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Social Justice


Module description

This course looks at issues of social and political justice using ideas of welfare, poverty and the welfare state as its foci. We will have a particular interest in the American failure to constitutionalise welfare rights, and the thinking and activism of the National Welfare Rights Organization. Understanding the American context will take us to concerns with the New Deal and the War Against Poverty. However, we will also be concerned with the history and structure of the welfare state in Britain from 1945 until the present day. In order to capture the realities of poverty and welfare we will look at the writings of Jane Addams, John Dewey, Jack London, George Orwell and others. We will be particularly interested in the movement of ideas across the Atlantic from the progressive era, through Regan/Thatcher, Clinton/Blair to the present culture wars around poverty, immigration and role of the state.

The course begins by thinking about the extent to which social justice can be linked with ideas of political and economic democracy. Our concerns will be linked to existential and ethical questions about poverty, welfare and social activism - in particular their development by the New Left, the Critical Legal Studies movement and Christian and Jewish radical thinkers.

Finally, the course will address the extent to which it is possible to create and sustain a ‘progressive’ agenda for the future of welfare. We will examine the way in which thinking about poverty and welfare requires a particular conception of the relationship between law, ethics and social justice.

Indicative Module Content

  • Theories/Philosophies of Social Justice and Social Activism
  • The Structure of the Welfare State
  • Political/Social Theory of Welfare
  • Constitutional Welfare Rights
  • Poverty Law
  • The Progressive Era, The New Deal and the War on Poverty
  • The Philosophy of Welfare/ Ethical Responses to Poverty and Welfare
  • The Recent history of Welfare in the US and the UK
  • Conservative, Neo-Liberal and Progressive understandings of welfare
  • Welfare ‘From Below’: Poor People’s Movements - in particular the National Welfare Rights Organization; Critical Legal Studies; The New Left; Community Organization
  • Poverty, Welfare and Law