How does welfare conditionality affect political participation?

Since the 1980s, modern welfare states have witnessed several waves of conditionality-based reforms. It is part of a bigger trend of welfare state changes where the governance of welfare shifts from a passive towards an active approach.

Compulsory elements are introduced in the provision of welfare as means to steer client towards “responsible behavior”. Conditionality is linked to a growing emphasis on citizens’ obligations; thereby imposing change in state-citizen relations. This PhD project seeks to understand the democratic consequences of welfare conditionality.

While scholars of public policies always have recognized the influence of public policies on those affected, this insight is slowly establishing a foothold in political behavior. The feedback-perspective provides the link between policy studies and political behavior. The perspective assumes that policies shape patterns of political attitudes and behaviors. Given the extent of public services in Scandinavia, there are good reasons to assume that public policies provide resources and incentives that may influence political behavior.

Welfare conditionality radically changes welfare provision and welfare administration. It combines elements of sanctions and support. With these two instruments operative, the state can foster or penalize actions in accordance with prevailing claims of responsible behavior. It implies a widened scope of discretion and a more disciplinary approach towards clients.
My study looks at an understudied phenomenon in political behavior. Yet to date, we have little knowledge about the democratic consequences of the conditional turn. My study approaches political participation broadly. While political participation refers to acts of political character, my study is also concerned with the set of resources, values and engagement necessary for participation. Public agencies and public administration leave imprints on citizens; hence, they may alter the resources deemed necessary for participation. 


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