This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse this site you are agreeing to our use of cookies. For more information, see our privacy statement

New Left Review I/122, July-August 1980

Elizabeth Wilson

Marxism and the ‘Welfare State’

The Political Economy of the Welfare State [1] Ian Gough, The Political Economy of the Welfare State, London 1979, Macmillan. by Ian Gough is the third book to appear in a series of educational texts, ‘Critical Texts in Social Work and the Welfare State’, edited by Professor Peter Leonard. The series is located by Peter Leonard within the ‘crisis’ and its aim is: ‘to address itself to explanations of the crisis which relate to the immediate material reality experienced by State workers in the welfare field and to link this to the economic, political, ideological and historical context within which the crisis occurs’. [2] Paul Corrigan and Peter Leonard, Social Work Practice Under Capitalism, A Marxist Approach, London 1978, General Introduction, p. ix. In his general introduction, Peter Leonard places an emphasis on the relationship of theory and practice, but within this scheme Ian Gough’s book is necessarily primarily theoretical. It is intended both as an account of the political economy of welfare and as a contribution to the Marxist debate concerning the nature of the capitalist state, a debate that has been engaged at a high level of theoretical sophistication for some years—in fact since the by now celebrated contributions by Ralph Miliband and the late Nicos Poulantzas which appeared originally in the New Left Review. [3] These were republished in Robin Blackburn, Ideology in Social Science, London 1972. Both Ian Gough’s book and the series of which it is part—a series intended for students and for practitioners rather than for Marxist theoreticians—raise particular issues with which I as a teacher of social work students am concerned. They also raise more general issues to do with the relationship of the economic, the political and the ideological; and to do with the general response of the left to the advent of the Thatcher government.

Subscribe for just £40 and get free access to the archive
Please login on the left to read more or buy the article for £3


Elizabeth Wilson, ‘Marxism and the 'Welfare State'’, NLR I/122: £3

If you want to create a new NLR account please register here

’My institution subscribes to NLR, why can't I access this article?’