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The art of the possiblePolitics and governance in modern British history, 18851997: Essays in memory of Duncan Tanner$
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Chris Williams and Andrew Edwards

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780719090714

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: January 2016

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9780719090714.001.0001

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The ‘Big State’ versus the ‘Big Society’ in twentieth-century Britain

The ‘Big State’ versus the ‘Big Society’ in twentieth-century Britain

Chapter:
(p.32) 2 The ‘Big State’ versus the ‘Big Society’ in twentieth-century Britain
Source:
The art of the possible
Author(s):

Pat Thane

Publisher:
Manchester University Press
DOI:10.7228/manchester/9780719090714.003.0003

This essay challenges the notion, promoted by the current government, that over the twentieth century the growth of the ‘Big State’ has squeezed out voluntary action, also known as the ‘Big Society’. Rather it argues that Britain has always had a ‘mixed economy of welfare’, with state and voluntary welfare playing shifting roles, both complementary and conflicting. The voluntary sector has innovated important welfare policies and has seen part of its role, since the nineteenth century, as demanding improved state action; while the state has never been able to provide for everyone in need and has depended upon the voluntary sector, often more than it has admitted. The argument will be illustrated by surveying major areas of social welfare since the beginning of the twentieth century and examining the relationship between state and voluntary action in attempting to deal with them.

Keywords:   State, Society, Voluntary action, Welfare State

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