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Blood, Politics, and Social Science: Richard Titmuss and the Institute of Economics Affairs, 1957-1973

Abstract : Long before his last book, The Gift Relationship: From Human Blood to Social Policy, was published in early 1971, Richard M. Titmuss (1907-1973), a professor of social administration at the London School of Economics, had been a major figure in the debates over the welfare state. The Gift Relationship was indeed the culmination of an eventful relationship with the Institute of Economic Affairs, a think-tank advocating the extension of rational pricing to social services. By arguing that the British system of blood procurement and distribution, based on free giving within the National Health Service (NHS), was more efficient than the American, partly commercialized system, Titmuss intended to signal the dangers of the increasing commercialization of society. What made for the impact of his book, however, was not merely its argument that transfusion-transmitted infections were much more common with paid donors, but also its reflections on the question of what it is that holds a society together. And here Titmuss argued that a “socialist” social policy, in encouraging the sense of community, played a central role. The eclecticism of Titmuss's work, together with its strong ethical and political flavor, makes it a rich and original account of the “social” at a time when heated debates on social policy both in Britain and in the U.S. raised the question of the division of labor among the social sciences.
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Contributor : Philippe Fontaine Connect in order to contact the contributor
Submitted on : Thursday, June 22, 2006 - 8:55:02 PM
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  • HAL Id : halshs-00010049, version 1


Philippe Fontaine. Blood, Politics, and Social Science: Richard Titmuss and the Institute of Economics Affairs, 1957-1973. Isis, University of Chicago Press, 2002, 93 (3), pp.401-434. ⟨halshs-00010049⟩



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