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.
Part 1: Locating John Milbank’s Thinking on Welfare and the Church within the Anglican Socialist Tradition
1. Three Anglican Socialist Strands: Welfare Statist, Christendom, Revolutionist
2. Anglican Socialism and the Rise and Fall of the British Welfare State Consensus
Part 2: John Milbank’s Blue Socialist Thinking and His Perspective on the British Welfare State
3. John Milbank Writing in the Christendom Strand
4. John Milbank’s Thinking on Welfare and the Church of England’s Role in its Provision since 1945
Part 3: John Milbank, the ‘Big Society’ Project and the Church of England
5. The ‘Big Society’ Project and the Church of England: An Analysis of the Influences that Shaped GS1804
6. John Milbank and the Church of England’s Future Approach to Welfare
Appendix 1: GS1804: ‘The Big Society’ and the Church of England
Appendix 2: List of Questions
Endorsements and Reviews
In his wide-ranging book that does not shy away from bold policy suggestions, Joseph Forde offers a detailed exposition and critique of John Milbank, and a profound reflection on the Church’s response to the reshaping of the Welfare State after the financial crash of 2008. Forde’s lively and provocative book will stimulate all those who are interested in the Church’s involvement with rebuilding society.
Mark D. Chapman, Professor of the History of Modern Theology, University of Oxford
An accessible, balanced and compelling account of recent theological and political history. Dr Forde recalls how John Milbank and Radical Orthodoxy re-connected Anglican social thought and political policy in ways not seen since the 1980s, but also outlines the challenge the Church of England now faces to think beyond the Blue Labour/Big Society paradigm to a theology of the State that can meet existential social threats such as climate emergency, growing poverty and global pandemics.
Chris Baker, William Temple Professor of Religion, Belief and Public Life at Goldsmiths, University of London, and Director of Research at the William Temple Foundation
John Milbank’s influential political theology has played an important part in the current renewal of Anglican Social Theology. Forde expertly locates Milbank’s work, scholarly and journalistic, in this Anglican tradition and assesses its contribution to debates on the ‘Big Society’ and the future of welfare. Anyone interested in Anglican Social Theology, Blue Labour, and the contribution of theology to public life will benefit from reading this book.
Peter Scott, Samuel Ferguson Professor of Applied Theology and Director of the Lincoln Theological Institute, University of Manchester
How does the Church, as well as thousands of voluntary agencies work alongside government to create a just, fair and compassionate society?
This book puts this important question in a much larger historical and theological timeframe. It is a must-read for all interested in such concerns for the welfare of all our fellow citizens.
Adrian Alker, Progressive Christianity Network, 5th July 2022