(Fitzpatrick, 2001.) Whatever the reason is, the stark and painful truth is that the homeless live among us, drifting and teetering precariously, and it is the duty of law and policy to ensure that the mechanisms are in place so that they may not be left behind - fall within the cracks, as it were.
In order to understand the intricacies of Britain's Social Policy (Alcock, 2003) - its strengths as well as its weaknesses, for indeed there are many from both-- it is imperative to begin by examining its ideological moorings.
But it is not sufficient merely to understand the obviously self-interested basis of these social relations of production. What is critical for my purpose - that is, the analysis of ideological conflict - is to grasp the nature of the normative filter through which these self-interested actions must pass and how and why they are socially transformed by this passage. Why, in other words, is economic power "euphemized" in this fashion and what are the consequences of its euphemization From one perspective, what the wealthy did was to transmute a portion of their disproportionate economic means into forms of status, prestige and social control by means of acts they passed off as voluntary acts of generosity or charity. This social control was, of course, again convertible into labor services - and hence, again into material wealth.
James Scott uses a very defined space to illustrate his thesis on
charity as a mechanism to reinforce existing hierarchical relations.
He gives the example of a tenant who, understanding that his employer is in a position to provide him with work and benefits, couches his requests for assistance in words that he knows the employer is comfortable with. The tenant uses words like "help" and "assistance", words that convey the idea of generosity and liberality. The worker gets what he wants through this strategy, and at the same time, the class dynamic is reinforced in a manner advantageous to the employer.
There is a one-to-one correspondence in Scott's example: laborer to employer, tenant to landlord. However, upon reflection, one concludes that the same thesis may be arrived at in situations wherein the class relations are as pronounced but the players are interacting with each other in less direct ways.
What we see here, therefore - and precisely what Social Policy seeks to address -- this twisted dance of double symbolic manipulation wherein both the ruling class and proletariat subscribe to the euphemization of economic power to achieve their own ends, results in the ruling class' long term interests being satisfied and the proletariat's short term interests being satisfied temporarily. And at the end of the day, the tangible costs of this inequality - lack of accountability in governance, corruption, disenfranchisement, stark and painful poverty -- are borne solely by the marginalized.
It used to be that the idea of social policy was often focused exclusively in the domain of the economic. After all, the debate concerning it may be traced back to the Poor Law, which was from 1598 to 1948. (Anderson,