Welfare fraud and control over the poor

When:30 Mar 2017, 4pm - 5:30pm
Venue:Room 221/223, Level 2, John Goodsell Building, UNSW Kensington (map ref F20)
Who:UNSW Practical Justice Initiative + School of Social Sciences
Vincent Dubois

Bureaucratic accuracy versus social justice. Insights from France.

From the mid-1990s onwards, entitlement, welfare abuse, fraud and so-called fake unemployed have become common topics of political discourse in France as in other Western European countries. Countless reforms, policy initiatives and bureaucratic initiatives have tended to reinforce control over poor people in receipt of social welfare. This policy trend makes reference to social justice, arguing that a stricter control is necessary in order to make welfare payments only to those who really need them. But this new obsession with bureaucratic accuracy in the name of “risk management” leads to unexpected effects, such as the judicialisation of welfare, and discriminatory practices towards the poorest. This “differential management of illegal practices” (Foucault) may therefore undermine social justice more fully than ensuring it. In this presentation, I will show how the coming together of various social fields (Bourdieu) – from expertise to the media and the political arena – promotes welfare fraud as a public problem, and the reinforcement of welfare control as a policy priority. An analysis of street-level bureaucracy practices (Lipsky), from home investigations to prosecution, can shed light on these issues, on their meanings and on the impact of this way of thinking.

Vincent Dubois, sociologist and political scientist, is a professor in the Institute for Political Studies at the University of Strasbourg where he is part of the SAGE (Societies, Actors and Government in Europe) Research Unit. Prior to this, he was a fellow at the University of Strasbourg’s Institute for Advanced Study, a Florence Gould member of the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton University, USA, and a member at the Institut Universitaire de France. His research interests include cultural sociology and policy, language policy, poverty and welfare, and more general sociological approaches to public policy. He is currently working on control policies in the contemporary social state

Reception: 4.00pm - 4.30pm

Lecture: 4.30pm - 5.30pm

This is a free event but registration is essential.

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