Normative recalibration

Social reforms might be straightforward from the point of view of functional recalibration; they are more often than not highly problematic in normative, distributive, and institutional terms. Changes in welfare provision cannot be understood independently from the highly charged normative and cultural environment in which they take place. The welfare state is a normative concept based on the image of a social contract with citizen claims on equity, inclusion, and fairness (Rawls, 1973; Walzer, 1983; Nussbaum, 1990; Roth- stein, 1998; Miller, 1999; Mau, 2003). Normative recalibration involves the changing normative orientations, underpinnings, values, symbols, and discourses of social policy emerging from the felt incongruence between the broad value premises behind existing programmes and adaptive pressures which call existing norms, values, identities, roles and images of social justice, perceptions of interest, community, and issues of moral responsibility into question. Normative orientations are never static; they are reassessed in the light of changing social risks and needs. Clarifying competing value perspectives and 'social justice' aspirations in political discourse is essential to adaptive success (Schmidt, 2002). In many countries, lively debates have taken place on the subject of the 'moral foundations' of the welfare state and on the need to rethink discourses of fairness in the face of economic internationalization and post-industrial social change. It is therefore important to study how this need is socially and politically constructed through normative recalibration: which 'norm entrepreneurs' (Borzel and Risse, 2000) frame policy problems in terms of 'new social risks' and needs, and which normative messages resonate more easily with the public at large?

The reform momentum of the past decade seems to have produced a dynamic redefinition of ideas of social justice in a number of directions. In the 1990s, in the first place, the shift from a predominantly passive welfare state, narrowly focused on equality in terms of a here-and-now redistribution between large social aggregates such as 'classes', to a more active welfare state, supported by new normative discourses on the centrality of paid work and how employment contributes to self-respect and social participation (Esping- Andersen etal., 2002). Also because there is much evidence that (re-) employment is associated with better (mental) health and improved psychological well-being (Gallie, 2009). With the shift to employment first welfare support, rights and responsibilities have also been redefined in terms of mutual obligations of citizens and state, in the sense that income transfers and service provision have been made more conditional on individual obligations to actively seek work and participate in training and education initiatives. Third, especially Continental welfare states have been struggling with their traditional preferences for passive family support. Here we also touch on deeper normative and emotionally charged ideas about family care and gender relations (Daly, 2011; Pfau-Effinger and Rostgaard, 2011). Today, in Germany and the Netherlands, Christian democracy has come to endorse high levels of female employment for reasons of fiscal sustainability, as it has become increasingly evident that a high level of female employment is the best guarantee for robust families (Clasen, 2005). In the process, Christian democracy has normatively embraced gender equality and new dual-earner family roles and values. Most recently, the rise of xenophobic populism and political polarization has given a particular twist to normative recalibration. Under the spell of neoliberalism virtually all welfare beneficiaries were seen as 'undeserving', unwilling to work, social profiteers. Persistent conflicts around immigration and welfare restructuring, in the wake of the fateful events of 9/11, seem to be triggering a kind of 'racialization' of social citizenship (Castles and Schierup, 2010; van Hooren, 2011). The new divide is rapidly becoming one of 'undeserving' immigrants and minorities and 'deserving' nationals who are paying the brunt of welfare retrenchment under the pressures of globalization. Emerging populist-right parties are today the most ardent defenders of the passive male-breadwinner welfare state, especially with respect to pensions and employment protection. Immigrants are viewed as welfare nomads undermining the much-cherished post-war national welfare state catering for homogenous societies.

< Prev   CONTENTS   Source   Next >