Are practices that suggests that human well-being can be

Are ideologies such as Social Democracy or Neoliberalism
successful in promoting human welfare? This essay will attempt to discuss these
ideologies and decipher whether or not they foster human welfare in relations
to different areas of social policy of social policy provisions such as health care
and social care. Whilst these ideologies have been prominent in many parts of
the western world, this essay will largely be focused on how these ideology’s
foster human welfare and wellbeing in the United Kingdom.  First, however, it is important to define
these ideologies and to provide historical context for this essay.

Neoliberalism is a theory of political economic practices
that suggests that human well-being can be improved by encouraging individual
entrepreneurial freedoms and skills within institutions that promote strong
private property rights, free markets, and free trade (Harvey, 2005). Neoliberalism
promotes privatization and deregulation, as well as the cutting of taxes. It
entered the political mainstream in the early 1980s when Margaret Thatcher and
Ronald Reagan were elected in their respective offices as prime minister of the
United Kingdom and president of the United States. Due to the rise in
inflation, unemployment and collapse in the world economy in the 1970s, a
political 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 into
office, putting forward a host of neo liberalistic, economic and social policy
that would heavily influence British politics for years to come.

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On the other side of the political spectrum is Social
Democracy, an ideology that is largely seen as left of centre as opposed to
Neoliberalism that is seen as a right-wing ideology. Social democrats generally
believe 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 is
mainly untrustworthy as it usually leads to inequality, therefore considers the
state as being the best provider of services. (Paul et al, 2011).

 A socially democratic state
was established in the United Kingdom after the 1945 general election in which
the Labour party gained power under Clement Atlee. This new government sought
to create an egalitarian society, through progressive, constitutional means.
(Bochel et al, 2009) Reforms were introduced by Attlee’s
government to fight the ‘evils’ mentioned in the Beveridge report (1942) which
included the NHS, state education to the age of fifteen, public housing and
national insurance. (Alcock, 2008) There is a debate
about whether or not the welfare state was established under Attlee’s Labour party. However, Jeffreys argues
that whilst there were welfare provisions before 1945, the Attlee government
reforms were more extensive and based on social democratic ideals. (Jeffreys,
1992)

Since the Labour governments of 1945 -1951, social democracy
as an ideology has taken a slightly different form in mainstream politics of
the UK. During the Wilson governments of 1964 – 1970, improved economic
performance was seen as an important factor to make sure the welfare state
would be relevant for the 1960s and 70s. (Bochel et al, 2014) However due to
economic difficulties at the time it Labour struggled to vitalise growth and
investment failing to modernise the economy and control wages. (Tomlinson,
2004) This could be seen as a failure of social democracy from an economic
point of view, due to its enthesis on public services and the welfare state.
Therefore, costing the government more money leaving the government more
vulnerable to economic turmoil and arguably paving the way for neoliberalism to come to fruition in the 1980s.

 After the
conservative governments of 1979 – 1997 an idea emerged in the mid-1990s called
the ‘third way’. This idea came to prominence when Tony Blair was elected
leader of the Labour party in 1994 who rebranded the party as ‘New Labour’.
Blair argued that New Labour should reject neo liberalistic pro-market
approaches and old left support of monopolistic government services, in favour
of a ‘third-way’ approach somewhere in
between market and state. (Blair, 1998) This alternative version of social
democracy essentially moved from a more ‘left-wing’ ideology to a more
‘centrist’ market-friendly approach.

From a social policy perspective, the ideologies mentioned
above vastly differ in respect to whether or not they are successful in
fostering human welfare. One major social policy provision where this becomes
evident is social care. Most people rely on social care at some point during
their lives, whether that is assistance after an accident, support for disability, or care in old age. (Baldock et
al, 2012) Over the years it has become a hot-button
issue in regards to social policy in the UK. Looking at social care in the
twenty-first century it faces numerous challenges that previously were not as
prominent. This includes the growing amount of young people with complex
physical impairments that due to advances in medical technology, are surviving
into adulthood. Older people having less access to informal support due to
changes in family makeup and technological changes raising the expectations of
the general public in regards to services. (Bochel et al, 2014)

Looking at the recent conservative and coalition governments
of the past few years it’s fair to say that it places neoliberalism at the heart of its ideology. In light of the
challenges mentioned above the government responded with numerous policy to
counter 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 meet
specific 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 a
positive move because people’s specific needs are more likely to be met. However,
McNicoll argues that because of the personalised approach the government introduced
a minimum threshold for applicants, restricting entitlement for people who
potentially need support. (McNicoll, 2014) This, in essence, can be seen as a
way to cut costs something that has become the norm in pro-austerity Britain.

Neoliberalism as an ideology
suggests that state services make
people dependant on welfare, they surmise that state welfare has damaging
effects as money is wasted and it interferes with the free market (Alcock et
al, 2016). This brings into light
neo liberalisms failure to successfully foster human welfare especially in
regards to social care. Due to this distrust in state services neoliberal governments are more likely to cut
funding for services such as social care. Looking at social care in the UK over
the last few years, local authorities have cut large amounts of funding for the
service. A research report on budget cuts conducted by quality watch found that
in 2009/10, local authorities in England spent £10.6 billion in gross terms on
social care for older adults, compared with £9.8 billion in 2012/13,2 a
reduction of 7 percent. Net current
spending fell by 15 percent, from £7.8
billion in 2009/10 to £6.6 billion in 2012/13.3 (Sharif Ismail et al, 2014). Despite
the ever-growing demand for funding in social care, the coalition government
and the current conservative government still cut the service. This lack of
funding is detrimental for the service as peoples needs and welfare are less
likely to be met, providing evidence that neoliberalism
as an ideology is unsuccessful in fostering human welfare from a social care
perspective.

In contradiction to what neoliberals
believe social democrats regard state
intervention as positive and important to securing equality, social justice and
well-being (Alcock et al, 2008). In relation to social care this means socially democratic governments are less likely to go
down the route of austerity, due to the
fact they believe in state intervention. When
New Labour came to power in 1997, they promised to ‘modernize’ social care.
This saw a shift towards the personalization of services, brought in to improve
outcomes for service users (Baldock et al, 2012). This was similar approach
adopted by the coalition and conservative governments that followed, which some
would argue goes against the ideology of social democracy. However, when you
look at the Labour government’s spending
on public services including social care between 1997-2010. It increased by an
average 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 that
have a more socially democratic ideology are more likely to fund services that
promote 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 human
welfare. One area where this is evident is education. Education has long been
regarded as an important part of social policy, whether that be enabling
individuals to fulfil potential, an effect on equality and inequality or
providing a workforce to meet economic needs (Bochel et al, 2014). Both neoliberals and social democrat’s opinions
differ on this matter.

During the Thatcher governments of the 1980s, the aim was to
take control of education policy from the teaching profession and trade unions.
This was in order to prioritise their belief in individual choice and the
markets (Bochel et al, 2014). A key piece of legislation brought in under the
Thatcher governments was the 1988 Education Reform Act. This piece of
legislation introduced delegated responsibility for school budgets, open
enrolment and league tables for pupil performance (Balcock et al, 2012). This
was seen to improve competition between schools for pupils. However, critics
argued that the league tables reflected the social class backgrounds of
children rather than the extent to which schools made a difference to student’s
achievements (Bochel et al, 2014).

The focus on competition between schools for pupils may
provide more choice for parents. However, it could be argued that it does
little to combat the issue of equality of opportunity. These policies tend to “favour
the middle and ruling classes who are able to use their social, economic and
cultural capital in order to secure an education at a private school, or at one
of 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 and
relations” (Robertson, 2007, p13). This brings into sharp focus the ideology behind neoliberalism
in regards to education. The emphasis on individualism and competition from
schools, whilst may increase the choice
of higher quality education for some. It fails to recognise the issues behind
classism, with students from lower income family’s
not receiving the same educational choices as students from a middle to upper class family.

From a social
democratic point of view, education is
seen as important in tackling social exclusion and creating an opportune
society (Buchal et al, 2014). The Labour party of the 1960s and 70s took the
view that a move towards comprehensive schooling would reduce inequality’s
(Buchal et al, 2009).  Prior to this there was a large emphasis on the eleven
plus and grammar schools. It was argued that
that there was a significant correlation between social class and
success in the eleven plus (Buchal et al, 2014). This is an example of social
democracy’s belief in improving equality of opportunity in regards to
education.

In conclusion, when weighing up these ideology’s success in
fostering human welfare and wellbeing a prominent pattern emerges. In my opinion, neoliberalism
fails 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 education
as seen by the willingness to cut these important services. Social Democracy on
the other hand whilst has its setbacks, seems to take a more socially
responsible approach to social policy putting human welfare first. This is seen
by socially democratic governments willingness to fund services and tackle
inequality. 

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