By Martin Powell
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Additional info for Evaluating New Labour's Welfare Reforms
No citizen’s standing in one sphere or with regard to one social good can be undercut by their standing in some other sphere, with regard to some other good. For example, X may be chosen over Y for political office, but X’s office should give him or her no advantage over Y in any other sphere – such as superior medical care or access to better schools for their children and so on. In general, “No social good x should be distributed to men and women who possess some other good y merely because they possess y and without regard to the meaning of x” (p 20).
There are clearly some variations between these accounts. For example, as Driver and Martell (2000) note, Giddens is more egalitarian than Blair, and launches a stern attack on the inadequacy of meritocracy and equality of opportunity alone. Nevertheless, they are sufficiently similar to draw out some of the main themes. First, there have been moves from a general discourse based on equality to one based on social justice. Lund (2001a) argues that although ‘social justice’ and ‘equality’ were used interchangeably throughout the 20th century, New Labour has attempted to establish a clear distinction between the two concepts.
The third level involves the distribution of opportunity, as well as redistribution (my emphasis). The fourth level stresses that social justice does not mean taking things away from successful people and giving to the unsuccessful. In other words, redistribution is for a purpose, not for its own sake. In this changing world with its economic, social and political revolutions, we face three alternative futures. The first scenario is associated with the ‘Levellers’ or the ‘old left’, who seek social justice primarily through the tax and benefit system.