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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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Social theory and voluntary action in Britain since 1880

Social theory and voluntary action in Britain since 1880

seven Social theory and voluntary action in Britain since 1880
An intellectual history of British social policy

John Offer

Policy Press

This chapter addresses idealism and non-idealism as properties of social theories about voluntary action. It also pays attention to idealist and non-idealist social thought in voluntary organisations themselves and their purposes. The pro-state idealist social thought in ‘official’ or governmental circles concerning the perceived role of and relationships with voluntary action, and the changes in such thought and in government relationships with voluntary action in the 1970s are then explained. Next, the chapter considers the innovation of classifying voluntary organisations by the kind of social theory they profess in their own ‘mission statements’ and suggests this is helpful in considering voluntary action and the ‘third way’. It examines new approaches to the study of voluntary action in social life, sensitive to the theoretical orientations of all of the parties concerned. It is clear that the framework could not have been constructed unless the three assumptions presented had been abandoned.

Keywords:   social theory, voluntary action, Britain, idealism, non-idealism, voluntary organisations, social life

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