End of a Faustian pact: workfare and riots

Issue 140 (Autumn 2011)

During the past three decades, Guy Standing argues, politicians struck a Faustian pact. In return for ‘labour market flexibility’, government would top up declining wages through subsidies and tax credits and redirect social protection from an emphasis on social solidarity and social insurance to means-tested social assistance. In the aftermath of rioting, they must now face the following fact: it is the economic policies they have supported that are a major cause of the underlying malaise. If they do not, they will find themselves acceding to an increasingly coercive and punitive social policy, epitomised by workfare and the vogue term of ‘conditional welfare’. Politicians must step back from the utilitarian direction in which they have taken us during the past thirty years and consider an alternative road.