The rhetoric of redistribution
in In search of social democracy

In Britain, Labour's adoption of centrist rhetoric after 1994 proved compatible with so-called 'redistribution by stealth': a concerted attempt to engineer non-negligible but unpublicised improvements in the incomes of the working poor. This chapter identifies certain important features of the rhetoric used in the past to argue for progressive taxation, welfare programmes, the regulation of the labour market, and other policy measures intended to lighten the burdens of the poor by increasing burdens on the better off. It also identifies three important aspects of redistributive rhetoric. They are: its critique of prevailing distributive patterns via an appropriation of a populist understanding of the 'public interest'; the specific political ideals that redistribution was said to advance; and the assumptions about political agency that underpinned this rhetoric and that it helped to disseminate to a wider public. In the early twentieth century, security emerged as an authoritative word in the redistributive lexicon.

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In search of social democracy

Responses to crisis and modernisation

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