Identity Politics and Welfare Nationalism

A special issue of Genealogy (ISSN 2313-5778).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (15 April 2021) | Viewed by 10442

Special Issue Editor


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Guest Editor
Department of Sociology, Pablo de Olavide University, 41013 Sevilla, Spain
Interests: political sociology; national identity; Spanish nationalism; public opinion; political parties; parties’ manifestos
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Dear Colleagues,

Why are people solidary? With whom are they solidary? Solidarity happens within a so-called group of equals. People are solidary because they care about other members of the group, and because they trust there will be reciprocity. That may explain solidarity among small groups of people such as family, friends or neighborhoods. However, larger systems of social solidarity rest on larger conceptions of groups of equals, so large that they make personal acquaintance with all the members of the group impossible. In these cases, the group of equals is imagined rather than tangible.

This will be the case for systems of social welfare and, even more so, for welfare states. They rest on the premise that the people inhabiting within the limits of the state comprise a group of equals (i.e., a nation). Since welfare states are sustained on the (voluntary) economic contributions of citizens, they need to care for other members of the group (other people living within the limits of the state) and to trust that their contributions shall be returned should they need the protection of the welfare system.

The developing of such an attachment, by which an individual citizen will imagine she belongs together with the rest of the people inhabiting within the borders of the state, is a construct in which political elites play a significant role. In the case of an already existing state, it needs to reassure citizens that they belong together and demonstrate how they are equal, because people by themselves cannot gain direct knowledge about these matters through their personal relationships.

The actions by which the state communicates the idea that people inhabiting within its borders constitute a group of equals (i.e., a nation) can be labelled as state-reproducing nationalism. It is also known as banal nationalism, everyday nationalism, maintenance nationalism, or majoritarian nationalism.  Apart from the strengthening of social trust and solidarity among citizens, it also serves the purposes of increasing the state's legitimacy and deepening democratic involvement. Only very recently has this become the object of systematic scientific research. When the state's reproduction takes place through the provision of welfare, the state outlines the group of equals by defining who is entitled to welfare benefits. This is also known as welfare nationalism.

Despite the abundance of theoretical and empirical literature on national identities, their formation, typologies and components, there has been much less discussion about the importance of the material living conditions within one particular territory for citizens’ attachment to the political community bound to that territory.  In this sense, empirical analysis has centered on history, studying, for example, the role of particular groups on the creation of identities, or analyzing the incentives for sovereignty movements under economic crises such as the one experienced in Eastern Europe at the end of the 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s. Generally speaking, however, ‘cultural materialism’ has had little relevance in the literature dealing with national identities’ evolution and change.

In analyzing the importance of materialist conditions, welfare nationalism can be mentioned as a new label for studies linking economy and national identity. It can be defined as the “discourses and ideologies in which welfare and national identity are intertwined and welfare provision is based on national membership” (Keskinen 2016: 355). As Keskinen, Norocel and Jorgersen (2016: 323) argue “economic issues and welfare benefits are closely connected to questions of culture and national identity (…)”. Thus, several authors have pointed out that the self-portrayal of modern states (mainly democracies) as agent of equitable development has been the most important way in which they have fostered national identities as a legitimate ideology, “so that the image of the nation was reconstructed as the social justice community” (Brown 1998: 2). This same idea, labelled as cohesion theory by Solt (2011: 826), is present in the writings of Deutsch (1964) when he argues that by creating good living conditions, the government creates attachment to the state; he furthermore asserts that it is necessary not only to maintain wellbeing but also to assure the wide distribution of benefits throughout the population (Deutsch 1964: 143).  Along the same lines, McEwen (2006: 51) claims that the transformation of nation states into welfare states has been among the most significant changes across advanced capitalist democracies, a change by which states have secured the consent of national minorities and accommodated their territorial identities within the framework of the nation state (see also Brown 1998: 13, and Shulman 2003: 24). Although the relationship between a sense of common solidarity and welfare growth might be reciprocal, according to Keating (2001: 40), it is nevertheless true that welfare states foster national identity and unity.

A question of particular interest regards the effects of COVID-19 on welfare nationalism. As the pandemic puts increasing stress on the welfare system, this may lead to welfare chauvinism (i.e., a narrowing of the definition of the group of solidarity, excluding particular groups of people from benefits). COVID-19 also represents a breaching edge that exposes assumptions and taken-for-granted practices regarding citizens' relations with national institutions. It is at these breaching edges that otherwise non-spoken beliefs are voiced. The state's nationalist reproduction practices occur, among others, when people pay their taxes, contributing thereby to the maintenance of social security systems, as well as when they receive free heath assistance or unemployment benefits from welfare systems.

This Special Issue on “Identity Politics and Welfare Nationalism” welcomes comparative articles that consider the differences among types of welfare states, as well as case studies. Qualitative and quantitative contributions are equally welcome, focusing either on the elite, on the one hand, or citizens, on the other, as well as the connections between them. Articles considering the effects of COVID-19 are of particular interest.

Dr. Antonia María Ruiz Jiménez
Guest Editor

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Keywords

  • national identities
  • nationalism
  • welfare nationalism
  • welfare chauvinism
  • state-reproducing nationalism
  • majoritarian nationalism
  • banal nationalism

Published Papers (4 papers)

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Research

19 pages, 329 KiB  
Article
The “Pull Factor” Problematization in the Emergence of Everyday Bordering in the UK Welfare State
by Mike Slaven
Genealogy 2021, 5(4), 93; https://doi.org/10.3390/genealogy5040093 - 27 Oct 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 2425
Abstract
The “everyday bordering” concept has provided key insights into the effects of diverse bordering practices upon social life, placing the bordering of the welfare state among wider state interventions in an autochthonous politics of belonging. Sociological contributions have also introduced new explanations as [...] Read more.
The “everyday bordering” concept has provided key insights into the effects of diverse bordering practices upon social life, placing the bordering of the welfare state among wider state interventions in an autochthonous politics of belonging. Sociological contributions have also introduced new explanations as to why states pursue such measures, positing that neoliberal states seek legitimacy through increasing activities to (re)affirm borders within this politics of belonging, compensating for a failure to govern the economy in the interests of citizens. To what extent is this visible in the state-led emergence of (everyday) borders around welfare in the United Kingdom, often cited as a key national case? This article draws from 20 elite interviews to contribute to genealogical accounts of the emergence of everyday bordering through identifying the developing “problematizations” connected to this kind of bordering activity, as the British state began to distinctly involve welfare-state actors in bordering policies in the 1990s and early 2000s. This evidence underlines how these policies were tied to a “pull factor” problematization of control failure, where the state needed to reduce various “pull factors” purportedly attracting unwanted migrants in order to control immigration per se, with little evidence that legitimacy issues tied to perceived declining economic governability informed these developments in this period. These findings can inform future genealogical analyses that trace the emergence of everyday bordering. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Identity Politics and Welfare Nationalism)
19 pages, 735 KiB  
Article
National Projects and Feminism: The Construction of Welfare States through the Analysis of the 8M Manifestos of Progressive and Conservative Political Parties in Spain
by Luis Navarro Ardoy and Alba Redondo Mesa
Genealogy 2021, 5(3), 82; https://doi.org/10.3390/genealogy5030082 - 8 Sep 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 2410
Abstract
This paper studies the national projects defended by Spanish political parties on the basis of the image they project in relation to women’s roles. To do so, we start with a critical review of nations and welfare states as masculinized projects, and from [...] Read more.
This paper studies the national projects defended by Spanish political parties on the basis of the image they project in relation to women’s roles. To do so, we start with a critical review of nations and welfare states as masculinized projects, and from this we design a strategy based on the analysis of the manifestos issued by each political party in 2020 on International Women’s Day. The results obtained reflect the existence of three different ways of understanding the nation from a gender perspective: the first bloc, formed by the two conservative parties, PP and VOX, reproduces the nation by basing their discourse on gender inequalities, with a great weight of care for women; the second, formed by the most progressive parties (IU and Podemos), is situated in a clearly feminist perspective; the third, formed by the PSOE, shows a mixture of ideas that is reflected in considering both sexes as political subjects of feminism, and in presenting a discourse of the liberal and socialist current. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Identity Politics and Welfare Nationalism)
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15 pages, 303 KiB  
Article
Modern Forms of Populism and Social Policies: Personal Values, Populist Attitudes, and Ingroup Definitions in Support of Left-Wing and Right-Wing Welfare Policies in Italy
by Anna Miglietta and Barbara Loera
Genealogy 2021, 5(3), 60; https://doi.org/10.3390/genealogy5030060 - 23 Jun 2021
Viewed by 2137
Abstract
We analyzed the relationship between modern forms of populism and citizen support for exclusive welfare policies and proposals, and we focused on support for left-wing- and right-wing-oriented welfare policies enacted or proposed during the Lega Nord (LN)–Five Star Movement (FSM) government in Italy [...] Read more.
We analyzed the relationship between modern forms of populism and citizen support for exclusive welfare policies and proposals, and we focused on support for left-wing- and right-wing-oriented welfare policies enacted or proposed during the Lega Nord (LN)–Five Star Movement (FSM) government in Italy (2018–2019). In light of the theoretical perspective of political ideology as motivated by social cognition, we examined citizens’ support for the two policies considering adherence to populist attitudes, agreement on the criteria useful to define ingroup membership, and personal values. We also took into account the role of cognitive sophistication in populism avoidance. A total of 785 Italian adults (F = 56.6; mean age = 35.8) completed an online survey in the summer of 2019 based on the following: support for populist policies and proposals, political ideologies and positioning, personal values, and ingroup boundaries. We used correlation and regression analyses. The results highlight the relationships between populism and political conservatism. Populism was related to the vertical and horizontal borders defining the “people”; cognitive sophistication was not a relevant driver. We identified some facilitating factors that could promote adherence to and support for public policies inspired by the values of the right or of the left, without a true ideological connotation. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Identity Politics and Welfare Nationalism)
24 pages, 1798 KiB  
Article
National Identities in Troubled Times: Germany and Southern European Countries after the Great Recession
by Antonia María Ruiz Jiménez, Nieves Aquino Llinares and Elena Ferri Fuentevilla
Genealogy 2021, 5(2), 40; https://doi.org/10.3390/genealogy5020040 - 16 Apr 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 2407
Abstract
This article aims to elucidate the effects of the Great Recession and the retrenchment of welfare on national identity in several European countries. While different authors have observed that good economic performance, redistribution, and the growth of welfare strengthen countries as political communities [...] Read more.
This article aims to elucidate the effects of the Great Recession and the retrenchment of welfare on national identity in several European countries. While different authors have observed that good economic performance, redistribution, and the growth of welfare strengthen countries as political communities of solidarity, there is much less empirical evidence regarding the consequences of an economic crisis for national identity. To investigate these consequences, we focus on a set of countries where the 2008 Great Recession resulted in different impacts, namely, Germany and four countries in Southern Europe (Italy, Spain, Portugal, and Greece). We use secondary quantitative data from Eurobarometer surveys to test aggregated and individual hypotheses relating to both the size and direction of the Great Recession’s effects on national identity. Our results suggest that the roles and impacts of economic variables may be different depending on the relative economic performance of a country within its own context. It seems easier to confirm that good economic performance, in relative terms, might strengthen national identity than proving that poor economic performance will weaken national identity. Even if no definitive empirical evidence can be given at this point, our data suggest a rationalization or compensation mechanism such that citizens look for where to anchor their strong national identities after they have decided on them. If an economy is performing well, then it would become a good anchorage for holding a strong national identity; however, if an economy is not performing well, then economic factors will cease to be a fundamental element for national identity holders. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Identity Politics and Welfare Nationalism)
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