Category Archives: Social justice and equality

A matter of public knowledge? Inquiring into the Grenfell Tower disaster

John Clarke

By John Clarke

An extended version of this post was originally published in Discover Society on 4 October 2017.

The continuing controversies about the public inquiry into the Grenfell Tower fire point to real conflicts about how we – the public – are supposed to know about such matters. At the heart of these controversies is a crisis of knowledge in which different ways of knowing (and their social and political implications) are in dispute: who gets to ask the questions and what questions get asked? What information should be included, what knowledge is considered valid and invalid, and who gets to make those judgements?  Bundled up in these arguments are problems about the relationship between evidence, expertise and experience, as survivors and nearby residents demand a form of inquiry that is responsive to their needs and concerns. The problem is that public inquiries are rarely designed in such terms: rather they aim to be evidence-based, legal in approach and formally authoritative. This classic public inquiry model seeks to impose a cool and dispassionate gaze on the horrors of Grenfell. Continue reading A matter of public knowledge? Inquiring into the Grenfell Tower disaster

The Welfare State on the Chopping Block

zach_morrisZach Morris, Assistant Professor, Stony Brook University School of Social Welfare

Zach Morris, 2017 winner of our Bleddyn Davies Prize for the best article from an early career scholar, summarises the findings from his winning article, which is free to read until 15 June 2017.

With the Republican Party in power in the US, the welfare state is once again on the chopping block. And disability benefit programs – traditionally designed for the “deserving poor” – may not be protected from these cuts. So, what political strategies are retrenchment advocates pursuing? And will their efforts succeed?

As discussed in my P&P article, a major safeguard against disability benefit retrenchment in the US is its structural positioning as a “Social Security” program. In the UK, the disability benefit program has always been considered distinct from the old-age “State Pension” program. But in the US, the disability and old age programs have historically been grouped together under the auspices of the Social Security Administration. This connection between disability benefits and the more popular old-age program provides a form of institutionalized protection to the US disability program and is a major reason why that program has historically proven so difficult to cut. Continue reading The Welfare State on the Chopping Block

Policy & Politics announces the 2017 winners of the Early Career and Best Paper Prizes

The winning papers are available to read for free until 15 June 2017.

The Bleddyn Davies Early Career Prize has been awarded to Zachary Morris, University of California Berkeley, USA, for:

zach_morrisConstructing the need for retrenchment: disability benefits in the United States and Great Britain [Free to access until 15 June 2017]

In this excellent paper, Zachary Morris seeks to address an important and politically timely question – Why are some welfare state programmes more susceptible to retrenchment than others? The paper examines why the major disability benefit programme in the United States has proved resistant to austerity measures while the comparable disability programme in Great Britain has been repeatedly scaled back. This engaging comparative analysis reveals that both structural differences matter greatly, as does the way that policy ideas are communicated to the public. In Britain, the portrayal of beneficiaries as underserving proved critical for constructing the need for retrenchment. Continue reading Policy & Politics announces the 2017 winners of the Early Career and Best Paper Prizes

Neoliberalism by stealth? Exploring continuity and change within the UK social enterprise policy paradigm

nicholls-teasdaleAlex Nicholls (University of Oxford) and Simon Teasdale (Glasgow Caledonian University)

Since the late 1990s the idea of social enterprise – broadly speaking businesses that trade for a social purpose –has received considerable academic and policy attention. It is probably fair to say that opinions are polarised. On the one hand we have those who see social enterprise as a new paradigm whereby localised civil society responses to social problems achieve financial sustainability through economic activity and regenerate and reinvigorate communities.  Alternatively critics, particularly from the left, see social enterprise as an extension of a neoliberal paradigm whereby policies to extend market discipline and competition have been extended throughout society, and responsibility for welfare provision moves from state to communities.

In a recent article in Policy & Politics entitled Neoliberalism by stealth? Exploring continuity and change within the UK social enterprise policy paradigm, we developed recent work on policy paradigms (broadly speaking a coherent set of ideas and norms that specify policy goals, instruments and problems). Continue reading Neoliberalism by stealth? Exploring continuity and change within the UK social enterprise policy paradigm

India’s Emerging Social Policy Paradigm: Productive, Protective or What? 

stefan-kuhner-and-keerty-nakray

Stephan Kühner and Keerty Nakray

The last two decades have been marked by a renewed focus on pro-poor social policies in India under the two Centre/Left Congress/United Progressive Alliance (UPA) governments (2004-2009, 2009-2014). These social policies included a plethora of education programs (such as Madhyamik Shiksha Yojana (National Middle School/ Secondary School Scheme), health insurance programs (such as Rashtriya’s Swasthya Bima Yojana, (RSBY) along with several conditional cash transfer schemes such as Janani Suraksha Yojana (Protection of Motherhood Scheme, JSY); and rural poverty alleviation programs (such as Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) etc.

In our recent article published in the Journal of Asian Public Policy, we analyse if these programs really mark a genuine shift towards pro-poor universal social policies and if the actions of the UPA actually delivered on its well-promoted rhetoric of pushing India towards a high skills based knowledge economy.  Our analysis also re-examined the existing research on extending welfare regime theories to developing counties. For example, Wood and Gough (2006) classified India as an informal-insecure regime as large numbers of citizens largely depend on precarious employment and informal family and kinship networks for welfare. Similarly, Kühner (2015) pointed out that much of the social expenditure is disproportionately directed towards to social protection programs such as Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act.

Our analysis indicates that the majority of these social programmes do not signify a genuine move towards greater inclusivity or categorical entitlements. Benefit levels remain generally low and eligibility criteria too rigid to facilitate an extension of social protection coverage. India’s social policies essentially remain residual, even minimalist, in character. Recent social policy initiatives largely appear in fragments with few connections with each other or any clearly defined strategy linking them to the economic goals of the country.

Our research makes a contribution to welfare state modeling which in recent decades has gone beyond focusing solely on advanced capitalist countries in the rich European and OECD countries. The emergence of East Asian welfare states and more recent developments in middle income countries such as Brazil and China has led to a diversification of the literature. India has not been dealt systematically in this research.  We have attempted to extend and diversify welfare regime theory based on an interdisciplinary review of India’s emerging social policies during the two recent Centre/Left Congress/United Progressive Alliance governments (2004-2009, 2009-2014).

We hope that the announcement of many new social protection schemes by the ambitious Modi government elected in 2014 may force us to change our assessment of the emerging social policy landscape in India. For instance, the World Bank’s Global Findex indicates a considerable improvement in access to formal bank accounts (from 35 per cent in 2013 to 53 percent in 2014) as a consequence of the Jan Dhan Yojana (Prime Minister’s People Money Scheme) program, which was launched in 2014.

If equally successful, the Modi government’s ambitious ‘Skill India’ and ‘Make in India’ initiatives, which aim to train 500 million Indians and create 100 million new manufacturing jobs by 2022 may well force us to reconsider the Indian political economy altogether. It remains to be seen whether further extensions of the emerging Indian middle class – currently standing somewhere between 100-300 million depending on the exact measure used – together with an ever-increasing presence of civil society organizations will trigger not only more domestic demand for manufacturing products and more formal employment, but will also create a new politics of social policy that will manage to move India beyond its current dependency mode.

Dr. Stefan Kühner, is an Assistant Professor at Ling nan University, Hong Kong. Email: stefankuehner@ln.edu.hk  Twitter: @stefankuehner

Dr. Keerty Nakray, is an Associate Professor and Assistant Director, Centre for Women, Law and Social Change, at O.P. Jindal Global University, India. Email: knakray@jgu.edu.in; Twitter @socialpolicyind

If you enjoyed this blog post you may also like to read Gender budgeting and public policy: the challenges to operationalising gender justice in India by Keerty Nakray.

“I Will Fight for What I Deserve”: Political Struggles for Welfare Rights

esiston-and-humpage

Daniel Edmiston, University of Oxford and Louise Humpage, University of Auckland

An extended version of this post was originally published  on 1 February 2017 in the Policy Briefing section of Discover Society which is provided in collaboration with the journal Policy & Politics. The original post is available at  http://discoversociety.org/category/policy-briefing/.

Across advanced capitalist economies, welfare withdrawal and reform are undermining the rights, identity and belonging of low-income social citizens. Amidst this upheaval, welfare claimants are engaged in diverse political struggles for and against social citizenship. What risks and opportunities does this present for the future direction of welfare politics? To answer this question, our recent Policy & Politics article explores how welfare claimants negotiate the institutions and ideals driving successive rounds of welfare reform over time.

political-struggles-for-welfare-rights-1

Source: Michael Candelori, https://www.flickr.com/photos/bymikey/18993988515/ (CC BY SA 2.0)

The uneven effects of welfare austerity contradict the notion that ‘we are all in this together’. The promise of shared sacrifice and frugality has failed to materialize across the developed world with the rich and the poor pulling further apart from one another since the global financial crisis. Increasingly restrictive welfare provision has been driven by penalizing and disciplinary reforms targeted at those most reliant on low-income social security and assistance. Continue reading “I Will Fight for What I Deserve”: Political Struggles for Welfare Rights

Borderlands of the private home: Uncertain social times and our growing fortress mentality

rowland-atkinson

By Rowland Atkinson

Can we speculate that there is a relationship between the massive changes in policy and political life since the financial crisis of more or less ten years ago and the look and feel of the streets and homes in our towns and cities? It was not long after the crisis began that I made a journey by car through the semi-rural areas bordering Manchester and Chester and was surprised at the number of homes with new, large and electronic gates. Why would we find these kinds of features in leafy areas with presumably low crime rates? Why indeed would we expect to find now well over a thousand gated communities in a country like the UK that has traditionally not only enjoyed a relatively low crime rate but also a history of more or less open streetscapes and a celebration of public footpaths and byways? We know that the reasons for these changes are complex and lie in a mix of factors that include a search for badges of social standing as well as a fear of crime. Yet the reality in many streets today is of a proliferation not of large gated communities but the rise of what Sarah Blandy and I recently called domestic fortresses. In many neighbourhoods it is possible to see shuttered and gated large homes side-by-side with those with little or no such visible protection. What explains these variations and what does it mean, if anything at all, for questions of policy today? Continue reading Borderlands of the private home: Uncertain social times and our growing fortress mentality