Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Sociology

New Routes to Social Cohesion? Citizenship and the Social Investment State

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Sociology

New Routes to Social Cohesion? Citizenship and the Social Investment State

Article excerpt

Abstract: The notion of social cohesion appears when policy communities are engaged in discussing and redesigning citizenship regimes. One aspect of the citizenship regime with which reformers are concerned is the welfare architecture, and in particular the kind of state needed in the new knowledge economy. The main proposition of this paper is that a redesigned welfare structure, undertaken by policy communities concemed about social cohesion, is often one that envisages a social investment state. To explore this hypothesis, the paper proceeds in three steps. First, it briefly documents the emergence in a number of settings of the discourse of "social investment." Second, it maps the differences between two citizenship regimes, the post-war one anchored in social rights and the one under construction now. The paper then tums to examine the consequences of this new regime for the design of social policy in the first decades of the 21st century.

Resume: La notion de cohesion sociale emerge lorsque les communautes de politiques publiques debattent et reflechissent a Ia configuration des regimes de citoyennete. L'aspect du regime de citoyennete qui preoccupent le plus les reformateurs est I'architecture du bien-etre, et en particulier Ia forme d'Etat requise dans le contexte de l'economie du savoir. L'hypothese proposee dans ce texte est que les communautes de politiques publiques concerees par la cohesion sociale fondent le renouvellement de l'architecture du bien-etre sur une vision de l'Etat d'investissement social. L'examen de cette proposition procede en trois etapes. D'abord, il s'agit d'une documentation de l'emergence du discours de l'investissement social dans des contextes nationaux varies. Ensuite, il y a lacomparaison et l'analyse des differences entre deux types de regime de citoyennete le regime de l'apres-guerre anere dans les droits sociaux et celui presentement en cours de formation. enfin, le texte discute des consequences de ce nouve au regime sur la configuration de la politique sociale au debut du 21eme siecle.

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Policy communities' concerns about social cohesion are a product of our times. The 1980s ideological shift in economic and social policy thinking towards policies and programmes inspired by neo-liberalism provoked serious social strains, especially income polarization and persistent poverty. An increasing reliance on market forces and the family for generating life-chances, a discourse of "responsibility," an enthusiasm for off-loading to the voluntary sector and other altered visions of the welfare architecture inspired by neo-liberalism have prompted a reaction. There has been a wide-ranging conversation in the 1 990s and the first years of the new century in policy communities in Europe as in Canada, among policy makers who fear the high political, social and economic costs of failing to tend to social cohesion. (1)

In 1997 the OECD was already expressing its fear of the social and political consequences of structural adjustments imposed on economies in that decade, because people might no longer have "secure access to well-being" (OECD, 1997, quoted in Jenson 1998: 4-5). Similar concerns prompted the World Bank to assess threats to social cohesion and ways of rebuilding it (Jenson, 2001 b: 16). Eventually, such concerns provoked talk of "modernising the European social model," the "Third Way," a "new social democracy," and so on. While there are several conversations, with proposals ranging from a more humane neo-liberalism to a radical progressive vision for the 21st century, all of them address the issue of social cohesion.

The European Union has made significant contributions to discussion of social cohesion. The Portuguese Presidency of the European Union (EU), which hosted the special Lisbon Summit in March 2000, inaugurated a way of thinking about both the challenges of the knowledge-based society and renewal of the European social model; it remains the core of EU social policy thinking to the present. …

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