Are ideologies such as Social Democracy or Neoliberalismsuccessful in promoting human welfare? This essay will attempt to discuss theseideologies and decipher whether or not they foster human welfare in relationsto different areas of social policy of social policy provisions such as health careand social care. Whilst these ideologies have been prominent in many parts ofthe western world, this essay will largely be focused on how these ideology’sfoster human welfare and wellbeing in the United Kingdom. First, however, it is important to definethese ideologies and to provide historical context for this essay.Neoliberalism is a theory of political economic practicesthat suggests that human well-being can be improved by encouraging individualentrepreneurial freedoms and skills within institutions that promote strongprivate property rights, free markets, and free trade (Harvey, 2005).
Neoliberalismpromotes privatization and deregulation, as well as the cutting of taxes. Itentered the political mainstream in the early 1980s when Margaret Thatcher andRonald Reagan were elected in their respective offices as prime minister of theUnited Kingdom and president of the United States. Due to the rise ininflation, unemployment and collapse in the world economy in the 1970s, apolitical shift occurred in the United Kingdom moving away from a pro-welfare ‘consensus’. (Alcock et al, 2008)This shift enabled Margaret Thatcher’s conservative party to be elected intooffice, putting forward a host of neo liberalistic, economic and social policythat would heavily influence British politics for years to come. On the other side of the political spectrum is SocialDemocracy, an ideology that is largely seen as left of centre as opposed toNeoliberalism that is seen as a right-wing ideology. Social democrats generallybelieve in social justice through the progressive reform of the market economy.(Alcock et al, 2008) The argument from Social democrats is that the free market ismainly untrustworthy as it usually leads to inequality, therefore considers thestate as being the best provider of services. (Paul et al, 2011).
A socially democratic statewas established in the United Kingdom after the 1945 general election in whichthe Labour party gained power under Clement Atlee. This new government soughtto create an egalitarian society, through progressive, constitutional means.(Bochel et al, 2009) Reforms were introduced by Attlee’sgovernment to fight the ‘evils’ mentioned in the Beveridge report (1942) whichincluded the NHS, state education to the age of fifteen, public housing andnational insurance. (Alcock, 2008) There is a debateabout whether or not the welfare state was established under Attlee’s Labour party.
However, Jeffreys arguesthat whilst there were welfare provisions before 1945, the Attlee governmentreforms were more extensive and based on social democratic ideals. (Jeffreys,1992)Since the Labour governments of 1945 -1951, social democracyas an ideology has taken a slightly different form in mainstream politics ofthe UK. During the Wilson governments of 1964 – 1970, improved economicperformance was seen as an important factor to make sure the welfare statewould be relevant for the 1960s and 70s.
(Bochel et al, 2014) However due toeconomic difficulties at the time it Labour struggled to vitalise growth andinvestment failing to modernise the economy and control wages. (Tomlinson,2004) This could be seen as a failure of social democracy from an economicpoint of view, due to its enthesis on public services and the welfare state.Therefore, costing the government more money leaving the government morevulnerable to economic turmoil and arguably paving the way for neoliberalism to come to fruition in the 1980s. After theconservative governments of 1979 – 1997 an idea emerged in the mid-1990s calledthe ‘third way’. This idea came to prominence when Tony Blair was electedleader of the Labour party in 1994 who rebranded the party as ‘New Labour’.Blair argued that New Labour should reject neo liberalistic pro-marketapproaches and old left support of monopolistic government services, in favourof a ‘third-way’ approach somewhere inbetween market and state. (Blair, 1998) This alternative version of socialdemocracy essentially moved from a more ‘left-wing’ ideology to a more’centrist’ market-friendly approach.From a social policy perspective, the ideologies mentionedabove vastly differ in respect to whether or not they are successful infostering human welfare.
One major social policy provision where this becomesevident is social care. Most people rely on social care at some point duringtheir lives, whether that is assistance after an accident, support for disability, or care in old age. (Baldock etal, 2012) Over the years it has become a hot-buttonissue in regards to social policy in the UK. Looking at social care in thetwenty-first century it faces numerous challenges that previously were not asprominent. This includes the growing amount of young people with complexphysical impairments that due to advances in medical technology, are survivinginto adulthood. Older people having less access to informal support due tochanges in family makeup and technological changes raising the expectations ofthe general public in regards to services. (Bochel et al, 2014) Looking at the recent conservative and coalition governmentsof the past few years it’s fair to say that it places neoliberalism at the heart of its ideology. In light of thechallenges mentioned above the government responded with numerous policy tocounter these challenges since 2010.
An example of this is the 2014 Care Act,the aim of the act is to provide a more personalised approach to social caregiving people budgets in order to meetspecific needs, moving away from the one size fits all model from the past.(Department of Health and Social Care, 2014) This in principle can be seen apositive move because people’s specific needs are more likely to be met. However,McNicoll argues that because of the personalised approach the government introduceda minimum threshold for applicants, restricting entitlement for people whopotentially need support. (McNicoll, 2014) This, in essence, can be seen as away to cut costs something that has become the norm in pro-austerity Britain.Neoliberalism as an ideologysuggests that state services makepeople dependant on welfare, they surmise that state welfare has damagingeffects as money is wasted and it interferes with the free market (Alcock etal, 2016). This brings into lightneo liberalisms failure to successfully foster human welfare especially inregards to social care.
Due to this distrust in state services neoliberal governments are more likely to cutfunding for services such as social care. Looking at social care in the UK overthe last few years, local authorities have cut large amounts of funding for theservice. A research report on budget cuts conducted by quality watch found thatin 2009/10, local authorities in England spent £10.
6 billion in gross terms onsocial care for older adults, compared with £9.8 billion in 2012/13,2 areduction of 7 percent. Net currentspending fell by 15 percent, from £7.
8billion in 2009/10 to £6.6 billion in 2012/13.3 (Sharif Ismail et al, 2014). Despitethe ever-growing demand for funding in social care, the coalition governmentand the current conservative government still cut the service. This lack offunding is detrimental for the service as peoples needs and welfare are lesslikely to be met, providing evidence that neoliberalismas an ideology is unsuccessful in fostering human welfare from a social careperspective. In contradiction to what neoliberalsbelieve social democrats regard stateintervention as positive and important to securing equality, social justice andwell-being (Alcock et al, 2008).
In relation to social care this means socially democratic governments are less likely to godown the route of austerity, due to thefact they believe in state intervention. WhenNew Labour came to power in 1997, they promised to ‘modernize’ social care.This saw a shift towards the personalization of services, brought in to improveoutcomes for service users (Baldock et al, 2012).
This was similar approachadopted by the coalition and conservative governments that followed, which somewould argue goes against the ideology of social democracy. However, when youlook at the Labour government’s spendingon public services including social care between 1997-2010. It increased by anaverage of 4.
4% a year, contrast this with the 0.7% a year average seen under the Conservatives from 1979 to 1997(Chote et al, 2010). This shows that public expenditure under governments thathave a more socially democratic ideology are more likely to fund services thatpromote human welfare such as social care.Looking at other areas of social policy provision a similar theme emerges between how neoliberalism and social democracy foster humanwelfare. One area where this is evident is education.
Education has long beenregarded as an important part of social policy, whether that be enablingindividuals to fulfil potential, an effect on equality and inequality orproviding a workforce to meet economic needs (Bochel et al, 2014). Both neoliberals and social democrat’s opinionsdiffer on this matter.During the Thatcher governments of the 1980s, the aim was totake control of education policy from the teaching profession and trade unions.
This was in order to prioritise their belief in individual choice and themarkets (Bochel et al, 2014). A key piece of legislation brought in under theThatcher governments was the 1988 Education Reform Act. This piece oflegislation introduced delegated responsibility for school budgets, openenrolment and league tables for pupil performance (Balcock et al, 2012). Thiswas seen to improve competition between schools for pupils. However, criticsargued that the league tables reflected the social class backgrounds ofchildren rather than the extent to which schools made a difference to student’sachievements (Bochel et al, 2014).The focus on competition between schools for pupils mayprovide more choice for parents. However, it could be argued that it doeslittle to combat the issue of equality of opportunity.
These policies tend to “favourthe middle and ruling classes who are able to use their social, economic andcultural capital in order to secure an education at a private school, or at oneof the high status publicly-funded comprehensive schools, whilst conversely,these schools can ‘cream skim’ the ‘best'(largely middle and upper class) students thus reinforcing class divisions andrelations” (Robertson, 2007, p13). This brings into sharp focus the ideology behind neoliberalismin regards to education. The emphasis on individualism and competition fromschools, whilst may increase the choiceof higher quality education for some. It fails to recognise the issues behindclassism, with students from lower income family’snot receiving the same educational choices as students from a middle to upper class family.From a socialdemocratic point of view, education isseen as important in tackling social exclusion and creating an opportunesociety (Buchal et al, 2014). The Labour party of the 1960s and 70s took theview that a move towards comprehensive schooling would reduce inequality’s(Buchal et al, 2009). Prior to this there was a large emphasis on the elevenplus and grammar schools. It was argued thatthat there was a significant correlation between social class andsuccess in the eleven plus (Buchal et al, 2014).
This is an example of socialdemocracy’s belief in improving equality of opportunity in regards toeducation.In conclusion, when weighing up these ideology’s success infostering human welfare and wellbeing a prominent pattern emerges. In my opinion, neoliberalismfails to promote welfare and wellbeing,focusing more on an individual and market like approach to social policy.Failing to recognise the human aspects that come with social care and educationas seen by the willingness to cut these important services. Social Democracy onthe other hand whilst has its setbacks, seems to take a more sociallyresponsible approach to social policy putting human welfare first. This is seenby socially democratic governments willingness to fund services and tackleinequality.