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Date of Award

12-1998

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Sociology

Supervisor

Dr. Robert H. Storey

Abstract

This study investigates the responses of the labour movement, social policy advocacy organizations, and feminists to the downsizing and restructuring of the welfare state in Canada. Of interest in this research is whether these constituencies are in the initial stages of 'reconceptualizing' social welfare, given that the increasing degree of economic globalization and the rightward shift in political thinking in recent years have created a need for 'paradigm shift' in approaches to social policy among equality-seeking social movements. It is discovered that these three social movements (labour, social policy advocates, and feminists) are at varying stages in imagining and working to achieve a progressive alternative to the postwar welfare state. Some elements of the labour movement have clearly identified the economic and political roots of growing social inequality. Some elements of the social policy advocacy community are promoting comprehensive alternative economic and social policies to the ones currently dominating political discourse. The women's movement, as represented by the National Action Committee on the Status of Women, appears to be the furthest ahead in developing a theoretically grounded critique of neo-conservative/neo-liberal social welfare restructuring, and in posing progressive alternatives to it. Theoretical issues which arise in regard to rethinking social welfare and reformulating social policy are discussed. There is also reference made to the strategic challenges which confront social movements within Canada and internationally, in their efforts to use social policy as a means of achieving greater social equality and an environmentally sustainable set of economic and political arrangements.

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