chapter  2
29 Pages

Social Insurance and the Allied Services: the Political Utopia of 1942

The ambition of SIAS should not be denigrated and the importance of this 1942 report should not be underestimated. The report proposed a comprehensive range of social security benefits which were to be substantially more generous than those which had been paid before the Second World War (extract 2B). If that ambition was never realized (Chapter 3, extract 3E), SIAS did define the shape of the public welfare system for more than a generation after 1945. But, when the postwar social security system never worked as Beveridge had intended in 1942, SIAS must be evaluated critically. It cannot be assumed that all our problems with social security can be attributed to successive governments which failed to implement and sustain the proposals of 1942. The conclusion of our criticism is that the 1942 report was politically utopian; Beveridge's commitment to the a priori of liberal collectivism led him to propose an ideal scheme for social improvement which was impracticable in that it was incapable of realization.