Journal of Social Policy

Adults Only: Disability, Social Policy and the Life Course 1

MARK PRIESTLEY Senior ESRC Research Fellowand administrator of the international e-mail discussion group a1
a1 Disability Research Unit, Department of Sociology and Social Policy, University of Leeds


This article examines the relationship between disability, generation and social policy. The moral and legislative framework for the post-war welfare settlement was grounded in a long-standing cultural construction of ‘normal’ life course progression. Disability and age (along with gender) were the key components in this construction, defining broad categories of welfare dependency and labour force exemption. However, social changes and the emergence of new policy discourses have brought into question the way in which we think about dependency and welfare at the end of the twentieth century. The article suggests that, as policy-makers pursue their millennial settlement with mothers, children and older people, they also may be forced to reconstruct the relationship between disabled people and the welfare state.


1 This paper arises from a three-year ESRC Fellowship award (number R000271078). An abridged version was presented to the Society for Disability Studies twelfth annual meeting, Washington DC, USA, 24–27 May 1999.