Social Policy Essays – Structural Consensus

Welfare, the Individual, and Inequalities: A Structural Consensus Evaluation

Using the two viing welfare political orientations of conservativism and Marxism, and their different premises refering the ‘individual ‘ and ‘inequalities ‘ . critically evaluate facets of societal policy utilizing structural consensus theory.

Many view the adulthood of a authorities or civilisation in relation to how that community treats its most destitute citizens. The UK authorities became a public assistance province in the 1940s, ( Taylor-Gooby 2004 ) . There has late been a displacement in positions on many facets of public assistance, with the hereafter of many authorities programmes, or at least their range, in inquiry. The authorities and community ‘s battle to better the public assistance system can be considered in visible radiation of two of the more outstanding societal political orientations, Marxism and conservativism. Both have strong sentiments on public assistance as a portion of society, the function of the person within such society, and how inequalities should be best addressed. These positions are addressed more wholly, nevertheless, by structural consensus theory.

Marxism sees human history as a category battle, with oppressor and oppressed wrestling for control. The dominant category controls and owns the agency of production or wealth coevals, and the working category in therefore controlled by them. Welfare is a consequence of the strength of working-class opposition to development, a grant the dominant category must do to keep societal order ( Anon 2005 ) . Programs such as public assistance and pensions help to legalize the capitalist system with the working category. Welfare so becomes another vehicle for power and control by the dominant category. Its intent is to pacify instead than authorise the hapless, and seeks to cut down the person to a province of dependence on those in power ( Anon 2005 ) .

Harmonizing to Marxist theory, society has unfolded in a series of ever-progressing and better constructions, as defined by their economic development and manners of production, from the crude communal to slave-based to feudal to capitalist. The concluding phase was communism. This was predicted to be the best possible agencies of administration and construction of society, one that would wipe out inequalities and allow persons to accomplish their full potency and value within their community ( Anon 2005 ) . While communism has faded, at least as it was practised in the Soviet Union and similar states, socialist thoughts have strongly pervaded capitalist political orientation, taking to the development of the capitalist public assistance province common today.

Marxism viewed the person as portion of a corporate being, society. Inequalities in society resulted from differentiation in categories, non peculiar single determinations or behaviors. Conflict was between these categories, and rooted in battle for power. Merely when category differentiations were eliminated could persons see equality, although the theory still views them as portion of a greater corporate ( Taylor-Gooby 2004 ) . Marxism assumes the person can and will lend to the greater community every bit much as they are able, and will be motivated by the common good. When society has evolved or elevated itself to this topographic point, inequalities will be dealt with suitably ( Anon 2005 ) .

Important thoughts of Marxist theory that relate to the current public assistance system are the province ‘s duty to supply for its members and the demand for redistribution of wealth. The thought of entitlement, that one must be provided for merely because one is a British citizen, is in maintaining with these two thoughts ( Timmins 2004 ) . Welfare is a good and natural happening in a mature society, and should be available every bit much as needed. If society is unable to supply a occupation, it should supply support ; if a member of society is unable to back up himself, the authorities should make so.

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Troubles in the application of pure Marxist political orientation have led to a widening of its philosophies. Marxism now represents a assortment of thoughts and sentiments, grouped by their general resistance to the capitalist society. Supporters of these positions have watched in discouragement as public assistance reform has been introduced in assorted states, and at the success the US and other states have had with the acceptance of more conservative public assistance policies ( Barr 2004 ) . The job with wide application of Marxist theory is that persons do take advantage. Easy public assistance leads to many taking to have benefits when they could work, which weakens society. An illustration of this in our society is the detonation in the Numberss of those having incapacity benefit ; the figure has doubled since 1993. It is possible for the unemployed to kick of mental jobs say, emphasis or terror onslaughts, and be given a life-long ill note ( Nelson 2005 ) . Persons claiming incapacity when they are in fact able-bodied, so having authorities support, does non truly profit anyone in the long term.

Well-meaning public assistance commissariats, such as giving increased benefit to single-parent families, has been shown to lend to the dislocation of the household construction. An mean household pays 5,000 lbs a twelvemonth more in revenue enhancement than they receive in benefits. If they break up, they claim 7,000 lbs more in benefits than they pay in revenue enhancement ( Nelson 2005 ) . This serves as a deterrence for the hapless to keep stable household units, farther gnawing their independency from authorities support. Marxist theory would postulate this is an illustration of a supposed benefit offered by the dominant category that truly serves to suppress the working categories.

Conservative theory holds to really different dogmas. Conservatives stress the demand for societal order and the duty of the person ( Taylor-Gooby 2004 ) . Traditions, normally based on the values of the bulk or dominant section of society, are of import and should be respected if non practised by all members of society ( Taylor-Gooby 2004 ) . The accent on individualism can besides be interpreted as the premise of inequality, that people have different abilities and motives, and are hence more or less able to win in society. Advancement is seen in footings of single determinations and actions, instead than something dictated by society or its establishments ( Anon 2005 ) .

In respect to welfare, conservative theory minimises the demand for public assistance programmes, peculiarly those for the able-bodied unemployed and aged who chose non to salvage or be after for their old age. The unemployed on public assistance are frequently seen as lazy and unwilling to work ( Johnston 2005 ) . The person ‘s ability to keep a occupation and win in society remainders upon his or her ain shoulders, and non working is deemed irresponsible. This sentiment, voiced by Fraser Nelson in a recent The Business article, holds that public assistance is non salvaging people from unemployment, but from unpleasant occupations ( 2005 ) . Conservatives stigmatise public assistance receivers, believing the stigma or negative perceptual experience by other members of society will ease their move off the public assistance rolls. This type of mentality, at its best, leads to the creative activity of occupations programmes and other vehicles to help the person in lifting above his or her demand for public assistance ( Johnston 2005 ) . The conservative considers persons who do non take such chances as unwilling to work or go self-supporting. The societal policy of the British authorities shifted towards conservativism under the Thatcher disposal, although still supplying a wide public assistance programme ( Taylor-Gooby 2004 ) .

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The job with the conservative position is that it fails to to the full see the societal, psychological, and economic corruption of certain sections of society or disadvantaged geographical countries. It expects everyone to be able to draw themselves up by their boot-straps, as the expression goes, irrespective of whether society has afforded them the agencies or tools to make so ( Barr 2004 ) . Whilst some from a deprived environment will be able to self-equip themselves to the point they can vie, vocationally and other wise, with individuals from advantaged backgrounds, this has historically non been the instance for the bulk.

The logic of and profit to and single acquiring off public assistance in favor of a humble occupation is besides questionable, at least from the person ‘s point of position ( Johnston 2005 ) . If given the pick between working at a unsavory or unpleasant topographic point or having the same monthly support from a public assistance programme, many will logically take the public assistance. The Centre for Policy Studies notes that A two-parent household with a stay-at-home female parent on mean income and a mortgage is merely four lbs a hebdomad better off than a single-parent family reliant wholly on benefits ( Nelson 2005 ) . This makes promoting the individual parent to set his or her kids in some type of attention whilst they work a difficult sell.

The Marxist and Conservative point of views are represented today as left and right wing politically. The left wing supports wide public assistance programmes and public proviso ; it tends to work from a collectivized point of view. The Gordon Browns in this cantonment advocator spread outing the current public assistance system. The right wing supports merely residuary public assistance, opposing public proviso and defending single duty ( Anon 2005 ) . The British public has been increasingly traveling towards a more middle-of-the-road position of public assistance and public proviso, although sweeping reforms are yet to happen ( Johnston 2005 ) . This gives rise to a functionalist, or structural consensus theory, attitude towards the hereafter of public assistance.

Unlike Marxism and Conservatism, Structural Consensus Theory focuses on the functional demands of society, and how society meets these demands ( Taylor-Gooby 2004 ) . It offers a future vision of society, based on ideals and agreeable relationships. These ideals include a cardinal value system, holistic societal order, stableness, and that the functional demands of the society must be met. The focal point is on society as a whole instead than the single. Society is seen as holding the right both to specify common values and enforce them on its members ( Anon 2005 ) . This strong societal integrating leads to societal control and stableness. The parts and establishments of a society contribute towards run intoing the society ‘s functional demands. The coherence required for these parts is developed through shared experiences and relationship amongst members and establishments in society ( Anon 2005 ) .

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It so supports facets of both Marxist and Conservative theory. There is a legitimate, functional demand for public assistance in society. There will ever be some people that are unable to work through no mistake of their ain. Society has a duty for the physically or mentally handicapped individual, for the widow with little kids, for the hapless older individual who is past the age of employment. It has a duty to supply nutrient, vesture, shelter, and schooling to kids whose parents can non or will non make so. These are widely agreed-upon demands.

The functionalist sees the establishments of society as both supplying for these demands and incorporating the persons having support into the broader society. The unemployed on public assistance are to be encouraged and included, non stigmatised, because making so is the best class for returning them to work ( Barr 2004 ) . Inequality is non a given, but exists as a possibility. A balance between the duties of society and those of the single member of society are envisioned in balance.

Whether this future balance can be achieved is a contested subject. There is a turning concern about and opposition to immigration into Britain. Immigrants are seen as taking British occupations, for less wage, and sometimes truly so. A recent canvass showed three-fourthss of British citizens believe the figure of immigrants should be cut back, up from two-thirds with this sentiment in 1995 ( Timmins 2004 ) . More people are sing in-migration as a factor in increasing offense and decomposition of quality of community life ( Timmins 2004 ) . Some incrimination public assistance receivers ‘ involuntariness to work every bit lending to the in-migration issue. Others foresee cultural alterations they oppose as the figure of immigrants rise ( Johnston 2005 ) . This type of dissentious discord does non impel the state toward common values, stableness, or societal order. It besides creates resentment amongst those required to pick the measure for programmes such as public assistance, which they begin to see as sabotaging their manner of life ( Johnston 2005 ) .

In decision, the British public assistance province and societal policy shifted toward conservativism in the 1980s, and is get downing to see the effects of a more conservative mentality amongst its citizens. Whether all the dogmas of structural consensus theory can be achieved remains to be seen, but the accent on concentrating on the functional demands of society, and supplying systems to run into these demands, will travel a long ways toward accomplishing balance between the duty of society to its members and the duty of members to be independent subscribers to their society.


Anon 2005.The political relations of public assistance. Robert Gordon University Centre for Public Policy and Management [ online ] . Available at, accessed 28 March 2005.

Barr, N. , 2004.Economicss of the Welfare State. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Johnston, P. , 2005.Do we truly non desire to work?The Daily Telegraph, London, Features subdivision, p. 23, 14 February 2005.

Neslon, F. , 2005.How pro-poor policies are widening the public assistance spread. The Business, 23 January 2005.

Taylor-Gooby, P. , erectile dysfunction, 2004.New Risks, New Welfare: The Transformation of the European Welfare State. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Timmins, N. , 2004.Hardening attitudes to benefits mesh with authorities policy.The Financial Times, London, National News Politics and Policy subdivision, p. 4, 7 December 2004.