Situating Informal Welfare within Imperfect Wellbeing Regimes

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Within a comparative theoretical wellbeing regimes framework arising from Polanyi, Esping-Andersen and recent work by Gough and Wood, the paper will reflect upon the position of the nation state and non state-centred actors in the support for welfare and the security of agency. With the nation state appearing as a key problem in a globally comparative account of social policy, the roles of other actors above and below the nation state are thus significant in any analysis of power relations, social reproduction and policy outcomes. It is clear that in many poorer countries, the problem for state actors is that power, authority and, more problematically, legitimacy lies significantly elsewhere. This is demonstrated by analytical reference to the institutional responsibility matrix (IRM), with global and national level dimensions across the domains of state, market, community and household. A review of this matrix indicates other loci of power, together with a contaminating permeability between these 4 domains of power. This negative permeability arises from a deployment of personalised social and cultural resources rather than accessible social capital (i.e. transparent and accountable), and functions to reduce the capacity of state actors to act in open democratic ways. Importantly, aspects of globalisation can interact directly with sub-national entities thus by-passing and undermining the state. MNCs deal with ethnic power structures and local warlords to access oil, minerals, precious metals and diamonds, sometimes via interlinked money laundering and arms agreements--thus promoting regional bases of power at the expense of central authority. International donors (including charities) sometimes leapfrog the state to implement projects via regional governments and NGOs. Remittances avoid the taxing capacity of the state. Wider faith movements operate directly with their congregations. Cross border ethnic solidarities represent secessionary challenges to their respective, weakly embedded 'nation' states. Large ethnic concentrations substitute themselves for the national identity as the price for remaining part of a larger whole. Economic and political transactions are conducted through the personalised networks of kin, clan, ethnic, race, caste and other such identities, entailing exclusion and preferentialism. And there are civil society and philanthropic organisations embedded within socio-cultural institutions engaged in welfare while reproducing dependent security and engendering Faustian bargains. This is clearly a complicated institutional landscape within which to formulate the idea of responsibility for social policy.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2009
EventConference on Politics of Non-State Welfare - Cambridge, MA, USA United States
Duration: 8 May 20099 May 2009


ConferenceConference on Politics of Non-State Welfare
Country/TerritoryUSA United States
CityCambridge, MA


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