Stream 27: Populism, democracy and social policy

Margherita Bussi and Claire Dupuy

Bringing the citizens back in: Understanding the impact of neoliberal welfare reforms from a citizens’ perspective

Welfare reforms have been high on the agenda for several decades (Bonoli and Natali, 2012). Retrenchment, marketization and conditionality of welfare services and benefits, as well as new forms of governance have transformed social provisions in most Western European democracies.

Most of the research has assessed the impact on welfare generosity and protections against risks. International comparisons sought to unveil whether the turn to neoliberalism and globalization has triggered policy (div-)convergence. However, little attention has been paid to the impacts of these reforms on citizens’ political behaviours even though they are known to shape not only their attitudes towards welfare and governmental institutions and, more generally, politics, but also their political participation (Cammett et al 2015; Campbell, 2003; Soss & Schram, 2007). How do welfare reforms and their implementation impact on citizens’ political participation, their understanding of self-worth as citizens and their sense of belonging to a political community?

We suggest taking as a starting point for reflection the growing literature on policy feedback (Campbell, 2012; Mettler & Soss, 2004). We also encourage contributions to account for one of these complementary strands of research:

1. Comparative policy analysis can shed light on what policy dimensions are relevant when investigating the impact of welfare on citizens’ political attitudes and behaviours (Schneider & Ingram, 1993)?

2. The literature on social policy implementation can provide important insights on the mechanisms shaping citizens’ relations to politics and capacity of political action (van Berkel et al 2017)

3. Media and parties’ discourses on social policy are also recognised as means shaping citizens’ attitudes and behaviours (Larsen, 2013).

We are interested in comparative qualitative case studies, quantitative analysis and implementation research, preferably from a historical perspective. We also encourage innovative theoretical contributions.