There is, no one theoretical explanation for unemployment, poverty, and social welfare policy. The existence of different theoretical perspectives about unemployment, poverty and social welfare policy requires that some schematic framework be used with which to organize the different theories.
In developing a framework it is worthwhile to chart historically the changing meanings of the words pauper and poor, for that process extricates the principal divisions between the different theories. In Pre-Elizabethan times, religious Canon Law stressed the innocence of poverty. There was no attribution made that the destitute were morally inadequate.
For the wealthy “Those who were blessed not with poverty but with riches had the sacred duty of charity, the obligation to sustain the holy poor and to relieve the misery of the unholy”. Under the emerging mercantile system and the results of land enclosure, however, the conception of poverty became largely secularized, and the labor organization of England came to be regulated within the Poor Law and the Statute of Artificers. The gentlemen of England judged all persons as poor if they did not have an income that could keep them in leisure. Poor was synonymous with what was known as the “common people” and the common people were made up of all but the landed classes. Unemployment, poverty, and social welfare policy during the late twentieth century are topics that have received some attention within the social work literature.

During the late 1970s and early 1980s, social service theorists still viewed capitalism as national capitalism contained within the nation-state. Cutbacks in expenditures or demands for welfare programming funding and services were viewed as a problem inherent in business cycles of capitalism, and its creation of unemployment, inflation, and later stagflation.

Cutbacks in spending were to ease inflation and bolster the private sector. Further, social policy within each nation-state was thought to be able to regulate some of the effects of poverty and unemployment. Other commentators considered the changing relationship between the welfare state and program support/funding, as the preeminence of what they referred to as neoconservatism.

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