As Britain’s general election approaches, cuts in public expenditure greater than those already made in the last five years are seen by many – if not most – politicians as inevitable. This will deal a further blow to the protection to which we have become accustomed, not only against the vicissitudes of social change, but against those which life itself reserves for all of us – sickness, old age and loss.

The idea of the ‘dissolution’ of the welfare state has powerful historical echoes, since it suggests a parallel between the dissolution of religious foundations in England in the 16th century ...


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