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Overcoming false dichotomies: Mill, Marx and the welfare state

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Abstract:

There is a strong perception in the social sciences that the welfare state and socialism differ qualitatively rather than by degree. This perception holds that the welfare state is fundamentally incapable, in any incarnation, of realizing the social aspirations of socialism, and that socialism is likewise destructive of welfare state ideals. As a result of such thinking, the marginal, intersectional world that does exist between the welfare state and socialism becomes hidden from view. This consequence is of particular concern to theorists in search of a more egalitarian society than markets, on their own, can produce. This paper analyses the welfare state/socialism dichotomy in the works of Marx and J.S. Mill, looking to see whether it was plausible at its point of historical origin. The conclusion is that it was not; that the dichotomy only seemed to make sense because neither theorist employed a language capable of capturing the complexity of the social relations in question.

Keywords: Capital; Capitalism; Communism; Distribution; Grundrisse; Keynes; Markets; Marx; Mill; Ownership; Principles of Political Economy; Production; Property; Socialism; Weber; Welfare state

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Georgia State University, Atlanta, GA 30303. Email:polpl@langate.gsu.edu

Publication date: January 1, 2000

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