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The Politics of Social Housing in Britain

Jamileh Manoochehri

This book investigates the relationship between the dominant ideologies of British public life in the second half of the twentieth century and the quality of the social housing built during this period. The author compares award-winning housing projects from the 1960s and the 1980s, projects that represent two major milestones in the development of state-provided housing in Britain. Her detailed analysis looks beyond the superficial appearance of housing policy in these two contrasting periods and provides fascinating insights into the substance of the changes that took place. The book examines the influence of universalist and selectivist approaches to social housing and asks important questions about the connection between social values and government policy.


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Chapter 2 - Social Policy, Housing and Social Values 67


Chapter 2 Social Policy, Housing and Social Values The state is a key actor in forming and implementing social policies and its role is defined by what motivates policies and determines their direction and outcome. This book’s premise is that a correlation exists between the ideological thrust of social policies and social housing standards of any given period. The role of the state in af fecting change is clearly central to social policy. The capitalist state is defined in dif ferent terms. The Marxist notion of the state sees it as a means for one class to exercise hegemony over another (Miliband, Of fe, Harloe). The social democratic view sees state involve- ment in social policy as a means of creating a balance in the share of social wealth that dif ferent classes claim from the public purse (Keynes and Laski), against marketers and neo-liberals who see a major role for the market in establishing these shares (Hayek, Friedman, Mead and Murray). In England, the measures the state has taken over the decades have varied from passing laws on sanitation and health to setting standards and regulating the built environment in general and the standards of housing for the poor in particular. There is evidence that workers’ organized demands provide significant impetus for the development of welfare services, and social housing is one of the concessions won through co-ordinated class action. Paradoxically therefore, social welfare policy in capitalist societies can be seen both as necessary for the survival of the...

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