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Gender and the politics of welfare: a study of social assistance policies towards lone mothers in Britain, 1948-1966

Rowe, Robyn (2017) Gender and the politics of welfare: a study of social assistance policies towards lone mothers in Britain, 1948-1966. PhD thesis, The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).

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Identification Number: 10.21953/LSE.ST0V2FDL9QF9

Abstract

The thesis is a study of social assistance policies and practices towards separated wives and divorced and never-married women with children between 1948 and 1966 in Britain. It uses historical analysis of archival documents to address questions regarding gender and welfare state change. In doing so, the thesis builds on and critically examines existing social policy discourse concerned with the historical shift away from assumptions that women would be wives and/or mothers towards an assumption that all adults are, or should be, workers that has been linked to restructuring, the rise of neo-liberalism and social-economic change. The research focuses on policies towards this group of women because they have long been identified as a kind of ‘litmus test’ of women’s more general position within the welfare state. Policy towards this group of women offers a window into the relationship between ideas about gender, class, race, political economy and the state. The research makes three distinct contributions to different areas of scholarly debate. First, it further develops the conceptual analysis of gender and welfare state change. In contrast to much of the existing literature that has emphasized the significance of recent changes in the structural context and principles that shape policies, this research draws attention to important continuities in the interaction between social-economic shifts, political ideas and the position of women in relation to the state. Second, the research brings to light a great deal of previously unexplored archival material that provide new perspectives on the 1950s. While they support and build on recent revisionist histories of the decade, they challenge the conventional wisdom about the postwar welfare state and the idea of postwar ‘consensus’ that social policy scholarship tends to rely on. Finally, the research provides an empirical study of the role of institutions and bureaucratic agents in policy development, and demonstrates the important insights gained from multilayered historical analysis in understanding the complex interactions between actors, ideas and structures that underpin the policy process.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2017 Robyn Rebecca Rowe
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
Sets: Departments > Social Policy
Supervisor: Macnicol, John
URI: http://etheses.lse.ac.uk/id/eprint/3561

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