce an effective workforce and survival protection for those incapacitated from inclusion in economic competition. This is not only practically beneficial for capitalist production, but a legitimation of it as benefitting everyone, albeit unequally. Thus, the book ends on an optimistic note about welfare states’ capacity to survive the neoliberal and other challenges. This is an attractive and persuasive case. However, a few months can be a long time in politics and social analysis. The book was published in the spring of 2016. Since then there have been largely unforeseen political shocks around the world, most obviously the Brexit vote in the United Kingdom and the election of Trump in the United States. While Garland is surely right that the welfare state is functional for capitalism, and may indeed be a prerequisite of it, it is not clear that capitalism will meet its survival requirements, certainly not necessarily in either a liberal or social democratic form, although we must hope and struggle for the best. What is certain is that this wise, informative and inspiring book will help immensely in working for a positive future for us all. © The Author(s) 2016, 2017. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies (ISTD). All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
The British Journal of Criminology – Oxford University Press
Published: Mar 1, 2018
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