Reluctant Individualism and Social Investment: a Democratic Forum study

Muirhead Tower - Room 714/5
Lectures Talks and Workshops, Social Sciences
Tuesday 24th October 2017 (16:00-18:00)
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Speaker: Professor Peter Taylor-Gooby, University of Kent

European welfare states are undergoing profound change, driven by complex interacting economic, political and social pressures which operate at different speeds in different national, historical and institutional contexts. The post-war welfare state settlement was based on broad class-coalitions supportive of a high standard of social provision across middle and working class groups (Korpi 1983; Baldwin 1990; Esping-Andersen 1990). These solidarities are now being eroded. New directions in policy to cope with new pressures and new demands have developed, especially after the recession of 2007-8. Attitude research makes an important contribution to understanding these changes.

Much existing research on welfare attitudes relies on structured surveys addressing issues identified by experts and based on individual interviews with a representative population sample. These studies are useful in understanding population attitudes towards social policy, but suffer limitations. The topic is typically framed by the understanding of policy-makers and academics. Those interviewed are required to fit their answers into pre-coded categories. Deliberative forums (DFs) adopt a different approach: a group of people meets for extended discussion of a topic over a period of time. A high degree of control is retained by the participants, who frame the issue and pursue discussion as they see fit with only light-touch moderation. Researchers are able to examine people’s unprompted concerns in an undirected discussion. The method also allows examination of the process of attitude formation and the reasoning that underlies it. DFs do not permit the degree of statistical representativeness often achieved by sample surveys but offer a valuable complement to them.

This paper shows how attitudes among UK citizens link together and argues that mistrust in the state is a central and little acknowledged theme in research on welfare state attitudes.

This event will be followed by a drinks reception. All are welcome to attend this free event.