CfP: SPA PhD Workshop on “Austerity, Welfare and Citizenship”

Friday 16th January 2015, School of Sociology and Social Policy, University of Leeds

The current design and delivery of welfare configures citizenship in such a way that it propagates rather than smooths out the status differentials between citizens in the UK. The notion of ‘second class citizenship’ has been theorised and empirically explored (Vincent, 1991, Dean and Melrose, 1996, Dwyer, 1998, Lister et al., 2003, Humpage, 2008). However, more recent developments in welfare policy demonstrate a significant shift in the construction of social citizenship. This workshop seeks to build upon existing research in this area to consider how the individualisation and liberalisation of welfare has resulted in a variegated praxis and experience of social citizenship in the UK.

The political economy of austerity has induced regressive cuts to public social expenditure and increased welfare conditionality (Dwyer and Wright, 2014). Symptomatic of wider socio-structural and power relations, these developments mark a new chapter for the UK Welfare State. The rise of neo-liberalism has had a two-fold mutually degradating effect. Firstly, free-market individualism has compromised the efficacy of welfare instruments to affect life and resource outcomes. Secondly, neo-liberalism has distorted the notion and function of welfare itself. Today, entitlement to a satiated interpretation of social rights is not so much dictated by virtue of one’s status as a citizen. It is not even dictated according to need as increased means-testing would have us believe. Rather, social goods are predicated on one’s capacity and success in ‘earning’ citizenship status (Gibson, 2009, Andreouli et al., 2014). The ascendancy of neo-liberal citizenship has privatised both risk and reward (Clarke, 2004, Dowling et al., 2014) and this has reconfigured the capacity for public assistance to intervene on or alleviate structural inequalities.

This workshop will critically interrogate the prevailing function of welfare and what this reveals about the ideals and operation of social citizenship in the UK. Contributions are sought that move from descriptive to explanatory accounts of social citizenship, to consider the material and symbolic effects of welfare reform, poverty and inequality. Whilst citizenship is not a concept immediately recognised as influential in daily life, the principles underpinning it prove pervasive in lived experiences (Dwyer, 2002, Patrick, 2014). As such, contributions are encouraged from those undertaking research that is grounded in the voices and experiences of citizens. Such an approach makes it possible to quantify the effects of austerity and welfare reform, but also to explore the texture of socio-economic and political life from the perspective of those currently marginalised.

Abstracts for paper presentations are welcomed that touch on any of the suggested topics/questions outlined below. Priority will be given to papers that make an original empirical and theoretical contribution to this dynamic field of study:

  • How has the political economy of austerity altered the praxis and experience of social citizenship since 2010?
  • To what extent do recent policy decisions signify a continuation of or new direction in welfare provision?
  • How have recent welfare reforms affected the social rights and responsibilities of citizenship?
  • What are the drivers of change in welfare design and delivery?
  • How can these changes be explained within the context of austerity?
  • How are individuals and communities negotiating a welfare landscape that has increasingly come to structure their marginality?
  • How have social and economic divisions arising from austerity affected lived experiences, identities, attitudes, social outcomes and relations?
  • Why does the existing relationship between citizenry, state and market prevail and in what ways might it be reformulated to tackle structural inequalities?

Doctoral researchers are, in many respects, uniquely placed to explore new ways of theorising the relationship between citizenship and welfare. In recent years, many have undertaken novel fieldwork and analysis in this area. It is hoped this workshop will distil some of the findings of existing research and proffer original contributions to social policy and citizenship debates.

Through this workshop, the SPA aims to provide a supportive and collaborative environment for doctoral researchers to present their work and critically engage with other research in this area. The possibility of a Special Issue publication will be explored following the event.

The workshop will be held in the School of Sociology and Social Policy at the University of Leeds on Friday 16th January 2015. A discounted £6 registration fee for the workshop will be charged for SPA members and a standard £12 registration fee will be charged for non-members of the SPA. Places are limited. Please submit abstracts (350 words) to by Friday 28th November 2014. Decisions will be made by Monday 8th December 2014.

Registration for the workshop is available here and will open on Wednesday 10th December 2014.