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An introduction to the current debates about the future direction of welfare reform on both sides of the Atlantic. The first part outlines a range of different perspectives on welfare, and shows how each of these perspectives rests upon a different assumption about the role and purpose of welfare policy and a different understanding of human nature and motivation. Some of these perspectives see the primary role of welfare as to reduce inequalities, while others see the central objective as the reduction of welfare dependency. The second part shows how the current debates in Britain and the United States are informed by these perspectives, and argues that debates about inequality and dependency are not mutually exclusive but address different dimensions of the same problem. In all, this text should be valuable reading for courses in social policy, health, and social welfare, as well as those with a political and wider interest in welfare reform.
Alan Deacon is Professor of Social Policy and a member of the ESRC Research Group on Care, Values and the Future of Welfare at the University of Leeds. He has written widely on the debate about welfare reform in Britain and the United States and is a former editor of the Journal of Social Policy. He is Chair of the Social Policy Association 2001-2004.