This report provides both a record and a critical assessment of the first workshop of the Foundation for Law, Justice and Society Programme on The Social Contract Revisited: The Modern Welfare State. The workshop was held in Oxford on 18-20 April 2007.
The purpose of the workshop was to unveil the main normative principles that lie at the foundations of social contract thinking and to construct a workable relationship between them and modern welfare state constraints. In doing so, participants and discussants have addressed facets and developing trends of which both the social contract and the welfare state have to take account. These include membership (gender, race, immigrants), privatization, globalization, aging of the population, and various demographic changes.
In the United States, ’welfare‘ and the politics of welfare – cash assistance for families, generally female-headed single-parent families with children – have been treated as a separable realm of policy, and too often as synonymous with all of anti-poverty policy.
This report summarizes the three-year programme investigating the social contract and the modern welfare state. It provides an overview of social contract theory and a history of its evolution over the last century, as it is used to inform welfare policy by governments in various parts of the world, including Scandinavia, Latin America, the UK and the United States.
The current UK government has invested heavily in labour market activation, both as an economic and social strategy. This has resulted in the phased introduction of significant changes to welfare provision, operating alongside other activation-based initiatives, including a high-profile skills agenda, a national childcare strategy, and ‘family-friendly’ employment policies to smooth the path to paid work for those with family responsibilities.