We know that for a country, in the future, the forces of global competition and technological change mean that we can only compete on the basis of skill and ability, not low wages. He continued by arguing that we need to separate very clearly those who cannot work, who need security and protection and must have it, and those who can work but at present don’t. We must try to help them off a life on benefit and into productive work (speech, 8 June 2001). It is extremely difficult for governments to simply ‘reverse’ existing welfare provision, especially with welfare services that are based on the notion of social rights. For example, Offe (1984, p. 264) thought that ‘state institutions which assign legal entitlements to citizens become relatively “rigid” or even
‘irreversible’. New Labour has not attempted to reverse these rights in any simple way, but rather has redefined them by arguing that they must be attached to obligations or ‘responsibilities’. This attachment of obligations to rights is a key component of New Labour’s ideology, and is a crucial means for changing the character of social entitlements without abolishing them. One ideological basis for this approach is ‘communitarian’ arguments. Etzioni (1995) presents an
essentially moral argument in favour of attaching responsibilities to rights in order to arrest the perceived social malaise afflicting advanced countries, and the USA in particular. In his view, certain rights could and should be circumscribed or amended in order to fight crime or deal with public health or safety issues.