Academic journal article Resources for Feminist Research

Constituting "Post-Welfare State" Arrangements: The Role of Women's Movement Service Groups in Quebec

Academic journal article Resources for Feminist Research

Constituting "Post-Welfare State" Arrangements: The Role of Women's Movement Service Groups in Quebec

Article excerpt

This article retraces the involvement of women's shelters, rape crisis centres and women's centres in the restructuring of health and social services in Quebec over the past two decades. The study shows how women's movement service organizations have contributed to the constitution of new "post-welfare state" welfare arrangements, and to the shaping of a distinct, sectoral path to restructuring that averts the marginalization of feminist activism associated, thus far, with restructuring in Canada. Arguing that "politics matters" and that movements can "make a difference," the author suggests that different versions of restructuring coexist that are contingent on more localized interplays of politics and, thus, have the potential to bear different consequences for the pursuit of feminist politics.

Cet article retrace l'engagement des maisons d'hebergement, CALACS et centres de femmes dans la restructuration de la sante et des services sociaux au Quebec au cours des deux dernieres decennies. L'etude montre comment les groupes de services du mouvement des femmes ont contribue a la constitution de nouveaux arrangements "post-providentiels", ainsi qu'a la formation d'un modele sectoriel de restructuration distinct qui evite la marginalisation de l'action feministe associee jusqu'ici a la restructuration de l'etat Canadien. Affirmant l'importance des luttes politiques et soutenant que l'action des mouvements peut "faire une difference", l'auteure suggere que la restructuration prend des formes diverses, conditionnelles a l'issue de jeux de pouvoir et de rapports politiques plus "localises" dont les consequences pour l'avenir des luttes feministes sont potentiellement variables.

The redefinitions of welfare forms and practices of governance involved in "restructuring" have profoundly altered the relationship between women's movement service organizations and the liberal democratic welfare state. The crisis of the welfare state has prompted governments to explore various avenues for backing away from the central role so far assumed by the Keynesian state in providing for its citizens' welfare. Moving toward "post-welfare state" welfare arrangements has entailed important realignments, notably the carving out of a far greater role for organizations from the voluntary sector, the production of new political discourses legitimating these changing times, and very concrete shifts in the operation of the field of politics.

Restructuring at the federal level, many have noted, has created unfavourable conditions for the pursuit of feminist politics in central areas of concern for Canadian women (Bakker, 1996; Brodie, 1996; Evans and Wekerle, 1997b). Social programs and welfare services have suffered brutal cuts, forcing upon women and their organizations the moral responsibility to "take up the slack" for the state's disengagement. At the same time, programs that funded women's organizations were axed, changed direction, or were withdrawn as part of government cutbacks. Routes for women's representation in the federal state were curtailed. Advocacy and critique on behalf of women and other marginalized populations were discredited in formal politics as the work of "self-interested," unrepresentative "special interest groups." Women's issues and feminist organizations increasingly lost legitimacy in the arenas of political negotiation.(f.1)

In an influential contribution which analyzes such changes as the passing away of the Keynesian welfare state and of a Canadian tradition of more participatory practices of governance, Janine Brodie (1994a, 1995) has argued that restructuring has eroded the very bases that had hitherto enabled Canadian women's movements' political action. Without making light of Brodie's argument, I would like to suggest here that practices and discourses of restructuring may be nationally less coherent, that is, more uneven among provinces and sectors, and more contingent in their outcomes, than her analysis implies. …

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