Welfare, work and the conditions of social solidarity: British campaigns to defend healthcare and social security

Genevieve Coderre-lapalme, Ian Greer, Lisa Schulte

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When the welfare state is under attack from neoliberal reformers, how can trade unionists and other campaigners build solidarity to defend it? Based on 45 qualitative interviews, this article compares campaigns to defend British health services and social security benefits between 2007 and 2016. Building on the macro-insights of comparative welfare-state literature and the more micro-level insights of studies on mobilisation, community unionism and union strategy, it examines the factors that help or hinder the construction of solidarity. This research finds that building solidarity is more difficult when defending targeted benefits than universal ones, not only because of differences in public opinion and political support for services, but also because the labour process associated with targeting benefits, namely the assessing and sanctioning of clients, can generate conflicts among campaigners.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages21
JournalWork, Employment and Society
Publication statusPublished - 13 Aug 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: For financial support during the various stages of the research, the authors would like to thank the Hans Boeckler Foundation, which funded the research project on ‘Marketization of Employment Services in European Comparison’; the European Research Council, which funded the research project on ‘The Effects of Marketization on Societies’ (grant # 313613); and the University of Greenwich, which provided seed funding and logistical support.

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2021.


  • mobilisation
  • organising
  • solidarity
  • unions
  • welfare states

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Accounting
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management


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