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Modernization, welfare and ‘third way’ politics: limits to theorizing in ‘thirds’?

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The current period of welfare reform in British politics is taking place within a discourse of modernization described in terms of a ‘third way’. The ideas which constitute this discourse resonate with recent developments within human geography, namely a movement to theorizing ‘in-between’ spaces, a turn to culture and to issues of globalization. This paper suggests that welfare reform is a restructuring project which allows the nature of thinking and acting ‘in thirds’ to be questioned. It problematizes the ‘third way’ approach to cultural modernization and economic globalization as a de-politicized discourse, and argues for the cultural politics and political economics which underpin welfare reform to be foregrounded. As a form of political discourse analysis, it points to the developing need for a welfare geography that is attuned to the languages and practices through which dominant systems of social and economic distribution are constituted.

Keywords: Britain; class; culture; discourse; globalization; welfare reform

Document Type: Original Article


Affiliations: University of Birmingham, School of Geography, Edgbaston, Birmingham, UK

Publication date: 2001-03-01

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