New vision of a welfare state
by New vision of a welfare state

Dr. Anna Yeatman

August 22, 2003 – Dr. Anna Yeatman rejects the traditional liberal theory, stemming from John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, that individuals exist naturally and that the goal of the state must be to enable individuals to express their own nature.

"The individual isn't just already 'there'. A self-determining individual is a complex achievement on the part of government, society, and the individual. In this sense, the individual has to be made. There has to be an entire infrastructure of support that prompts, prods, and facilitates you to become a self-determining individual," Yeatman said.

Recruited from McQuarie University in Australia, Yeatman is a new professor in the University of Alberta Department of Political Science and has been named the Canada Research Chair in Social Theory and Policy. She was attracted to the U of A by the combination of persistent lobbying by the former chair of the Department of Political Science, Dr. Janine Brodie, and by the attractive package offered by the Canada Research Chair.

Her research centres on democratic governance and approaches to public policy that suits a globalizing world and create a genuinely inclusive citizenship. "You can't think about the state without thinking also about civil society and family-personal life," she said. "When I think about the political, I can't help think about the social as well. I don't believe you can think about democracy, freedom, and equality without thinking about how to democratize the family, for example, and this illustrates how the political connects with the social."

And yet her critique of liberalism is not just a negative project of tearing down long-held beliefs about politics and the state. Her arguments carry a much more positive tone.

"Based on how I have developed as a person, I'm unable to stop at critique, I have to proceed to reconstruction," she said. "If something is worth critiquing, then in all likelihood, we need it!"

It is in this context that Yeatman sees her work on individuality as building on liberal thought, and thus as post-liberal in orientation.

A social democrat, she's realistic in accepting that the 20th century type of welfare state has disappeared. "At the end of the 1980s under the Labour federal government in Australia, it was like the ground under my feet was slipping away,” she says. “At the time we had nothing to offer but to bemoan the fact that it was being torn down and to be consumed with nostalgia."

Yeatman hopes her research contributes to a new concept of social welfare and help revive an idea of an inclusive citizenship. A major goal of her research chair is to create a research environment in which graduate students and colleagues can develop these policy ideas and have them communicated to the appropriate audiences.

"I'm a believer in academic-practitioner exchanges. Those kinds of relationships should be structured for and the opportunities taken," she noted. In Australia, Yeatman has conducted numerous public policy consultancies in human service areas that have helped her develop skills in academic-practitioner exchange.

Her passion for training graduate students comes through clearly when she speaks about her goals for the research chair.

"An academic program is only as good as its graduate students," she said. "I want to encourage graduate students to take themselves seriously and to take ideas seriously. I don't want them to be sidetracked by current academic fads or sucked into a self-referential academic culture," she said.

Related link – internal

The U of A Department of Political Science website:

Related link – external

The Canada Research Chair Chairholder Profile of Prof. Anna Yeatman:


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