Individualism and Neo-Liberalism

Peter Taylor-Gooby, Benjamin LERUTH

Research output: A Conference proceeding or a Chapter in BookChapterpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Neo-liberal ideas exert increasing influence on welfare state policies in Europe. Neo-liberalism values individual interaction in free markets. It argues for welfare state cutbacks and greater individual responsibility and stresses the importance of opportunity. This in turn underscores particular themes in public attitudes (deservingness, obligation and choice) and downplays others (solidarity and community).

This chapter reviews the background theoretical, policy and public attitude literature, analyses the findings of our Democratic Forums and shows how they contribute to understanding popular framings of individualism. We identify two dominant framings in different countries. One puts the emphasis on individual responsibility. It is most prominent in the denigration of unemployed people as workshy, notably in the UK and to some extent Germany, but conflicts with the widespread positive valuing of collective healthcare, pensions and education. The second more positive approach, found in all five countries, supports state investment in training, childcare and other services to mobilise workers and expand the range of opportunities to which people may aspire.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAttitudes, Aspirations and Welfare
Subtitle of host publicationSocial Policy Directions in Uncertain Times
EditorsPeter Taylor-Gooby, Benjamin Leruth
Place of PublicationCham, Switzerland
Number of pages33
ISBN (Electronic)9783319757834
ISBN (Print)9783319757827
Publication statusPublished - 15 May 2018


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