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An intellectual history of British social policyIdealism versus non-idealism$
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John Offer

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9781861345318

Published to Policy Press Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.1332/policypress/9781861345318.001.0001

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Epilogue: from poor law to Labour’s ‘new idealism’

Epilogue: from poor law to Labour’s ‘new idealism’

(p.167) eight Epilogue: from poor law to Labour’s ‘new idealism’
An intellectual history of British social policy

John Offer

Policy Press

This chapter describes the recent and continuing emphasis in social policy, especially in connection with health care and education, on developing administrative mechanisms to facilitate consumer choice. It also uses the master distinction to a discussion of ‘social capital’, and considers the influence of the idealist John Macmurray on New Labour. Revisiting the social theory involved in poor law developments in the 1830s has drawn attention to the formative role of Noetic theology and political economics associated in practice with the politics of the liberal Tories. It should be noted that Herbert Spencer distinguished between ‘family ethics’ and ‘state ethics’. The fundamental contrast between idealist and non-idealist social thought, once brought to the surface and examined in detail, requires the evaluation of the past afresh.

Keywords:   social policy, social capital, New Labour, poor law, health care, education, John Macmurray, social theory, Noetic theology, political economics

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