The problem of poverty : ideology, the state and the 1972 Royal Commission on Social Security : a dissertation presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for a Doctorate in Philososphy at Massey University
The concept of ideology, understood as linked to structures of domination in society, is crucial in explaining the state's response to poverty through social security. Ideological processes work to keep the focus of social security provision on the poor and behaviour of the poor, rather than on the pattern of society's income distribution, a pattern which creates poverty. Ideological forces underlie and explain the contradictory nature of state social security provision. This contradictory nature arises from the need for the state to respond to poverty while at the same time concerning itself with the interests of the dominant and powerful.
The 1972 Royal Commission on Social Security provided the first comprehensive review of social security since the passage of the 1938 Social Security Act. The review took place at a time of increasing real poverty for beneficiaries. The process and outcome of that Commission reflected the workings of ideological processes, displayed fundamental ideological struggles about the role of the state, the nature of poverty, the purposes of social security and how the financial needs of the poorest in society should be responded to. This thesis uses the concept of ideology to examine those struggles and arguments, and to explain the political outcomes seen in the recommendations of the Commission and the subsequent legislation.
The thesis concludes with a discussion of the implications for the use of the concept of ideology as an explanatory tool in social policy development generally. Locating social security within the wider patterns of income distribution is essential to both good research and effective policy provision. Ideology is a key concept in unlocking discussion of this wider societal location of the state's response to poverty.