The Disinherited Society

The Disinherited Society: A Personal View of Social Responsibility in Liverpool During the Twentieth Century

MARGARET SIMEY
Copyright Date: 1996
Edition: 1
Pages: 184
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt5vjfr6
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    The Disinherited Society
    Book Description:

    The early years of the twentieth century saw the emergence in Liverpool of a unique vision of what it might mean to be a citizen in an urban democracy. This owed its inspiration to the coming together of the idealism of the academics at the young University with the practical morality of the City’s merchant philanthropists. Infused as both were by the passion and urgency of the women’s demand for liberation, the result was a totally fresh approach to the problems of the day. This found expression in a commitment to the principle that the right to share in the responsibility for the management of the common affairs of a society must be a universal attribute of citizenship, regardless of gender, religion or class. How this has developed down the years into a demand for the empowerment of the community itself is the stuff of this book. Ironically the Welfare State has resulted in an assumption of control by the executive which has deprived the people of their right to responsibility for what is done in their name. The Disinherited Family of Eleanor Rathbone’s classic book on child allowances has become the Disinherited Society of today. Using history as a launching pad for future planning, this book concludes with a forthright Tract for the Times. This challenges the communitarianism popularised by Amitai Etzioni as lacking in relevance to either the social or economic realities of today.

    eISBN: 978-1-84631-735-4
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[iv])
  2. PREFACE
    (pp. [v]-[vi])
  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. [vii]-[x])
  4. Introduction CAUSE FOR CONCERN
    (pp. 1-12)

    I had the singular good fortune when young to come under the influence of that band of trojan women who, led by Eleanor Rathbone, operated under the banner of the Liverpool Women Gtizens’ Association. Their purpose was to win for women the right to vote in order that they might enjoy the full responsibilities of citizenship and to train them to carry out the obligations this would impose upon them. It was to that end that they demanded the right to education, to opportunity, to independence. Whatever their particular needs, the common inspiration which bound them all together was the...

  5. Part One THE CREED AND THE CRAFT OF SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY
    • Chapter 1 THE ATHENS OF THE NORTH
      (pp. 15-24)

      I start with myself at the age of seventeen, trundling over the Runcorn railway bridge towards Liverpool through the rain of a dirty winter’s night in the early nineteen twenties. Street lamps shone in the deserted little township below the viaduct. There was a gleam of reflected light on the sweep of the sand flats, left bare by the receding tide. Suddenly, the gates of Hell opened. Furnaces, pinpoints of fierce flame, chimneys belching visible fumes, the fearful smell of rotten eggs. All my London veneer, my public school culture, the sophistication of my childhood in Cairo, all of it...

    • Chapter 2 THE CREED OF SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY
      (pp. 25-40)

      I set off for the University in 1923, my pigtails coiled over my ears like headphones (as was the fashion of the day). The significance of what I was doing completely escaped me. It simply never occurred to me to ask questions about how the University came to exist in what was, at that time, the improbable setting of a commercial city. Nor how I as a young woman came to be there, all set to acquire a degree with a view to embarking on an independent career of my own. It is only now I realise that I was...

    • Chapter 3 THE CRAFT OF SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY
      (pp. 41-52)

      To arrive at the expression of a creed of universal social responsibility had called for moral courage of a high order; but to take the next step of implementing the duty to create a society wherein the principle would be viable, required imagination and determination of an equal intensity. The ultimate aim of the little group that propounded it was the creation of a Good Society, but they were totally in the dark as to how this was to be achieved. The improvement of the individual was an age-old topic, but the very idea of developing the quality of life...

    • Chapter 4 BIRTH OF THE SOCIAL WORKER
      (pp. 53-68)

      When the war started in 1914, no one was prepared for the wholesale distress caused by the call-up of so many of the bread-winners on whom entire families depended. The poor had always been with them but the avalanche of need that now swamped the existing relief agencies revealed the existence of a new kind of poor; people whose poverty was nothing to do with whether they were deserving or otherwise, and whose numbers were on a scale far beyond anything previously experienced. Desperate families searched here, there, everywhere for even the barest means of subsistence—the demands for assistance...

    • Chapter 5 THE STUDY OF SOCIETY
      (pp. 69-80)

      The decision as to what form a memorial to Charles Booth should take had been deferred because he died during the war. However, in 1922 it was eventually decided to press ahead with the endowment of a Charles Booth Chair of Social Science at the University of Liverpool. It was an admirably appropriate decision because Booth had not only been a Liverpool shipowner but had pioneered the study of society with his great survey of theLife and Labour the People of London(op. cit.,p. 69). The spirit of reconstruction was in the air. The war stood for a clean sweep...

    • Chapter 6 THE MACHINERY OF GOVERNMENT
      (pp. 81-92)

      All this fun and games, all-girls-together stuff ended abruptly after I married in 1935. Odd that I should have had to retire into the semi-contemplative life of the suburbs in order to arrive at an understanding of the first principles of life in a society. As was then customary for married women, I retreated to the far suburbs to spend my days keeping the house clean to a ridiculous standard; the gulf between domestic and professional life was pretty well total. I have been a kept woman ever since then. As the house was spit new, the cleaning of it...

    • Chapter 7 A VOLUNTARY WORKER IN THE WELFARE STATE
      (pp. 93-104)

      There was never any question of my settling down into suburban domesticity after the astounding extensions of my horizons which I had experienced in the West Indies. The war was still on. My husband was absorbed in writing his book onWiffan and Planningin the Wist India(London, Oxford University Press, 1946) in the teeth of opposition from the Colonial Office, which tried to prevent his use of information acquired during his stint as an official. My son was, educationally speaking, pretty well wrecked by having been to eleven schools in five years, so he went off to St Christopher’s...

    • Chapter 8 THE GLORY THAT WAS GRANBY
      (pp. 105-118)

      At first sight, when my husband and I went canvassing in the run-up to the 1963 local elections, Granby looked agreeable enough, like a newly retired gent with years of good service behind him but a period of useful life still to come. The streets were wide and handsome, in the Liverpool merchant tradition. Many were tree-lined, though, for lack of pruning, lights burned all day in some houses. Victorian residences lined the major thoroughfares which were cut across by streets of smaller houses, each a replica in miniature of its grander neighbours. It still looked what it had originally...

    • Chapter 9 THE DISINHERITED SOCIETY
      (pp. 119-132)

      SNAP was right, of course; there was certainly an urgent need for an overhaul of the machinery of government. But I refused to accept their wholesale condemnation of local government and all its works which seemed to me unjustifiable. Instead I clung to my belief that ‘the system’ could be made to work if we gave our minds to it. To me, that meant two things. First, that a social policy designed to ‘knit up the torn fabric of the community’, as I myself put it, by bringing neighbour together with neighbour was essential; experience in Granby had demonstrated this...

    • Chapter 10 DEMOCRACY REDISCOVERED
      (pp. 133-146)

      The move to the new Merseyside County Council in 1974, following the reorganisation of local government, made little visible difference to me. It was a huge relief to be rid of direct responsibility for housing cases, although I still did my share of the ‘surgeries’. The pace was leisurely, the style curiously old-fashioned after the rough and tumble of Liverpool City Council. My new colleagues came from all over Merseyside, some with no previous experience of local government, and only a few displayed anything like the aggression characteristic of Liverpool politics. We maintained considerable pomp and ceremony. There were potted...

  6. Part Two TRACT FOR THE TIMES
    (pp. 147-164)

    My tale necessarily comes to an arbitrary halt as narrative of the past gives way to speculation about the future. The forward thrust of developing events will undoubtedly continue but for me, this is a moment for reflection. In the Introduction I lamented the fact that ‘we never learn’ from past experience. It is incumbent on me, therefore, at this point to demonstrate the relevance of my backward look to the process of planning for the future. What lessons are to be learned from the past, what guidance derived as we make our way into the unpredictable territory of the...

  7. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 165-168)
  8. INDEX
    (pp. 169-174)