Sunday, 30 September 2012

International intellectual and political influences on the Key Government’s approach to welfare reform.

I've been doing some research on National's welfare reforms. As most of you will know, it is a largely unmodified re-run of National's neoliberal welfare reforms of the the 1990s, with exactly, and I mean exactly, the same ideological justification as the 1990s. This is the idea that people become sucked in by a culture of welfare dependency. In other words, the existence of benefits creates the problem of 'welfare dependency' because it disables people with respect to applying for, and performing well within, paying jobs.

The main international intellectual and political influences on the Key Government’s neoliberal paternalistic approach to welfare reform come from the United States. See for example, the Wisconsin shift to workfare in the late 1980s and early 1990s, which was then implemented on a national scale by the Clinton Administration through The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996. Clinton claimed this Act ‘would end welfare as we have come to know it’ and the workfare approach it encouraged has been a key influence over successive governments in New Zealand from the mid-1990s to the present. 

The key intellectual figure who helped to develop and advocate workfare (known as the ‘paternalistic welfare’ approach) was Lawrence M. Mead in books such as: Government Matters, The New Politics of Poverty, Beyond Entitlement, The New Paternalism: Supervisory Approaches to Poverty. (Thanks to Rebecca Stringer, Department of Sociology, Gender and Social Work, University of Otago, for drawing my attention to this).

For more on the current National Government see my article: The Fifth (Key) National Government’s Neoliberal Policy Agenda: Description, Analysis, and Critical Evaluation. New Zealand Sociology 26 (1): 12-40 (2011).

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1 comment:

  1. Hi Brian,
    Here's Phil Wilayto's work on links between Wisconsin Works and the Bradley Foundation from 97 which we then used for the Beyond Poverty conference and counter media to the Govt's Beyond Dependency conference