Economic discourse and the market: The case of community care

Neil Lunt, Russell Mannion, Peter Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


The UK government has introduced fundamental reforms into the provision of social care. The 'community care' programme, which was fully implemented in 1993, requires local authorities to assess the needs of potential users, to design an individual package of care that reflects those needs, and to purchase the package from a range of statutory, voluntary and private providers. Thus the new arrangement introduced a 'quasi-market' in community care, along the lines of those already operating in other areas of the UK public sector, such as health and education. Hitherto, much analysis of the functioning of such markets has been conducted within a neo-classical economic framework. This article examines the relevance to the complex new community care market of three alternative theoretical perspectives: the transaction costs literature, the Austrian school and the new economic sociology. It is concluded that, although neoclassical economic discourse has been influential in shaping policy, no single perspective can capture all the issues relevant to analysing the market in community care. Therefore, in evaluating the reforms, an eclectic theoretical approach will be required which draws upon a variety of economic discourses.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)369-391
Number of pages23
JournalPublic Administration
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sep 1996
Externally publishedYes


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