In 1942, as people started to think about remaking society after the War, William Beveridge wrote a report for the British government that was to shape the welfare state in Europe. He wrote, ‘It is a time for revolutions, not for patching.’ What he meant was that it was useless to make minor changes to the old system. A new system was needed. The evidence was clear.
Today, we are at a similar juncture. The social policies of the 20th century are outdated. Selective schemes for what economists call ‘contingency risks’, such as a spell of unemployment, an illness or an accident, do not deal with the defining challenges of our age. We live at a time of rentier capitalism, in which more income goes to owners of property – physical, financial or intellectual – while less goes to those who rely on labour and work for their incomes.
Coupled with this trend, a new class structure has taken shape, with a tiny absurdly rich plutocracy facing a growing precariat experiencing chronic insecurities and an erosion of social, civil, economic and political rights.
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