Author

Richard M. Titmuss

Richard M. Titmuss books and biography

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Birth Poverty And Wealth


By Richard M. Titmuss
Sociology

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Richard Titmuss

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Richard Titmuss (1907 - 1973) was a pioneering British social researcher and teacher. He founded the academic discipline of Social Administration (now largely known in universities as Social Policy) and held the founding chair in the subject at the LSE.

His books and articles of the 1950s helped to define the characteristics of Britain's post WWII welfare state and of a caring welfare society in ways that parallel the contributions of Gunnar Myrdal in Sweden.

There is also now a Richard Titmuss chair in Social Policy at the LSE. Like Titmuss, its current holder, (Professor Julian Le Grand, who actually is an economist by training), has been a government advisor on health policy. However, his emphasis on the potential for the private or quasi markets within the NHS differs markedly from that of Titmuss who strongly believed in the state and universal services that were allocated services exclusively on the basis of needs (instead of income or prestige).

Richard Titmuss started out as an "autodidactic, degree-less insurance clerk" having left school aged 14 with no formal qualifications. But this schooled him in the importance and value of statistics. In the 1930s he published several books on demographics and family policy.

In 1942, he was recruited to write a volume of the official war history, Problems of Social Policy, an extraordinary work which established his reputation as well as securing him the new chair at the LSE. In this process, he was strongly supported by the sociologist T. H. Marshall.

He held his chair from 1950, after brief spells in the Cabinet Office and the Social Medicine Research Unit, until his death in 1973.

At the LSE, he transformed the teaching of social work and social workers and established social policy as an academic discipline. He also contributed to a number of government committees on the health service and social policy. He also did some consulting in Africa, sometimes together with Professor Brian Abell-Smith, who was later his successor in his chair.

His concerns focused especially on issues of social justice. His final and perhaps the most important book, The Gift Relationship expressed his own philosophy of altruism in social and health policy and, like much of his work, emphasised his preference for the values of public service over private or commercial forms of care. He has been criticised for for a somewhat poor reading of some sociological (though he never claimed to be a sociologist) classics, such as the works of mile Durkheim; while this may partly reflect his somewhat inadequate academic training, it also derives from his impatience with non-participatory sociology and his preference (this became a defining characteristic of "his" discipline of Social Administration) for engagement with contemporary social policy issues and even some of its more fallible institutions )e.g. he was much criticised for his role as a vice-chairman of the government's Supplementary Benefits Commission which some critics felt did not allow him enough distance. He, by contrast argued in favour of trying to make inadequate institutions work better for the benefit of the poor even if his involvement with them had the potential to sully the purity of his reputation.

Some of his work are still read and some re-printed in newly-edited form exploring contemporary relevance. Many of the writings for which he is know were actually delivered as lectures at the LSE or when he was a much sought-after public speaker. Although several of these were later assembled as 'readers' or 'essays', he never completed a summary of his work or philosophy nor wrote a single magnum opus on social policy. Consequently there remains some confusion in secondary literature on his precise perspective on key issues, either of sociology or public policy.

His Major works include:

  • Titmuss, Richard, The Gift Relationship: From Human Blood to Social Policy (1970). Reprinted by the New Press, ISBN 1-56584-403-3 (reissued with new chapters 1997, John Ashton & Ann Oakley, LSE Books)
  • Commitment to Welfare, 1968
  • Income Distribution and Social Change, R. M. Titmuss, 1962
  • Essays on the Welfare State, R. M. Titmuss, 1958
  • Problems of Social Policy, R. M. Titmuss, 1950

see also recently edited collections of his lectures and articles:

  • Welfare & Wellbeing: Richard Titmuss's contribution to Social Policy, P. Alcock, H. Glennerster, A. Oakley & A. Sinfield (Eds.)
  • Private Complaints & Public Health: Richard Titmuss on the National Health Service, Ann Oakley & Jonathan Barker (Eds.)


This article might use material from a Wikipedia article, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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