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Professor Jordanna Bailkin (University of Washington)
‘Love in the Time of Welfare'
Was the welfare state the enemy of love? During the political and economic transformations of the postwar decades, many Britons worried that in usurping the caring function of the family, the state had irrevocably altered how people felt about each other, and changed their intimate lives. This paper focuses on the vexed history of the cohabitation rule, designed to keep single women from claiming welfare benefits if they were in fact living with a man. The unforeseen and unpredictable consequences of this rule raised larger questions about who was allowed to feel love - and for whom - in the era of the welfare state. As our pandemic moment prompts new debates about connection and care, vulnerability and dependence, this paper explores the state’s longer history of designating permissible and impermissible feelings.
Jordanna Bailkin is the Jere L. Bacharach Endowed Professor in International Studies at the University of Washington in Seattle, where she teaches British, European, and imperial history as well as the history of human rights. She is the author of The Culture of Property (Chicago, 2004), The Afterlife of Empire (Berkeley, 2012), and Unsettled (Oxford, 2018). She is working on a new project about friendship and loneliness in modern Britain, more broadly about emotions and the state.