Chapter

‘Pseudo-democracy and spurious precision’: knowledge dilemmas in the new welfare state

Eithne McLaughlin

in Cash and care

Published by Policy Press

Published in print September 2006 | ISBN: 9781861348562
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9781447301615 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1332/policypress/9781861348562.003.0004
‘Pseudo-democracy and spurious precision’: knowledge dilemmas in the new welfare state

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Since the 1970s, consultation with service users has become an accepted feature of both policy making and professional practice. This reflects the impact of grassroots social movements on ways of thinking about welfare in Britain. The first part of this chapter locates this growth in consultation practice in a broader social and political context – the crisis of legitimacy in public services and the welfare state, and the crisis in the legitimacy of expert knowledge that characterizes social life in the age of modernity. It then reviews the nature of policy making, noting the limitations of the rationalistic What Works agenda and similar academic models of the policy-making process. The third part of the chapter summarises two main approaches to the generation of knowledge about the social world. Finally, the chapter illustrates the strengths of interpretivist social research by summarising some of its key contributions to the understanding of health, illness, and disability. The social model of disability and the critique of rehabilitation which it has generated are presented as examples of the way that social research is more likely to influence overall policy trajectories than the design of specific policies.

Keywords: social welfare; consultation; public services; welfare state; policy making; social research; social model; disability

Chapter.  4935 words. 

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