9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN09 Economic Sociology

Obligations and Expectations: Active Citizenship, Welfare Provision and the State

This paper traces the development of citizenship in relation to welfare provision and explores the implications that a changing global economic environment might have upon it. In the United Kingdom there has been a discernible shift over the past thirty years away from Marshall?s citizenship by status, to citizenship by obligation (Plant, 2003). At the same time a debate has begun to emerge regarding the disengagement of citizens from politics (Hay, 2007). From a welfare perspective, ?good citizens? have been defined by their willingness to participate in paid work. Recent developments, such as the extension of the obligatory nature of welfare provision to groups such as the disabled and single parents, would appear to support Beck?s view that work ?has today become the core value and mode of integration in modern societies, to such an extent that almost no alternative remains? (Beck, 2000: 11). Citizens are seen as reflexive and wanting to be active (Giddens, 1994; Le Grand, 2007). In the welfare system, tailored support is available to the citizen seeking employment. Some of this is contracted out to third parties, reflecting a shift towards choice and competition in the public sector where active citizens can demand higher levels of service (Le Grand, 2007; Clarke et al 2007). This active, reflexive citizen is not protected by the state from the risk of unemployment, but is enabled by the state to limit the impact of unemployment. The global financial crisis may make it harder for citizens to fulfil their obligations by participating in work, and harder for the state to fulfil its obligation of responding to the demands of active citizens who want to work. These implications could reinforce perceptions that politicians do not deliver; or alternatively, the necessity for state involvement could reinvigorate the debate about the nature of the relationship between state and citizen.