• Summary
  • Contents
  • Subject index

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.

Subject
Subject

In the attempt to re-think the idea of welfare in the postmodern world, and especially to reconstitute it as an emancipatory project, we must ask what might constitute emancipation for an individual subject, and from what constraints. To what extent, if at all, is the individual relatively autonomous, a moral agent able to act upon the surrounding world in his or her own interests? What external forces might affect such potential and actual autonomy? Some might answer that class and gender oppression or racism constrain individual autonomy while others would suggest that systems of state welfare tend to remove autonomy from individuals to induce dependence on the state. Or perhaps the question should be posed another way: is the very idea of a relatively ...

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