Dangerous Classes: The Underclass and Social Citizenship by Lydia Morris

By Lydia Morris

First released in 2002. Routledge is an imprint of Taylor & Francis, an informa corporation.

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In a later work, The Descent of Man (1871), Darwin struggled to establish a theory of continuity between man and animals, arguing that basic human faculties existed in undeveloped form in animals. Elaborations of this link included a parallel psychological argument. Thus the development of the human race from the savage state up to that of modern man was compared with the mental development of a human child. Mental collapse then came to be seen as a form of psychological atavism: the surfacing of the characteristics of primitive ancestors.

Blacker (1937: 4) also writing under the auspices of the Eugenics Society but in more hesitant terms than in some of his earlier work, notes that the social problem group falls into two types: the medico-psychological, defined in terms of mental defect, and the sociological, defined in terms of poverty and slum dwelling. Falling somewhere between the two are the recidivists, unemployables, inebriates and prostitutes. In Blacker’s work we find the clear expression of an issue contemporary to the 1990s: the failure to answer the question, ‘How much unemployment is the outcome of Dangerous classes 31 the economic factor, lack of work, or the psychological, lack of capacity for sustained work’ (1937:7).

Provision was selective, covering only seven trades prone to seasonal or cyclical fluctuations, and was based on a treatment of unemployment as a transitory phenomenon, failing to offer provision for the long term unemployed, who were the most in need. In fact the problem underlying the insurance principle generally is that financial viability depends upon the exclusion of those most likely to place a high demand on the system. Whilst no enquiry was made into the financial circumstances or the moral character of those claiming the benefit, a fear of abuse was evident in the restriction of benefits in proportion to contributions, the requirement of 26 weeks’ contributions in order to qualify, and the maximum 15 weeks of benefit permissible in any one year.

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