Scholar whose insights stood the test of time

Sat, Jun 5, 2010, 01:00

Peter Kaim-Caudle:PETER KAIM-CAUDLE, who has died aged 93, was a German Jewish refugee from Nazism and became a pioneer of systematic Irish social policy studies.

For many years Professor of Sociology at Durham University, he worked on secondment with the Economic and Social Research Institute in the 1960s, and was a visiting lecturer at the Institute of Public Administration for more than 20 years.

His book Comparative Social Policy and Social Security(1973) made him internationally known and led to him taking up teaching invitations at universities in Taiwan, Australia, Canada, Fiji, Ghana and Sierra Leone as well as at University College Cork.

In addition he lectured occasionally at Trinity College Dublin, NUI Maynooth and University College Dublin.

Always approachable and helpful to students he influenced many of them personally, including some who became prominent in the Irish public service.

Born in Breslau, Germany (now Wroclaw in Poland), his parents sent him to England in 1933 at the age of 17 following Hitler’s rise to power. His mother and other relations who stayed behind fell victim to the Nazis.

Having graduated in analytical and descriptive economics at the London School of Economics he studied business administration and was called to the Bar.

After the second World War he became an economics lecturer at Dundee University and moved to Durham University in 1950. There he established the Department of Social Administration and was the first Professor of Social Administration.

He was active as a Workers’ Education Association extension lecturer in the Durham mining communities in his early years there. He joined the Labour Party and was a supporter of European integration, which he saw as a way of preventing Europe’s wars.

A regular visitor to Ireland, he spent two extended periods here, for nine months in 1963 – 1964 at the Economic Research Institute, as it then was, and as a research professor at the Economic and Social Research Institute, as it became, for three years, 1968 to 1971.

He wrote some of the institute’s first research papers: Housing in Ireland and Social security in Ireland and Western Europe.

His book Social Policy in the Irish Republic(1968) was the first modern study of this subject, and was described in The Irish Timesas a “characteristic blend of economic realism and humane concern”.

In subsequent studies of three professional groups – dentists, opthamologists and pharmacists – he proposed the employment of health auxiliaries to undertake those elements of the relevant work that did not require years of training. This would have resulted in diluting three powerful professional monopolies, increasing efficiency and reducing health service costs.

His proposals were not welcomed by the professional bodies concerned.

In this newspaper An Irishman’s Diary commented that it was Kaim-Caudle’s refusal to pretend that society could give itself something for nothing, or that efficiency could be gained without upheaval of a muddled status quo that some people found unsettling.

“A man who persists in framing choices and spelling out consequences can be uncomfortable to have around.”

Undaunted, he always spoke frankly in public. “The trouble with Irish society,” he said, “is that it wants an American standard of living and the Irish way of life. And the two are incompatible.”

He also was critical of Irish attitudes towards children: “I look around me and I see too much emphasis on discipline, too much orientation towards examinations, too much corporal punishment even in cases where there are no disciplinary matters involved.”

Kaim-Caudle was a scholar many of whose insights have stood the test of time. For example, on the unintended consequences of social policies, the interconnection of economic and social policy and the policy implications of dimensions of social equality as a value – and these are well reflected in his last book Social Policy and Development in Sierra Leone and Post-War Britain(2005).

He was conferred with an honorary D.Litt by NUI Maynooth in 2002.

His wife Patricia, sons Robert Kaim and James Kaim-Caudle, daughters Helen James and Kate Dawson and 13 grandchildren survive him.

Peter Robert Kaim-Caudle: born December 14, 1916; died May 18th, 2010