ABSTRACT

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights speaks of a right to social security (UN 1948: Article 22) and, more particularly, a person's ‘right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control’ (Article 25). In different parts of the world and at different moments in human history people have achieved social security by different means. Human subsistence may after all be sustained by more than one form of social organisation. Social security may be ensured through the simple exchange of goods and services, or by the organised distribution of benefits in kind or in cash. A defining feature of democratic-welfare-capitalism is that everyday subsistence is conditioned by a cash nexus. However, cash benefits can be organised in accordance with a variety of principles, not all of which provide the same degree of security. This chapter will be concerned very specifically with what in Britain is called the social security system, though the rights which that system provides are in fact qualified rights to income maintenance. These are rights guaranteed by legislation, but whether they provide social security will be left to the reader to judge.