Richard Morris Titmuss

(1907—1973) historian and teacher of social administration

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A key figure in the study of social policy and social administration in the post-war period. Titmuss was one of a group of British academics (notable others were Brian Abel-Smith and Peter Townsend) who made a major contribution to the study of social needs and welfare provision at a time when the welfare state was expanding. Without formal academic training, his interest in social policy developed while he was working in an insurance office in the 1930s, and he began to write books such as Poverty and Population (1938) and Our Food Problem (1939). These led to his appointment as official historian to the War Cabinet in 1942. There he wrote a volume entitled The Problems of Social Policy which was published in 1950. Also in that year he was appointed as Professor of Social Administration and Head of Department at the London School of Economics and Political Science, where he developed a strong organizational base and research team, whose work typified the reforming social administration approach to social policy. He was also active in political and wider public life, serving on various government committees, and as an adviser to the Labour Party. Subsequent publications included Essays on the Welfare State (1958), Income Distribution and Social Change (1962), and The Gift Relationship (1970). The last of these is a justly celebrated comparative study, offering a convincing critique of the use of the market to secure an adequate supply of blood for hospitals, and a powerful analysis of altruism.

An opponent of means-tested benefits (see selective versus universal benefits), Titmuss did not believe that welfare services could solve problems of social inequality, but they could help to ameliorate them.

Subjects: Sociology — Economics.

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