The silent expansion of welfare to work policies: How policies are enhanced through the use of categorizations, evidence-based knowledge and self-governance

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This chapter explores how Danish WTW policies have recently been radically extended while still largely avoiding the hazards of public justification. Thus, we explore different routes WTW policies can travel in order to avoid traditional forms of policy-justification. In doing so, we are inspired by the recent proliferation of so-called ‘management and governance studies’ within the tradition of Street Level Bureaucracy, that analyzes how organizational changes and management reforms affect policies.
We claim that such reforms only represent one within a plurality of ‘silent’ ways to implement WTW policies. Specifically, we investigate three cases, which exemplify three different ways to expanding the scope of WTW polices, without them having to be publicly justified. The first case digs into classification processes where the work capability of Danish social assistance claimants is assessed and shows how incremental changes of such processes has formed a system, where more and more claimants are deemed capable of working – and therefore legitimate targets of harsher demands and sanctions. The second case explores how the political quest for evidence-based employment policies comes with an inherent bias: ‘Evidence’ is constructed in ways that clearly favor work first policies. Our third and final case investigates how the municipal welfare offices’ autonomy to try out new and innovative activation programs, is currently being restructured by subtle changes that increase the incentives to take up activations programs that support the WTW strategies of the Ministry of Employment.
Theoretically, our analysis is informed by concepts from the foucauldian literature, particularly emphasizing the connection between the production of certain forms of knowledge on the one hand and the functioning of power on the other. Empirically, the chapter primarily draws on a mixture of large archives of policy documents and a total of 15 interviews with civil servants and public-sector leaders.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationWelfare to Work in Contemporary European Welfare States : Legal, Sociological and Philosophical Perspectives on Justice and Domination
EditorsAnja Eleveld, Thomas Kampen, Josien Arts
Number of pages188
PublisherPolicy Press
Publication dateJan 2020
ISBN (Print)978-1-4473-4001-0
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-4473-4014-0
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2020

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