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What use is ‘social investment’?

Nolan, Brian, (2013), “What use is ‘social investment’?”, Journal of European Social Policy, Vol. 23, N. 5, pp. 459-468.

The notion of ‘social investment’ has come to play a major part in debates about the role of social spending and the future of welfare states in Europe. This paper argues that social investment can be seen as a more or less detailed orientation or paradigm for social policies and spending or as a conceptual base and framework for analysis, and that it is also increasingly employed for political or rhetorical as well as academic purposes. It then sets out some serious issues and concerns in that regard, including whether social investment can credibly be presented as the paradigm most likely to underpin economic growth per se or indeed employment-friendly growth, whether the distinction between social ‘investment’ and other social spending is robust conceptually and the difficulties faced in seeking to make such a distinction empirically, and whether focusing on that distinction and on a narrowly economic rationale is the most useful way to frame the debate about the future of social spending.