Voluntarism and the state in British social welfare 1914-1939
The New Right's critique of the welfare state has generated considerable interest in the history of alternative forms of welfare provision. Recent work has focused upon the continued existence of voluntarism alongside the growth of twentieth century state welfare. In doing this, it has reacted against the tendency of post-war social welfare writing to concentrate exclusively on the statutory social services. This thesis, therefore, adds to a growing body of writing on inter-war voluntary social action. However, it differs from the work of others by focusing upon the interplay of voluntary and statutory sectors in the face of war, industrial unrest and mass unemployment: in other words the upheavals of the early twentieth century. The main body of the research not only deals with the part played by both sectors in the delivery of social services, but also places voluntarism in a wider social context by exploring its ideological response to working-class assertiveness. Indeed, the belief in a British national community with interests that transcended class or sectional divisions was a common feature in voluntarism's attitude towards the above challenges and their implications for social stability. Thus, by highlighting the class objectives of the middle-class volunteer, this thesis avoids treating voluntary groups as simply the deliverers of social services in partnership with the state. As middle-class organisations operating within civil society, the charities covered in the pages ahead are placed alongside the state and capital in the defence of the existing economic and social order. Differences may have existed amongst charities over the correct mix in the statutory-voluntary welfare mix, but, as this thesis seeks to prove, this should not blind us to voluntarism's commitment to an over riding class interest.