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Work and the Welfare State

Street-Level Organizations and Workfare Politics

Evelyn Z. Brodkin and Gregory Marston, Editors

Publication Year: 2013

Work and the Welfare State places street-level organizations at the analytic center of welfare-state politics, policy, and management. This volume offers a critical examination of efforts to change the welfare state to a workfare state by looking at on-the-ground issues in six countries: the US, UK, Australia, Denmark, Germany, and the Netherlands.

An international group of scholars contribute organizational studies that shed new light on old debates about policies of workfare and activation. Peeling back the political rhetoric and technical policy jargon, these studies investigate what really goes on in the name of workfare and activation policies and what that means for the poor, unemployed, and marginalized populations subject to these policies. By adopting a street-level approach to welfare state research, Work and the Welfare State reveals the critical, yet largely hidden, role of governance and management reforms in the evolution of the global workfare project. It shows how these reforms have altered organizational arrangements and practices to emphasize workfare's harsher regulatory features and undermine its potentially enabling ones.

As a major contribution to expanding the conceptualization of how organizations matter to policy and political transformation, this book will be of special interest to all public management and public policy scholars and students.

Published by: Georgetown University Press

Series: Public Management and Change series

Title Page, About the Series, Other Works in the Series, Copyright

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pp. i-iv


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-x

This book emerged out of the collective sense of an international group of scholars that the full workfare story has yet to be told. We share the belief that this is an important story, because of workfare’s profound implications for how we organize our societies and economies. In conducting our own research, we had come to deeply appreciate the work of other scholars in this field. But we often found striking discontinuities between our experiences examining workfare on the ground and research conducted at a more abstract...


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Chapter 1 Work and the Welfare State

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pp. 3-16

The policies of workfare and labor market activation occupy contested terrain, where the structuring institutions of the market and the welfare state meet. That gives these policies strategic significance, positioning them to play a role in reshaping the boundaries between work and the welfare state. Over the past few decades, these policies, and the workfare project they comprise, have developed global reach. They are now deeply embedded in the architecture of public policy from North America to Australia and throughout...

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Chapter 2 Street-Level Organizations and the Welfare State

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pp. 17-34

Welfare states are dynamic, continually adapting to changes in political, social, and economic conditions. Transformations occur, in part,through formal policy making; however, policies and the processes that lead to legislative enactment or defeat are only part of the political story.Welfare state adaptations also take shape less visibly through the activities of street-level organizations (SLOs), the public bureaucracies and private agencies Welfare state studies frequently reference SLOs as policy implementers,...


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Chapter 3 The American Welfare State: Two Narratives

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pp. 37-56

The stories societies tell about themselves powerfully shape their choices and their subsequent actions. They affect how people understand their relationship to one another. They guide the futures people can imagine.They suggest the links between past events and current and future developments. They remind us of what we want and how we may achieve our objectives.Narrative is fundamental to social development. We evolved as story-telling beings, and our stories are critical to making sense of what we are doing....

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Chapter 4 The Policies of Workfare: At the Boundaries between Work and the Welfare State

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pp. 57-68

In recent decades, policies of workfare and activation have been redrawing the relationship between work and the welfare state. These policies may be understood as part of a broader project through which states are promoting the primacy of work and limiting the provision of welfare. This project is now widespread, incorporated into the social and labor market policy arrangements However, what looks, at first glance, like a growing project of global work fareis not a clear march toward a common mission. An evolving policy construct,...

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Chapter 5 Double Jeopardy: The Misfit between Welfare-to-Work Requirements and Job Realities

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pp. 69-84

If a work-based welfare state is to improve low-income families’ economic security, it must be based on a realistic appraisal of jobs in today’s labor market. In particular, it must be clear that the policies of workfare and welfare-to-work can ensure that low-income families can access needed supports and, in the longer term, avoid poverty. But policymakers may be expecting too much from jobs lodged at the lower end of the labor market. Although many individuals participating in welfare-to-work initiatives have moved off public...


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Chapter 6 Triple Activation: Introducing Welfare-to-Work into Dutch Social Assistance

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pp. 87-102

This chapter argues that the introduction of welfare-to-work reforms in welfare states—‘‘activation,’ as it is usually called in Europe—in practice involves a process of ‘‘triple activation.’’ This means activating beneficiaries of social assistance, the organizations that administer benefit payments and activation services, and front line staff in these organizations.1 Through the processes of triple activation, welfare states redefine the rights, obligations, and responsibilities of the unemployed, transform the core business of public welfare...

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Chapter 7 Active Labor Market Reform in Denmark: The Role of Governance in Policy Change

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pp. 103-124

Denmark is widely regarded as a ‘‘model’’ example of the Nordic welfare state. Its highly developed integration of labor-market and social welfare arrangements allows for both social protection and labor-market flexibility. Denmark is arguably distinctive in the ways in which its labor-market policies are linked to a broader set of welfare state arrangements, generally referred to as the ‘‘flexicurity state.’’ Although it’s difficult to describe the flexicurity concept in brief, generally, it refers to arrangements through which the...

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Chapter 8 Performance Management as a Disciplinary Regime: Street-Level Organizations in a Neoliberal Era of Poverty Governance

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pp. 125-140

Over the past few decades, neoliberal reforms have redefined the logic of governance in American poverty programs. Neoliberalism is a form of market fundamentalism that, unlike familiar laissez-faire doctrines,does not aim to reduce the state’s involvement in economic relations. Instead,it seeks to restructure state operations around market principles, harness state capacities to service markets, and use state interventions to cultivate market rationalities (Brown 2003). At the level of mission, neoliberal welfare reform...


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Chapter 9 Commodification, Inclusion, or What? Workfare in Everyday Organizational Life

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pp. 143-166

Welfare states are continually evolving in the context of changes in the economy, society, and the polity. This dynamism became particularly pronounced toward the end of the twentieth century as welfare states appeared to enter a period of transformation reflected, in part, in efforts to contain the provision of welfare and expand participation in work. In the United States, the workfare project has advanced under the rubric of welfare As a legislative project, welfare reform was highly contentious, some...

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Chapter 10 Race, Respect, and Red Tape: Inside the Black Box of Racially Representative Bureaucracies

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pp. 167-184

US welfare agencies operate as access points for social benefits as well as enforcers of an expansive set of rules and requirements designed to limit reliance on public assistance, fulfill work requirements, and minimize fraud and errors. Scholars have shown that historically welfare has also functioned as a racialized system of social provision that reinforces rather than mitigates racial and ethnic inequalities (Lewis 2000; Lieberman 2001; Neubeck and Cazenave 2001; Schram, Soss, and Fording 2003)....

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Chapter 11 Good Intentions and Institutional Blindness: Migrant Populations and the Implementation of German Activation Policy

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pp. 185-208

Germany has the largest share of immigrants among the larger European countries.1 This presents an enormous challenge: how to address the exclusion and marginalization of migrants from the labor market. Fol-lowing increasing national unemployment in the course of successive business cycles, in 2005 Germany introduced major labor-market reforms using activation services and work requirements as central policy instruments. These policy initiatives, known as the Hartz reforms, extended work-activation requirements,...

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Chapter 12 Frontline Workers as Intermediaries: The Changing Landscape of Disability and Employment Services in Australia

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pp. 209-226

Recent welfare reform in Australia has been constructed around the now-familiar principle of paid work and willingness to work as the fundamental markers of social citizenship. Beginning with the long-term unemployed in Australia in the mid-1990s, the scope of welfare reform has now extended to include people with a disability—which is a category of recipient of income support that has been growing. From the national government’s point of view, this growth is a financial concern, as it seeks to move as many people...


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Chapter 13 Conditionality, Sanctions, and the Weakness of Redress Mechanisms in the British ‘‘New Deal’’

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pp. 229-248

This chapter analyzes the implications of the New Deal in the United Kingdom for the accountability of officials and for the rights of redress of job seekers. As context for this analysis, it also reviews the development of social security provisions for the unemployed, which include social assistance as well as social insurance benefits. In the United Kingdom, there has been a shift from a more passive approach, in which the main function of social security is to prevent hardship, toward a more active approach, in which the...

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Chapter 14 Redress and Accountability in US Welfare Agencies

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pp. 249-268

The governmental distribution of welfare benefits is more than a monetary exchange. It is also a transaction with consequences for the relation-ship between citizens and the state. When the government provides welfare benefits, it is obligated to do so fairly and equitably, not just economically or efficiently (Frederickson 2005). Under US law, recipients of cash assistance are entitled to certain legal protections, including the right to challenge a denial, discontinuance, or reduction of benefits in an administrative forum,...


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Chapter 15 Work and the Welfare State Reconsidered: Street-Level Organizations and the Global Workfare Project

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pp. 271-282

In this volume we have sought to introduce a new perspective to the study of welfare state policies and politics, one that directs analytic attention to the street-level organizations (SLOs) at the operational core of the welfare state. Turning the focus from policy to practice, this volume makes visible the variety of ways in which workfare-style policies operate in everyday organizational life. It also reveals how governance and management reforms have functioned as a second track for policy change, steering workfare practices on the...


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pp. 283-310


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pp. 311-314


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pp. 315-324

E-ISBN-13: 9781626160019
E-ISBN-10: 1626160015
Print-ISBN-13: 9781626160002

Page Count: 336
Illustrations: 1 figure, 14 tables
Publication Year: 2013

Series Title: Public Management and Change series