Sunday, 16 December 2012

War, Welfare and the National Health Service

Beveridge? No Thanks.

Excerpt from The Breakdown of Welfare (Anarchy in Action by Colin Ward, 1973)

“The connection between welfare and warfare is in fact very close. Until late in the nineteenth century the state conducted its wars with professional soldiers and mercenaries, but the scale and scope of wars forced states to pay more and more attention to the physical quality of recruits, whether volunteers or conscripts, and the discovery that so large a proportion of the eligible cannon-fodder was physically unfit (a discovery it has made afresh with every war of the last hundred years) led the state to take measures for improving the physical health of the nation. Richard Titmuss remarks in his essay on War and Social Policy that 'It was the South African War, not one of the notable wars in human history to change the affairs of men, that touched off the personal health movement which eventually led to the National Health Service in 1948.’”

“With the extension of warfare to the civilian population, the need to maintain morale by the formulation of 'peace aims' and the general feeling of guilt over past social injustices and of resolution to do better in future which war engenders, the concern over physical health extended to a wider field of social well-being. The 'wartime trends towards universalising public provision for certain basic needs', as Titmuss says, 'mean in effect that a social system must be so organised as to enable all citizens (and not only soldiers) to learn what to make of their lives in peacetime. In this context, the Education Act of 1944 becomes intelligible; so does the Beveridge Report of 1942 and the National Insurance, Family Allowances and National Service Acts. All these measures of social policy were in part an expression of the needs of war-time strategy to fuse and unify the conditions of life of civilians and non-civilians alike."

"His sardonic conclusion is that 'The aims and content of social policy, both in peace and war, are thus determined at least to a substantial extent - by how far the co-operation of the masses is essential to the successful prosecution of war.'”

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