Over three-quarters of a century after the original Beveridge Report, which laid the foundations for the welfare state in the UK, new challenges have emerged putting strain on social sustainability and forcing us to reconsider the conditions underpinning the social contract.
These challenges bring to the fore cross-cutting questions which require a global perspective and a focus on their interconnectedness. This can only be achieved through fostering dialogue across disciplines and Beveridge 2.0. Redefining the Social Contract aims to provide the space for this dialogue, recognizing the unique position of the LSE in contributing to the research and public debate around the solutions suited to the demands of the twenty-first century.
The symposium defines populism broadly to encompass not just traditional “economic populism” —strongly redistributive economic policies that endanger fiscal and monetary stability— but also the newer strand of “political populism” –an approach to politics that emphasizes identity cleavages and denies the respect for pluralism and the protection of minority rights that is at the root of liberal democracy. Economic and political factors are related and interact.
An ultimate aim of the project would be to outline a unified conceptual approach to the causes and dynamics of populism, which would be essential before one can begin to suggest institutional and policy reforms to address the dangers of populism.
Recent years have seen a growing interest in wellbeing as a goal of public policy. This has led to significant advances in our understanding of the measurement of subjective wellbeing and its determinants. At the same time, wellbeing remains a contested concept, one that can be interpreted and used differently, with distinctive methodological and normative challenges. This has consequences for how wellbeing is (or can be) incorporated into policy decisions.
The symposium invites scholars from across the School to explore a range of different disciplinary approaches to wellbeing, illuminate potential tensions as well as commonalities, and to reflect on their implications for policy.
Transfer programmes are the first area addressed within a broader research agenda looking at approaches to redistribution. Programmes differ in a variety of ways – in terms of type and coverage of provision, level of generosity and conditionality arrangements – which in turn reflect different priorities and policy goals. Following from the Beveridge 2.0 Festival in 2018, one of the approaches considered is the idea of a Universal Basic Income – which has seen increasing interest amongst policy makers and elicited substantial academic debate.
The symposium explores a variety of questions regarding normative justifications, historical developments, feasibility concerns and solutions, with an attention to the specific contexts and the issues emerging in different countries around the world.
Labour market informality poses increasing challenges to systems of social protection around the world.. These challenges are familiar in the context of low and middle income countries, where informal employment is often the norm, and are a rising concern in rich countries where self-employment and the ‘gig economy’ are resurgent.
The symposium brings together scholars from across the School to explore policy responses, examining the potential and the trade-offs of different strategies, and with a view to learning from the global south: from approaches strengthening administrative capacity and labour market regulation, to those instead stressing the need for innovative models of social insurance separating the collection of contributions from the employment contract; from exploring the role of different state and non-state actors, to the development of new technologies and digital fiscal instruments. In so doing, the symposium looks at how informality has been addressed or could be addressed in these different contexts, what can be learnt and what are common, but also divergent, factors and drivers.
The welfare state plays a central role in managing risks and tackling vulnerability across the life-cycle. This entails particular relationships between individuals and between generations: for instance, under pay-as-you-go pension schemes, younger workers support the older generation through their contributions, with the prospect of benefitting from the scheme at a later stage in life; in funded schemes the mechanism is different but it remains the case that goods and services consumed by pensioners are produced by younger workers. The design and financing of welfare state institutions need to adjust to emerging social and economic changes, raising questions about the relationships that underpin those institutions.
These issues raise both empirical questions relating to efficiency and equity, and normative questions about the justifications of different policy approaches. At least two themes emerge. First, such questions involve exploring the nature of reciprocity as a normative principle of social cooperation, with a particular focus on life-cycle dynamics. Secondly, the theme allows to tackle practical issues in specific policy areas - towards older people in the case of pensions and social care and towards younger people in the case of education, the provision of childcare, and child support - in relation to both their design and their financing, questioning the role individuals and the state can/should play.
Rising concerns about income and wealth inequality have prompted renewed attention to questions about the role of the tax system in delivering a fair society. Within the social sciences, researchers from different disciplines have adopted a variety of normative and explanatory frameworks for thinking about ‘tax justice’; however, these perspectives have rarely been connected with one another.
We will attempt to synthesise key perspectives on tax justice and deploy these varied tools to address a range of pressing issues in tax design, including: drivers of public attitudes and major obstacles to reform; the relation between ‘tax expenditures’ and public spending; the distinction between avoidance and evasion and measures to improve tax compliance; and international dimensions of tax justice including cooperation and competition between states.
The symposium will focus on individual motivations and organisational incentive structures that create positive social and environmental impacts, or, more generally, that contribute to public benefit. In relation to individuals, the symposium asks questions in relation to the fundamental drivers of altruistic behaviour, their relationship to normative principles such as reciprocity and mutualism as well as practical questions regarding the policies, structures and processes that can lead people to do good, and do so more effectively.
At the organisational level, the symposium explores how societies rely on different private and third sector actors in order to promote public benefit. This includes considering the role of ‘hybrid’ organisations, such as enterprises with multiple aims that operate in the market while pursuing a social or environmental mission. Both at the individual and organisational level the symposium explores whether and how a self-interested incentives structure can sit alongside altruistic motivations, and whether this will lead one to crowd out the other.
In the mid-twentieth century when welfare states were expanding in much of the Global North, social scientists treated the family as a social institution that was more or less separate from other public institutions. Gender issues were often relegated to family studies, and because of the public-private divide, they were deemed to be largely irrelevant in the public sphere. Both academics and policy makers assumed that the best institutional fit for an industrial economy was a male-breadwinner, female housewife model.
Furthermore, gender was often presented as a fixed individual-level characteristic. Although these frameworks have been questioned and we have formally moved on, the assumptions underpinningthemcan still be discerned in the way the social world is described and studied.
The symposium explores what this legacy means for the way we think about and understand current policy challenges. It illuminates the policy implications of an understanding of gender as a primary source of social stratification and integral to our understanding of social processes. Together the papers will demonstrate why – for many of our most pressing policy challenges and ambitions – a feminist conceptualization of gender cannot be ignored.
Beveridge 2.0 Staff
Dr Irene Bucelli