Journal Article

Post-Fordism, the welfare state and the personal social services: a comparison of Australia and Britain

J Harris and C McDonald

in The British Journal of Social Work

Published on behalf of British Association of Social Workers

Volume 30, issue 1, pages 51-70
Published in print February 2000 | ISSN: 0045-3102
Published online February 2000 | e-ISSN: 1468-263X | DOI:
Post-Fordism, the welfare state and the personal social services: a comparison of Australia and Britain

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The Post-Fordist welfare state thesis locates contemporary social welfare change within a wider analysis of the transformation of capitalist accumulation regimes. Whilst this analysis is useful in directing attention to macro socio-economic change, it has for the most part contained three shortcomings. First, the Post-Fordist thesis has overemphasized the role of historical 'breaks' in the development of social welfare as it purportedly passes from Fordism to Post-Fordism. Second, the thesis has assumed a degree of convergence between welfare states as a result of global economic forces. In doing so, it has underemphasized the mediating impact of existing institutional arrangements within nations. Third, the thesis has assumed, rather than demonstrated, the specific changes which are alleged to be taking place in various fields of social welfare. As a consequence, aspects of continuity in social welfare have been neglected. These three lacunae are addressed through a comparative analysis of developments in the personal social services in Australia and Britain. Services to older people are employed as the specific context of comparison in relation to three dimensions of measuring transformation along a Post-Fordist trajectory: a shift from a unitary economy to a mixed economy of service provision; changes in the model of service delivery and consumption; and strengthening the governance function of the central state. This comparative analysis suggests the need for refinement of the Post-Fordist welfare state thesis concerning the restructuring of social welfare and its impact on the personal social services.

Journal Article.  0 words. 

Subjects: Social Work

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