The 'Mutualisation' of Public Services in Britain: a critical commentary



Birchall J (2008) The 'Mutualisation' of Public Services in Britain: a critical commentary. Journal of Co-operative Studies, 41 (2), pp. 5-16.

This article provides a critical commentary on the 'new mutualism', an intellectual current in the recent debate about public services in Britain that argues for the 'mutualisation' of service delivery agencies. First, it defines a mutual, and identifies important ways in which the new mutuals diverge from this definition. It traces the genesis of the idea in the 'old mutualism' of pre-welfare state Britain, explaining how mutuals were rejected in the setting up of the postwar welfare state. It describes how foundation hospitals and other recent developments have been influenced by a new appreciation of the idea of mutuality that has been used to help shape New Labour's modernisation of public services. It shows how mutuals fit with other new forms such as the public interest company and social enterprise, and with a broader 'script' provided by communitarianism and the 'third way'. It considers potential weaknesses in the argument, and then reviews criticisms concerning inequality and lack of participation. Finally, it asks whether the concept will remain as influential in the future, and whether it will deliver the improvements in public services that its advocates have promised.

Journal of Co-operative Studies: Volume 41, Issue 2

Publication date31/08/2008
PublisherUK Society for Co-operative Studies
Publisher URL…0000002/art00002