Social Justice After the Welfare State

Social Justice After the Welfare State

Project Directors: Alice Kessler-Harris, Premilla Nadasen

Social Justice After the Welfare State explored the implications of the rise of neoliberalism and declining welfare state in the US and elsewhere for American politics, gender and race relations. Some of the questions the working group set out to explore included: Is the idea of government social responsibility at a dead end? How has the role of the state shifted between the New Deal and the current era of neoliberalism? Are democratic values threatened by limits on social rights? Will we see increased emphasis on marriage, family, and individual responsibility as the source of economic support? These initial questions broke down into a variety of disturbing issues that the working group also grappled with: How have the struggles for women’s equality and racial diversity contributed to progressive social change but also masked other forms of inequality? How do we think about citizenship and rights in relation to labor migration, incarceration, education, and new reproductive technologies such as surrogacy? Will expanded benefits such as “family-friendly” policies exacerbate divisions among workers and simply create a larger pool of poorly paid labor? Or will such strategies contribute to a rethinking of the meaning of workplace justice? What about labor unions? What alternative labor organizing strategies have enhanced the political power of workers?  What is the current state of social protest?  Are Americans turning inward and finding individual coping mechanisms?  Or are incipient movements a sign of emerging collective organization? Approaching its topic from a range of angles, the workshop cast its exploratory net on the impact of inequality on the future of American democracy. 


Workshop:  Shifting Notions of Social Citizenship: The “Two Wests” 
June 11-13, 2014
Columbia Global Center | Paris

The workshop examined the impact of the widespread decline of the welfare state on long-standing claims to social citizenship, and consider consequences for democratic participation in Europe, and in the United States. Over the course of the twentieth century, expanding welfare states, most effectively (though differently) modeled in Western Europe, helped to guarantee economic security. In the quest for a more inclusive social citizenship, nation-states variously subsidized education, housing and family maintenance, as well as unemployment insurance, old age pensions, minimum wages, labor standards, the dole, and health care.  These benefits or rights, helped to empower working people to participate in democratic governance.  But the “welfare state” is now at risk, under the onslaught of a persuasive 'free market' ideology and the spread of global economies that reduce the regulatory capacities of nation-states. And so the question: Can we imagine the perpetuation of democracy in the face of a transformed welfare state? Social scientists and historians from the United States and different European countries will meet to explore how the decline of the welfare state will affect present and future conceptions of citizenship and political participation.

With the support of:
Interuniversity Center for European-American History and Politics (CISPEA); Department of Human Studies, University of Eastern Piedmont; Department of History, Columbia University; and the Alliance Program, Columbia University


Beyond Neoliberalism: Social Justice After the Welfare State
Saturday, April 2, 2016
Columbia University

Social Justice After the Welfare State, a workshop led by Alice Kessler-Harris and Premilla Nadasen in  the Center for the Study of Social Difference (CSSD) at Columbia, hosted a daylong symposium to  explore the transformation of the welfare state and social movements in the face of neoliberal  challenges. The group gathered considered the implications of this transformation for the political economy of class,  gender, racism, and migration. Putting scholars in conversation with activists who address the fallout of neoliberalism on the ground, the symposium assessed the past, present, and future of government social responsibility and pays special attention to social rights and social justice. 

With the support of:
Women Creating Change (Center for the Study of Social Difference); Heyman Center for the Humanities, Columbia University; Department of History, Columbia University


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