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The political and social construction of poverty

The political and social construction of poverty: Central and Eastern European countries in transition

Serena Romano
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  • Book Info
    The political and social construction of poverty
    Book Description:

    Poverty is not a neutral phenomenon, nor are social inclusion programmes neutrally conceived, designed and implemented.Their ultimate nature is built upon ideas, values, actors, politics and economic constraints.This topical book is one of the first to examine the social and political construction of anti-poverty programmes in Central Eastern Europe and their transformation from communist rule to the current economic crisis. It covers the approach towards the ‘parasite’ poor through to Guaranteed Minimum Income Schemes and illustrates how the distinction between different categories of ‘deserving’ and ‘undeserving’ poor has evolved over the years as the result of changing paradigms, combined with the pressure exerted by domestic and international actors, the European Union and the World Bank among others. This text breaks new ground for social policy students and scholars interested in understanding how differently post-communist welfare states have represented, legitimised and dealt with poverty, need and social justice in accordance with divergent normative frameworks constructed at national level.

    eISBN: 978-1-4473-1273-4
    Subjects: Political Science, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Part One: The construction of poverty before 1989

    • ONE Social policy in Central Eastern Europe
      (pp. 3-26)

      The context of this book is the social and political construction of antipoverty welfare programmes in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) and all that it comprises: governments, policies, laws, benefits and of course people, as potential and effective beneficiaries (to speak in very broad terms indeed and without mentioning many of its other complexities).

      In this study we shall deal with the topics of policy design, the welfare state, institutional change and poverty, all of which simultaneously encompass the economic, social and political-institutional spheres of the transition of former communist countries. As such, an examination of social policy design in...

    • TWO The lifespan of a model: the construction of poverty before 1989
      (pp. 27-62)

      The main topic of this study is the construction of poverty as a direct or indirect outcome of policy design. In order to understand how poverty was conceived, constructed and dealt with during communism, we need to look at the overall model of social redistribution existing under communist rule.

      In Chapter One we maintained that, despite enduring disagreement concerning the existence of an alleged fifth welfare regime, a number of distinctive features of the communist model of social redistribution played a major role as determinants or ‘pathways’ for the development of the welfare state in these countries (Cerami and Vanhuysse,...

    • THREE Poverty in transition
      (pp. 63-98)

      Following the election of Mikhail Gorbachev as general secretary of the Soviet Party of USSR in 1985, the process of liberalisation entered a new phase of political and economic renovation. The introduction of a new wave of reform policies led by perestroika (social, economic and political restructuring) and glasnost (introducing political discussion, bureaucratic transparency and freedom of expression) accelerated the ongoing process of de-Stalinisation and consequently led to democratisation in the whole communist region. Gorbachev’s Sinatra Doctrine (satellite countries were free to ‘do it their way’) implicitly legitimised the political autonomy of Central Eastern Europe. One after another, the revolutions...

  2. Part Two: Poverty and welfare reforms after the transition

    • FOUR East meets West: CEE countries, monetary institutions and the European Social Model
      (pp. 101-128)

      If one were to consider the contribution made by economic events to European history and their influence on people’s lives, surely one of the most important in the latter part of the twentieth century was the adoption of market economies by former communist countries. Nowhere else in the world have economic, political and social institutions undergone such a process of restructuring and adjustment all at the same time. For Central Eastern European countries in real terms this meant that past redistributive mechanisms based on specific features of communism (most notably the centrally planned economy, an illusory full employment pillar and...

    • FIVE The new poor in the new Europe: the end of a stigma?
      (pp. 129-172)

      After lengthy preparations for their entry into the European Union, on 1 May 2004, eight former communist countries (Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) formally became new member states. Despite their common background in communism, the post-communism transition and the transformations required to meet EU entry criteria, significant differences remained between these countries. Indeed, as their integration with the EU proceeded, CEE member states continued their process of adaptation according to their own particular social demands, domestic distributive dynamics and supranational directives. Documenting the whole range of transformations that have occurred over the past ten...

    • SIX The construction of poverty in times of austerity
      (pp. 173-204)

      In his introduction of the new edition ofThe Fiscal Crisis of the State, James O’Connor (2009) introduces a very important and topical element of the debate on capitalism and the welfare state by stating that:

      I recall reading the paper one morning in 1967 and noting that the first page was filled with stories all of a piece: a welfare struggle, a teacher’s strike, a new government subsidy to business, a conflict over taxes. This was when I first realised that the class struggle had been displaced (in part) onto the state and its budget.

      The presence of different...

    • SEVEN Conclusions
      (pp. 205-220)

      Our journey from the inception of communism in Central Eastern countries up to the global financial crisis has provided many elements for discussing how poverty and anti-poverty policies are conceived, constructed and represented in this area of the world. On the one hand, these nations have constituted a ‘testing ground’ as far as the construction of poverty is concerned.In theory, governments had the opportunity to rebuild social inclusion policies completely anew, abandoning past attitudes towards the poor. In reality, however, social policy changes (as do political institutions in general) by following a path-dependent transformation. This is especially true for...