The eightieth anniversary of the Beveridge inquiry is a timely moment to consider how the landmark report is used within contemporary UK politics. Calls for a ‘new Beveridge’ reflect a desire for a rupture with the past and the creation of a radical new welfare consensus. But this reflects a misunderstanding: Beveridge's approach was organic in nature, building on decades of experimentation, politically contested rather than consensual, and intellectually pluralist rather than moored to a single ideological worldview. The real insight Beveridge offers us today flows not from his substantive agenda—which was rooted in a particular set of historic circumstances—but as an approach to securing social reform. Successful welfare advances over the last generation have drawn on these ‘Beveridgean instincts’. Rather than calling for a new twenty-first century blueprint to be handed down from above, reformers should build on experimentation and successful incremental change, from within the UK and abroad.
- Welfare State
- Social reform