The significance of postmodernism for understanding social welfare has never been systematically explained. In this major book, Peter Leonard rectifies matters. He provides readers with an accessible, relevant, and authoritative guide to postmodern welfare. The last two decades have witnessed a sustained assault on the Keynesian “welfare state.” Throughout the West, governments have sought to replace the post-war welfare compact with neo-conservative individualism, which has championed reduced taxation, increased profitability, market competitiveness, and minimal residual public services. The alternatives for the Leftùfor feminists, socialists, those struggling against racism and for minority cultural rightsùlook bleak. Postmodernism appears to have compounded the problem by questioning the validity of a mass politics of emancipation based on universal values of justice, reason, and progress. Leonard develops a particular reading of the impact of postmodernism in a number of crucial areas of social theory and political practice. His aim is to consider how positive and creative thinking about welfare can be reconstructed. This possibility of reconstruction is developed through an analysis of issues crucial to contemporary debates on welfare: the notion of the individual subject; the context of culture; the nature of organization; the imperatives of the economy; and the possibilities of a politics of resistance. The book seeks to enable the reader to participate in a dialogue about the future of welfare under the specific postmodern condition of late capitalism. Well-judged, incisive, and brilliantly written, this book places the subject of postmodernism on the agenda of contemporary debates about the welfare state. It will be required reading for anyone interested in postmodern theory, the welfare state, and the social and political prospects for Western societies.
Throughout Western countries, it seems now self-evident that the role of the state as the provider of a wide range of public services rooted in the promise of dramatically evening up the life chances of individuals and populations is coming to an end. In education, housing, social services and social security support, the state is rapidly drawing back from previous levels of commitment, and even in the field of health care, the most supposedly inviolable part of the ‘welfare state’, the same story can be told. How are we to understand this particular historic moment of retreat? We may be aware, almost viscerally, of being immersed in a process of change over which we have no control and of experiencing the vertigo which comes ...