Paul Spicker: Open access material

The links on this page are to those books, reports and papers, written by Paul Spicker, which are now available freely on the web. Most are in PDF format, but there are also some ebooks, and some are on web pages.


Seven of Paul Spicker’s books in English are now available here without charge.  Five of them are kept on this website under a Creative Commons licence. Most are available both in PDF and EPUB (ebook) formats.   Two further books have been made available by the publishers.   Links to all seven are given below:

Three more can be loaned from, without charge, for one-hour periods: free registration is required.  The books are:

  • Social housing and the social services (1989) (now very dated, but chapters 1 and 13 are still relevant)
  • Social policy in a changing society (1998), and
  • The idea of poverty (2007).

For those who have access to University Press Scholarship Online or Oxford Academic, four other books are also available from that service.  They are:

  • Reclaiming individualism (2013)
  • Thinking Collectively (2019)
  • The Poverty of Nations (2020)
  • How to fix the welfare state (2022).

Sample chapters from Thinking Collectively and The Poverty of Nations are available on open access at the Robert Gordon University’s repository.

Stigma and social welfare

Originally published by Croom Helm, 1984

Cover of Stigma and social welfare, 1984Download PDF
Download ebook (PDF laid out for e-reader)

“This intelligent … book demonstrates that many of the preconceptions of social scientists about stigma are ill-founded, and goes on to assess practical policies designed to cope with the problem.” (Peter Taylor-Gooby)

“excellent study … an interesting contribution to the sociology of social welfare” (Bryan S. Turner)

Principles of social welfare: an introduction to thinking
about the welfare state

Originally published by Routledge, 1988

Cover of Principles of social welfare, 1988Download PDF
Download ebook (EPUB)

“Enlightening analysis … Spicker’s critique encourages us to re-examine our beliefs and assumptions about the welfare state” (Bill Jordan)

“A concise and valuable introduction to philosophical thinking about the welfare state” (Philosophy Today).

“The book raises searching questions … a useful tool for anyone who teaches or tries to practise the analysis of social welfare.” (Social Work)

Poverty and social security: concepts and principles

Originally published by Routledge, 1993

Cover of Poverty and social security, 1993Download PDF
Download ebook (EPUB)

“The discussion is balanced and generally insightful, and provides a good introduction to readers who are new to the field.” (Contemporary Sociology)

“An entertaining and sometimes controversial examination” (Tony Fitzpatrick)

The welfare state: a general theory

Originally published by Sage, 2000

This book is now freely accessible online, in a revised edition (2023).

Cover of The welfare state, 2000Download PDF 
Download ebook (EPUB)
Download ebook (Mobi /Kindle)

“This is an audacious book … The attempt to lay out of the propositions of welfare in their barest form, and demonstrate their relations, is novel and challenging. It is the kind of book we may value as much for the disagreements it provokes as the answers it offers.”
(C Clark, in the British Journal of Social Work).

“an excellent attempt at a coherent general theory of the welfare state and a good undergraduate primer on social policy. … he has achieved something rather important … . in an accessible manner that will attract and retain readers at all levels.” (P King, in Housing Studies)

Liberty, equality, fraternity

Published by Policy Press, 2006

Liberty, equality, fraternity (2006)Open access page (PDF)

“With Liberty, Equality, Fraternity Spicker has eloquently reiterated the moral justification for the presence of the state in the social policy domain.”
Journal of Social Policy, 2008.

“Professor Spicker analyses the complex issues of his subject matter with clarity, cogency and brevity and sets out, with commendable even-handedness, the dilemmas of choice that policy makers confront in the world of practical politics. The clarity of his exposition makes Liberty, equality, fraternity a pleasure to read.”
Robert Pinker

Poverty: an international glossary

Paul Spicker, Sonia Alvarez Leguizamon, David Gordon (eds) published by Zed Books, 2007

Cover of Poverty: An international glossary, 2007Download  PDF, available from CROP-GRIP, the Comparative Research Programme on Poverty

“An indispensable guide … Spicker’s final chapter is a masterly review of the subject.” (David Donnison)

The origins of modern welfare:
Juan Luis Vives, De Subventione Pauperum, and
City of Ypres, Forma Subventionis Pauperum,
edited by Paul Spicker

Originally published by Peter Lang, 2010

The two documents in this edition have some claim to be the earliest ever written about social policy.  The first is a commissioned academic report, written for the city of Bruges; the second, an evaluation report of an existing scheme, submitted to the University of the Sorbonne to forestall any accusation of heresy.  For the electronic version, the original text has been split into two distinct volumes.

Volume 1:  J-L Vives, On the relief of the poor (1525)

Download PDF

Volume 2:  City of Ypres, The government of poor relief (1531)

Download PDF

International open-access editions

Cover of Pobreza: un glosario internacional, 2010Poverty: an international glossary is available in a Spanish edition at Paul Spicker, Sonia Alvarez Leguizamón y David Gordon [editores] Pobreza: Un glosario internacional, Consejo Latinoamericano de Ciencias Sociales (Buenos Aires) 2010.


Cover of Polityka spoleczna - praktyka, 2014Social PolCover of Polityka spoleczna - Teoria, 2014icy: Theory and Practice is available in a Polish edition, in two parts: Polityka społeczna – teoria, and Polityka społeczna – praktyka, both published by Centrum Rozwoju Zasobów Ludzkich (Warszawa) 2014.

Principles of Social Welfare is available in an Arabic edition from the Democratic Arabic Center for Strategic, Political and Economic Studies (Germany), 2017.


The Robert Gordon University’s Open Access Institutional Repository, OpenAir, has made several published academic papers available in pre-print versions.  Some other papers are available on open access because the journal or the publisher has put them on the web.



Social administration

Applied social theory

Health and social care


Several of these pieces were originally published by Shelter, or by Roof, Shelter’s magazine. Shelter have asked me to stress that they were written some time ago and do not necessarily reflect Shelter’s current policies.

Social Policy as an academic discipline

Further Readings in social policy, by a wide range of authors, have been selected to complement Social Policy: Theory and Practice.