I, Daniel Blake – A Social Movie with a Kafkaesque Take on State Welfare System

With his fist raised in the air, Daniel Blake stood before the graffiti he made on the walls of State Welfare. This protest will be his first offense after being a citizen of good standing for 50 years. And some weeks later, he dies.

A sympathizer raises Daniel Blake's hand as he protest in front of State Welfare.
A sympathizer raises Daniel Blake’s hand as he protests in front of State Welfare. Photo downloaded from I, Daniel Blake official Facebook page. No Copyright infringement intended.


In a democratic form of government, there exist the theory of social contract, with which comes reciprocated duties. This means that the sovereign is committed to the good of the individuals who constitute it, and each individual is likewise committed to the good of the whole[1]. Having said these, the individuals gather as one to decide which laws to enact, laws which will then give each person equal rights and privileges. In turn, individuals must perform their duty to the sovereign – obeying laws, paying taxes, etc. This seems to be a very noble ideal. And though Rousseau’s idea can optimally work in a particularly small community, the tenets, if coordinated well, may be applied to an entire state or country.

However, it seems that the system, claimed to have been collectively created and agreed upon, squeezes the breath out of the body it desperately wants to keep alive. The processes imposed are often unnecessary, winding and neglect the urgency of need. This becomes especially frustrating in State/Social Welfare.    

Daniel Blake’s story is one that you hear any day of the year. Why, people always get into welfare for some reason or another. But the tedious process of finally benefiting from your right and privilege can sometimes be ridiculous and often, delayed. You can’t help but think that maybe the processes they put in place in Welfare came straight out of a Franz Kafka’s book.

But unlike W.H. Auden’s Unknown Citizen, who chose to just go down and live the life of a conformist, Ken Loach and Paul Laverty’s Daniel Blake refused to surrender his self-respect.


Daniel tried to bear with the system but was always told that what he’s done isn’t enough. He was even threatened with sanctions. We’re made to believe that the people at State Welfare work for the poor. But it’s looks like they’re just slaves of the system. Funny when we tell politicians what they’re doing isn’t enough, all we ever receive is a shrug. They even have the nerve to plunder. Those representatives know the steps very well, but they cannot identify with the people they’re supposed to serve. Yes, there are people who lie about their conditions, but not everyone should be punished just because few people are crooked. Also they imposed requirements that not everyone is capable of doing so. Or they include steps that require assistance that they actually failed to put in place.


The plot of the film is simple, even predictable to some. But the glaring truth in all those scenes is just so hard to ignore. You can see people in need driven further to destitution because the state which promised to take care of them has now become reluctant, even doubtful. How can people live with dignity in a society that tolerates such system? And yet, we see them in every part of the world. Do we just exist to put each other in miseries?

I’ll go as far to say that I, Daniel Blake, is a powerful film on a pressing social issue that most people just shrug off every day. It shows that we must clamor for improvement so that nobody has to sacrifice unnecessarily. So that we know it’s only right to demand for the sovereign’s part of reciprocated duties. And finally, so that we all can live and die with dignity.

Check the full cast and crew of the film here.


Here’s a video from Ted-Ed on what it really means to be Kafkaesque:

As always, thanks for dropping by!


[1]Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

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