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Western Welfare in Decline

Western Welfare in Decline: Globalization and Women's Poverty

Edited by Catherine Kingfisher
Copyright Date: 2002
Pages: 232
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  • Book Info
    Western Welfare in Decline
    Book Description:

    The feminization of poverty is increasingly recognized as a global phenomenon, affecting women not only in third world countries but also in the West. Taking globalization as its starting point, Western Welfare in Decline explores the plight of poor single mothers in five English-speaking nations that have implemented welfare restructuring: the United States, Canada, Britain, Australia, and Aotearoa/New Zealand. This restructuring is analyzed in relation to the emergence of neoliberalism, which valorizes the free market, individualism, and a circumscribed role for the state. Contributors to Western Welfare in Decline creatively combine theoretical and empirical analysis, emphasizing the economic and social goals of welfare reforms and the discourses of labor, gendered subjectivity, and the separation of public and private spheres. They document how the neoliberal project of welfare reform interacts with local cultures to create both similar and divergent new cultural formations and identify opportunities for asserting the social rights of poor single mothers who are being denied these rights at the level of the nation-state.

    eISBN: 978-0-8122-0247-2
    Subjects: Population Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Part I. The Big Picture:: Globalization, Neoliberalism, and the Feminization of Poverty

    • Chapter 1 Introduction: The Global Feminization of Poverty
      (pp. 3-12)
      Catherine Kingfisher

      The 1992 World Bank Report argued that “Women must not be regarded as mere recipients of public support. They are, first and foremost, economic agents” (IBRD 1992:60). This claim captures a key discursive shift in the currently unfolding transformation from Keynesian and developmental to neoliberal forms of governance. In this transformation, which is witnessing exponential growth in the feminization of poverty,¹ low-income and poor women in both developed and developing countries are being reconstituted in new political discourses and practices as already or potentially able-bodied workers and entrepreneurs, while other identities, in particular, those of mother and dependent housewife, take...

    • Chapter 2 Neoliberalism I: Discourses of Personhood and Welfare Reform
      (pp. 13-31)
      Catherine Kingfisher

      The goal of this chapter is to outline features of the cultural context within which the developments outlined in Chapter 1 must be situated. As I argued in that chapter, welfare state restructuring must be understood in relation to the globalization of neoliberal approaches to economic, social, and state organization. Accordingly, in this chapter I describe what I mean when I refer to neoliberalism as a cultural system, outline a preliminary grammar of neoliberalism with particular reference to the neoliberal constitution of subjectivity, and discuss some features of welfare reform in neoliberal culture. Although the relationship between a specific geographic...

    • Chapter 3 Neoliberalism II: The Global Free Market
      (pp. 32-48)
      Catherine Kingfisher

      Through the processes of globalization, the one-time mutual dependence of the wealthy and poor (or, most importantly, the dependence of the wealthy on the poor)¹ has been disestablished: “Creation of wealth is on the way to finally emancipating itself from the old, constraining and vexing connections with making things, processing materials, creating jobs and managing people” (Bauman 1998:44). The welfare state, as an artifact of this mutual dependence, is thus no longer necessary, and its obsolescence is proclaimed in calls for simultaneous cuts in welfare benefits for the poor and in taxes for the rich. Theorists of an informational society...

    • Chapter 4 Globalization as Hybridity
      (pp. 49-62)
      Catherine Kingfisher

      In the previous two chapters, I outlined a preliminary grammar of neoliberal culture, with particular reference to two keywords, or concepts, of neoliberalism: the person and the free market. Underlying both concepts is what is perhaps neoliberalism’s inherent globality, its tendency to totalize and universalize. Possessive individualism is viewed, within the context of neoliberal culture, as descriptive of human nature per se, rather than as representative of a historical and cultural construction; it is, that is to say, naturalized. Similarly, the free market, if one were to believe Hayek, for instance, is also a natural phenomenon, which, if left to...

  4. Part II. On the Ground:: Case Studies in the Articulation of (Gendered) Neoliberalism with (Gendered) Local Culture

    • Chapter 5 From New Deal to Bad Deal: Racial and Political Implications of U.S. Welfare Reform
      (pp. 65-89)
      Judith Goode

      In 1996, the United States legislature passed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA), which abrogated the sixty-one year social contract between the state and poor women that had been put in place as part of the Keynesian New Deal. Placing a finite time limit on the receipt of federally supported cash assistance as well as imposing other limits in eligibility,¹ this law virtually eliminated previous state obligations to maintain poor women as mothers responsible for social reproduction.

      While these changes are in line with a general neoliberal shift from supporting mothers to making workers, they are more...

    • Chapter 6 The Great Undoing: State Formation, Gender Politics, and Social Policy in Canada
      (pp. 90-110)
      Janine Brodie

      For the past two decades, Canadians have been mired in complex and multiple processes of fundamental change. Among other things, the post-World War II consensus about the role of the state, the nature of citizenship, and popular understandings of the appropriate relationship among the public and the private and the collective and the individual have been incrementally and progressively recast into a model of governance which would have been inconceivable a half century ago. This tectonic shift in the epicenter of Canadian politics was not accomplished through constitutional change or through a massive remodeling of the institutions of government. Indeed,...

    • Chapter 7 The Responsible Citizen: Creating a New British Welfare Contract
      (pp. 111-127)
      Ruth Lister

      The United Kingdom has been described as the “chief European testing ground for new right theory” (Marquand 1991:329). In the area of welfare reform, in particular, it acted as a conduit for new right ideas as they traveled from the United States to Europe on the back of the wave of economic globalizing forces. Welfare reform has been identified by Prime Minister Tony Blair as central to the New Labour project, which, according to Stephen Driver and Luke Martell, can be understood as “an exercise in post-Thatcherite politics” (1998:1, emphasis in original), shaped by Thatcherism, yet also representing a reaction...

    • Chapter 8 Paradoxes in “Paradise”: The Changing Politics of Women, Welfare, and Work in Australia
      (pp. 128-146)
      Susan L. Robertson

      In his 1976 Boyer Lecture noted Australian historian Manning Clark observed:

      In the nineteenth century, Australians enjoyed the reputation of being in the vanguard of human progress; they were often the pioneers in the introduction of bourgeois democracy, and rather boastful about it. By contrast, in the twentieth century Australians seemed to have missed the boat carrying humanity into the future. . . . We had the institutions and the values to promote the use of parts of our country as quarries for foreign powers, but neither the institutions, nor the inclination, nor the belief to make our country a...

    • Chapter 9 Neoliberalism and Tino Rangatiratanga: Welfare State Restructuring in Aotearoa/New Zealand
      (pp. 147-163)
      Wendy Larner

      The “New Zealand experiment” has been touted internationally as an exemplary case of neoliberalism and market-oriented restructuring. In the decade following the 1984 election the country saw a remarkable succession of reform-minded politicians and policymakers. During the 1980s, economic reforms, initiated by a social democratic Labour government, included corporatization, deregulation, and the privatization of many state sector activities. In the 1990s, under a more conservative National government, social policy and the welfare state became the central targets of reformers. Domestically, these policy changes have been highly controversial. Cuts in social spending and a shift to “user pays” are interpreted as...

    • Chapter 10 Where to Next? Against and Beyond Neoliberalism
      (pp. 164-176)
      Catherine Kingfisher

      This book has been a study of neoliberalism, both in and of itself at an abstract level, and in terms of its articulations with other cultural formations in specific contexts. On the one hand, it is clear from the case study chapters that the neoliberal project of welfare reform in the United States, Canada, Britain, Australia, and Aotearoa/New Zealand is deeply problematic for poor single mothers. On the other hand, the case study chapters also indicate that neoliberalism does not travel uncontested; rather, its movement across cultural space is marked by struggle and contradiction. These contradictions and struggles provide entry...

  5. Notes
    (pp. 177-186)
  6. Bibliography
    (pp. 187-210)
  7. Contributors
    (pp. 211-212)
  8. Index
    (pp. 213-216)
  9. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 217-217)