RN32_02b: Social Politics
The Welfare State at Stake: on the multidimensional Configurations of Solidarity Patterns among the Austrian and Hungarian Population
1University of Vienna, Austria; 2Eötvös Loránd University, Hungary
All over Europe nationalist and far-right parties are on the rise and put pressure on the current configurations of the welfare state. However, we can identify different approaches: whereas in some countries extreme and populist right-wing parties adopt a rather neoliberal agenda, in other countries the political far-right promotes an “exclusive solidarity” for the national in-group.
Against this background the paper explores how questions of inclusion and exclusion regarding the welfare state are negotiated on a micro-level. We will draw on 90 problem-centred interviews conducted in Austria and Hungary (48 in AT, 42 in HU) taken from the ongoing SOCRIS project. The project follows Steinar Stjernø (2004) and pictures solidarity as a continuum: On the one pole, solidarity is limited to a restricted group, whereas on the other pole we locate universal solidarity. In this paper we will focus not on the extremes but on the very heterogeneous centre of the solidarity-spectrum which also covers most of the interviewees in both countries. This approach allows to focus on individual configurations of solidarity but also sheds light on how current discourses and recent political developments manifest themselves in people’s orientations.
Research results reveal different logics structuring the solidarity concepts of individuals. In the middle of the solidarity continuum we find cleavages along different principles of justice and ideologies such as equality, meritocracy, authoritarianism, nationalism and racism. The cases also show how these principles are intertwined and combined differently within different types of solidarity.
Keep Them Waiting, Keep Them Quiet: Waiting as a Strategy of Social Control for Citizens on Social Assistance
Department of Political Science, Aarhus University, Denmark
The amount of time citizens have to wait before bureaucratic authorities attend to them works as a strategy of social control that teaches individuals about their status as citizens. Theoretically, the paper draws on studies of policy feedback and social control. Empirically, the paper analyses data gathered during four months of fieldwork and 30 in-depth interviews with Danish social assistance recipients, who participate in a 13-week mandatory internship to perform unskilled labour in the recreational sector. Social control and status learning work through two interrelated processes. First, street-level bureaucrats unilaterally control the time of citizens by deciding how long citizens have to wait (i) to consult their caseworker, (ii) to change from private- to work clothes, and (iii) when to be allowed to go home. The timing of events changes arbitrarily from day-to-day. As a result, citizens experience firsthand that bureaucratic authorities handle their time carelessly. In consequence, as they are "kept waiting", they learn that their status and worth are less valuable than the status and worth of other groups in society. Second, because citizens highly depend on the people who make them wait, that is, the street-level bureaucrats, they suppress their dissatisfactions. Thus, waiting works as a form of social control to "keep them quiet". Overall, this study demonstrates how ordinary things, such as the amount of time citizens have to wait when dealing with bureaucratic authorities, creates large symbolic boundaries between groups in society and at the same time effectively prevents citizens to voice their concerns.
On Justifiying Austerity: Politics of Trust and Fear
1University of Lapland, Finland; 2Stocholm University; 3Queen Mary University of London
The financial crisis in 2007–2008 paved the way for policies of austerity, including an intensification of neoliberal dynamics and a larger-scale process of restructuring economic and social relations. However, austerity also sparked criticism and protests against the targeting of already vulnerable citizens, and more generally the unjust nature of neoliberal social order. This paper analyses justifications of austerity and opposition to it, taking political discourses on austerity by both the government and opposition in Finland in 2015. Our focus is on the period when the government announced a shift to austerity policy. Our findings demonstrate that the politics of austerity significantly enacts a politics of fear. It asserts various fears, including the consequences of diluting political and societal trust, to motivate people to accept or oppose austerity. Parties in the government justified austerity by simultaneously articulating series of serious threats that justify extraordinary measures and inciting citizens to trust policy-makers. These threats include ending up going ‘the way of Greece’ and losing national sovereignty. In the case of parties in the government, they also include warnings about confrontations that would rock the shared societal boat and endanger the welfare of future generations. The opposition parties, by contrast, described austerity as a threat for peace in society since it increases social inequality. In addition, they represented austerity as a faithful ‘jump to the past’ from the successful path of welfare state policy. We draw on this case study to reflect more generally on how the politics of austerity are connected to the distribution and articulations of fear and trust.
Mapping Socio-Economic Determinants of Political Efficacy: Analysis of European Social Survey Data
Kaunas University of Technology, Lithuania
Political efficacy is one the most intensively studied subjects in political sociology. Responsiveness of democratic governance is always high on the agenda of both political practice and political studies. At the same time, political competence of the citizens is deemed very important (both in empirical studies and normative theories) for their political agency and consequently political participation. Usually, these two conceptions constitute the two sides of the political efficacy coin – external and internal. Scholars approached studies of political efficacy from various perspectives and many of them analysed factors promoting internal and external political efficacy (for some recent attempts see Kim 2013; Marx, Nguyen 2016) as both of them are important for good democratic governance. However, most of these studies involved socio-economic factors only as control variables of political efficacy.
In this paper our major focus is on socio-economic determinants of political efficacy both on individual and macro level. Our main interest lays in identifying how socio-economic inequalities affect public views on government responsiveness and citizens’ abilities to effectively participate in politics. We use the European Social Survey (ESS) data from Round 8 for individual level analysis as this source is well-known for its excellence in cross-cultural methodology and has an extensive battery of standardized questions related to socio-economic status of respondents. Importantly, this survey also includes questions measuring internal and external political efficacy. Also, we include into our analysis macro level variables (GDP pc, income inequality, welfare state generosity etc.) reflecting socio-economic development of countries included into Round 8 of the ESS. Analysis of the impact of individual and macro level variables on political efficacy is performed employing multi-level regression models.