chapter  1
31 Pages

The Economic and Social Philosophy of 'A Free Society'

Beveridge was never a grand social theorist. As the titles of his books and articles show, he always favoured a practical problem-centred approach to specific issues. He was writing Unemployment: a problem of industry (1909) in the years when his Edwardian contemporaries Hobhouse and Hobson were writing books on Liberalism (1911) and The Crisis of Liberalism (1909). Towards the end of his career, in 1945, some of his journalism was collected into a short book titled Why I am a Liberal. But the contents of that book only prove our point about practical preoccupation because this was not a text of political theory; in its introduction Beveridge explained 'why I have joined the Liberal party' and in its conclusion argued 'why you should vote Liberal in the 1945 general election. It would, however, be wrong to represent Beveridge as a mere technician of social reform who was belatedly converted to party politics. Beveridge always occupied a position which was in some sense liberal and in his work of the 1930s and 1940s his underlying political philosophy was increasingly formalized and elaborated. From this point of view our main interest must be to define Beveridge'S positions and examine their development.