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Fighting poverty, inequality and injustice

Fighting poverty, inequality and injustice: A manifesto inspired by Peter Townsend

Alan Walker
Adrian Sinfield
Carol Walker
Copyright Date: 2011
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  • Book Info
    Fighting poverty, inequality and injustice
    Book Description:

    This important book makes a vital academic and political statement in the cause of social justice. It begins with an appreciation of the seminal contributions of Peter Townsend (1928-2009), and applies them to contemporary policy debates. It brings together many of the leading contributors to current debates in this field and provides a compelling manifesto for change for students and researchers in the social sciences, policy makers and practitioners, and everybody with an interest in creating a more equal and socially just society.

    eISBN: 978-1-84742-716-8
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of figures and tables
    (pp. vii-vii)
  4. Preface
    (pp. viii-viii)
    Alan Walker, Adrian Sinfield and Carol Walker
  5. Notes on contributors
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  6. ONE The legacy of Peter Townsend
    (pp. 1-28)
    Adrian Sinfield, Alan Walker and Carol Walker

    This book aims to encourage and support a concerted campaign against poverty, inequality and social injustice and to provide a reasoned case for a new approach to social policy and politics to achieve this goal. It seeks to do so in the name of one of the 20th-century’s great champions of social justice, Peter Townsend. Peter dedicated his professional life to fighting poverty, inequality and injustice, and this book stands as a tribute to that legacy, in partnership withThe Peter Townsend reader(Walker et al, 2010). It is not intended to reflect back on the work of its central...

  7. TWO The making of a pioneer researcher: reflections from Peter Townsend’s life story
    (pp. 29-58)
    Paul Thompson

    Peter Townsend was in no doubt as to how much of his development as a major researcher he owed to his direct personal social experience. ‘Nowadays, I reflect a lot on the question of being an only child and what that means. It led, in part, to my enormous interest in family relations and extended family life, and the structure of families’ (p 5),¹ he remarked early in the first session of the life story interview which I recorded with him. It seems too that he grew up with a family tradition of telling stories about the personal past. He...

  8. THREE Peter Townsend, a man ahead of his time: re-reading The family life of old people and The last refuge
    (pp. 59-78)
    Hilary Land and Hilary Rose

    In this chapter we explore two of Peter Townsend’s pioneering studies: first,The family life of old people(1957), an ethnography of Bethnal Green, and second,The last refuge(1962), a nationwide study of old people living in residential homes. We suggest that these key texts laid the foundations of his entire opus.

    Before describing these studies in more detail, and discussing their relevance for contemporary research and policy agendas, it is important to place them in context, opening with the immense challenge Britain faced in 1945. John Maynard Keynes had laid a paper before the Cabinet titledThe financial...

  9. FOUR The case for universal child benefit
    (pp. 79-90)
    Anthony B. Atkinson

    Forty years ago, the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG), led by Peter Townsend and Frank Field, was campaigning – as it had since its inception – for a substantial increase in family allowances. There were signs in 1970 that this campaign was bearing fruit. In its election manifesto, the Conservative Party had pledged to ‘deal with family poverty’, and its Treasury spokesman had talked about the need to raise family allowances. However, the incoming Conservative government decided instead to introduce Family Income Supplement (FIS), an income-tested benefit for low-paid working families with children. Under FIS, families where the head was...

  10. FIVE Poverty
    (pp. 91-110)
    Jonathan Bradshaw

    In the 10 years between the mid-1950s and the mid-1960s Peter Townsend published three of the most outstanding social policy studies ever produced in this country. In 1957 he published his superb interview and observational study,The family life of old people. Then in 1962 he publishedThe last refuge, a survey of residential institutions for the aged. Even today no one can fail to be transfixed by this combination of empirical research, passionate, beautiful writing and outrage at the conditions of old people in Poor Law institutions. Reading it at university decided me to switch to social policy. His...

  11. SIX Social justice for children: investigating and eradicating child poverty
    (pp. 111-132)
    Ruth Lister

    Peter Townsend was a towering figure in the anti-child poverty cause. It is difficult to exaggerate the impact he had both on the study of child poverty and on the campaign to eradicate it. Yet, surprisingly, the concept of ‘child poverty’ does not figure prominently in his writings about poverty in the UK. Of course, this is not to say that Townsend downplayed the significance of child poverty in the UK. He was, after all, a prominent campaigner against it. Rather, he did not separate it out from the wider issues of poverty and privilege as a discrete problem, which...

  12. SEVEN For universalism and against the means test
    (pp. 133-152)
    Carol Walker

    Throughout his career, Peter sought not only to reveal the true extent of poverty and its impact on people’s lives but also to campaign for new policies to prevent and alleviate it. At the heart of this struggle was a commitment to fair, just and effective social security provision. Social security was at the heart of the human rights approach which he explored in his later work but which, in his final book,Building decent societies: The role of social security in development(Townsend, 2009), he reminds us is not new: social security was incorporated into the Universal Declaration of...

  13. EIGHT Underclass, overclass, ruling class, supernova class
    (pp. 153-174)
    Danny Dorling

    One man in his mid-thirties hoped that his six-figure income would grow rapidly, and admitted that his assets would be valued at nearly a million pounds. He held strong views about poverty. ‘There is no poverty. Now you can get money from the state. People don’t even have to go to work. You don’t have to put up with working in an unrewarding situation.’ He strongly disagreed with the propositions that the gap between rich and poor was too wide and that the rich should be more highly taxed. He strongly opposed the idea of putting limits on ‘some people’s...

  14. NINE Addressing health inequalities: building on Peter Townsend’s legacy
    (pp. 175-192)
    Margaret Whitehead

    Peter Townsend has been an inspiration to me and to many others in using his science and his art to press for more effective action, no more so than on the issue of health inequalities. This has always been a highly charged field politically, and sometimes it has felt like playing a game of snakes and ladders – making some advances then slipping back down again – but Peter’s example has helped us all persevere despite set-backs.

    This chapter therefore starts by paying tribute to how much Peter has shaped the health inequalities policy debate in this field, before looking...

  15. TEN Towards a new sociology of ageing: from structured dependency to critical gerontology
    (pp. 193-222)
    Chris Phillipson

    Peter Townsend can rightly be viewed as both the founder in the UK of the sociology of ageing and in his writing in this area a key figure in the development of what came to be known as ‘critical perspectives’ on ageing. The purpose of this chapter is to set out both a manifesto for developing new approaches to work in the field of ageing and in particular that relating to ‘critical gerontology’ (Estes et al, 2003; Baars et al, 2006a; Bernard and Scharf, 2007). The chapter is divided into five main sections:

    an examination of a central element of...

  16. ELEVEN Disability: prospects for social inclusion
    (pp. 223-240)
    Carol Thomas

    Disability was a topic of interest to Peter Townsend from the earliest days in his academic and policy-oriented career. From the 1960s onwards he recognised that disability was always present somewhere in the mix that sculpted poverty and socioeconomic disadvantage in communities – especially among old people and in families with disabled children. His long-standing interest in social conditions, social relationships and the unequal distribution of resources meant that social groups who faced particular disadvantages in achieving decent standards of living won his lasting attention and unwavering political commitment (Walker et al, 2010). Thus, in Townsend’s conceptual and methodological approach...

  17. TWELVE Putting the lawyers in their place: the role of human rights in the struggle against poverty
    (pp. 241-256)
    Conor Gearty

    Peter Townsend came to ‘human rights’ as a term late in his career, but its spirit had been with him from the start. As early as 1958, in his contribution to the well-knownConvictionvolume, Peter was writing like a human rights activist:

    If that overdone phrase ‘a classless society’ means anything it is a society where differences in reward are much narrower than in Britain today and where people of different backgrounds and accomplishment can mix easily and without guilt; but also a society where a respect for people is valued most of all, for that brings a real...

  18. THIRTEEN Radicalising social policy in the 21st century: a global approach
    (pp. 257-274)
    Nicola Yeates and Bob Deacon

    We undertake four tasks in this chapter. First, we offer a brief review of Peter Townsend’s work on global social policy and the stature of its contribution to its field. We highlight the innovativeness and breadth of coverage of Peter’s work which was firmly grounded in a materialist, globalist and sociological analysis of social policy. Second, we reflect on the impact of this work, where we make reference to his academic and policy impacts. Third, we assess the implications of the key messages of Peter’s work for current and future research, teaching and campaigning. We focus on the value and...

  19. FOURTEEN Conclusion: building on the legacy of Peter Townsend
    (pp. 275-302)
    Alan Walker and Carol Walker

    The main objectives of this book, set out in Chapter One, were, first, to encourage and support a concerted campaign against poverty, inequality and social injustice and, second, to provide a reasoned case for a new approach to social policy aimed at achieving the goal of social justice. The inspiration behind the book and its objectives is Peter Townsend and, specifically, his consistent, dogged pursuit of social justice in every aspect of his public life: education, research, writing and campaigning. The book’s subtitle, referring to a ‘manifesto’, is intended to capture the idea of a public statement of policy on...

  20. INDEX
    (pp. 303-314)
  21. Back Matter
    (pp. 315-315)