Before and Beyond the ‘Big Society’: John Milbank and the Church of England’s Approach to Welfare

By Joseph Forde

A timely critique of Milbank’s theology of welfare and its influence on policy inside and outside the Church of England.



John Milbank’s theology has shaped much modern political thinking both within and without the Church. In Before and Beyond the ‘Big Society’, Joseph Forde presents the first study devoted exclusively to John Milbank’s theology of welfare, and how it has influenced policy in the Church of England since 2008. By examining the favourable response the Church gave to the ‘Big Society’ project in 2010-12, Forde shows that Milbank’s Blue Socialist fingerprint increasingly dominates.

However, this theology has not evolved in a vacuum and Forde expertly places it in its historical and theoretical context. He offers a detailed critical discussion of Milbank’s own critique of what has been the mainstream (Temple) Anglican theology of welfare in the Church of England since the 1940s, and a fresh contribution to the assessment of Anglican social theology. Finally, he demonstrates how Milbank’s ideas have been furthered by other influential Anglicans. It is this influence that will carry the greatest implications for the Church of England’s policy on welfare going forward, making this study relevant to all who care about its contribution to the provision of welfare.

Additional information

Dimensions 234 × 156 mm


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About the Author

Dr Joseph Forde is Honorary Research Fellow in Historical Theology at the Urban Theology Union, Sheffield. After working for twenty-six years in NHS management, he gained a PhD in Theology from the University of Manchester. He is Chair of Sheffield’s Church Action on Poverty.