Conditionality and the ‘right to welfare’: the Marshallian citizenship ideal in the active welfare state

Activity: Talk or presentationOral presentation


The UK’s conditional welfare state challenges three aspects of Marshallian citizenship theory. First, the proposition that the citizenship should have sufficient resources to “live the life of a civilised being.” This paper suggests that social security in the UK, even at the full rate of benefit, does not guarantee all claimants sufficient income for a normal standard of living. Once sanctions are added to the mix, even the lower standard of “a modicum of economic welfare” cannot be said to be met. Second, that this “right to welfare” is essentially unconditional. Marshall’s views on this matter are less clear-cut than critics claim – his writings do recognise a duty to work alongside the right to welfare. Nonetheless, the UK’s highly disciplinary approach to claimant activation seems difficult to reconcile with the Marshallian vision. Third, as opposition to the DWP welfare-to-work model fuels regionalist sentiments, that an equal citizenship requires a unitary, national welfare state. In this case, the common portrayal of Marshall as a welfare unionist is challenged by constitutional change and the logic of his own teleology of citizenship. On one hand, a single, uniform welfare state may act as an engine of equality. On the other, if the social rights of citizenship were born of the early 20th century democratisation of political citizenship, today the regionalisation of democratic citizenship provides an opportunity for regional variation in social rights: it is natural that regional political elites’ concerns about the extent of conditionality in the UK social security system should be reflected in policy where the constitutional settlement allows. It is concluded that Marshallian theory remains a useful lens through which to examine citizenship, but that some conventional interpretations may need to be revised for the 21st century.
Period28 Jun 2018
Event titleWelfare Conditionality: Principles, Practices and Perspectives
Event typeConference
LocationYork, United KingdomShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational


  • citizenship
  • social citizenship
  • right to welfare
  • social rights
  • welfare state
  • social security