Alexander Ruser

Undeserving and Dangerous: The Construction of Outsiders and the Return of the Third Way in Green Welfare State Debates

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Political and scholarly debate about welfare state reform increasingly acknowledge the need to align social and environmental policies and sustainable welfare state reform. Against the background of urgent environmental problems such as anthropogenic climate change, welfare states must turn green. However, this sheer necessity underpinned by increasingly dire warnings by climate scientists demanding large-scale social transformation not only run the risk of concealing the normative convictions that drive transformative policy agendas and limit the opportunity for legitimate opposition and disagreement but to underestimate negative redistributive effects of green welfare state reform. This article discusses implications of social welfare policy debates against the background of urgent climate change. It argues that tendencies to frame social policy reform as inevitable adjustment has serious implications for the ability to voice dissent. Analogous to discussions about a «Third Way» for the welfare state in the 1990s, the emphasize on functional reforms conceals normative convictions and can thus affect the demarcation criteria between «deserving» and «undeserving» recipients of social support and the shift to a focus on individual (lack of) responsibility.


  • Deservingness
  • green welfare state
  • Third Way
  • individualization
  • de-politicization


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