Two related concepts have been used to understand the welfare state – ‘decom modification’ and the ‘workfare’ or the ‘competition’ state, as it relates to processes of ‘recom modification’.I will try to examine how these related literatures may be integrated in order to enhance our understanding of current labour market policies. Applying these concepts to an analysis of the ideas and policies of New Labour in UK leads to the conclusion that state welfare services are being reconfigured to serve more effectively the needs of the market, through a process of ‘administrative recom modification’.
For a number of years, ‘decommodification’ has been a core concept in explaining the (often contradictory) existence of welfare states in advanced capitalist economies. More recently, theories of the ‘workfare’ or ‘competition’ state have argued that states are playing an active role in a process of ‘recom modifying’ labour, a view closely linked to the burgeoning literature on the political economy of ‘globalisation’. I will try ot review the key contributions of these related literatures in turn, and then show how they may be integrated to enhance our understanding of current labour market policies. Using these ideas to analyse the ideological underpinnings of New Labour and UK labour market policies leads to the conclusion that state welfare services are being reconfigured in order to serve more effectively the needs of the market. However,
this outcome is being achieved not by the withdrawal of the state but by increasing levels of state intervention. Following Offe (1984), this process may best be characterised as a form of ‘administrative recom modification’.