The Dark Sides of Social Policy: From Neoliberalism to Resurgent Right-wing Populism

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This Forum Debate explores the confluence of neoliberal, populist, conservative and reactionary influences on contemporary ideologies and practices of social policy, with a focus on the poorer peripheries of global capitalism. Several fundamental tensions are highlighted, which are largely overlooked by the social policy and development literatures. First, many recent social policy innovations have been discredited by their association with neoliberalism. The rising political Right has been much more successful than the Left at exploiting this discontent, despite simultaneously deepening many aspects of neoliberalism once in power. At the same time, right?wing movements have proactively used social policy as a political tool to fashion the social order along lines deemed amenable for their interests and ideologies, expressed along nationalist, racialized, ethnicized, nativist, religious, patriarchal or other lines, and to innovate practices of segregation, exclusion and subordination. While these synergies of neoliberal and right?wing populism are observed globally, they need to be carefully and differentially interpreted from the perspective of late industrializing (or late welfare state) peripheral countries. Nonetheless, common themes occurring across both centres and peripheries, as identified by the invited contributions to this Debate section, include exclusionary identity politics, hierarchical and subordinating inclusions, and patriarchal familialism. In this context, segregationism is an ominous possibility of post?neoliberal social policy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)371-397
Number of pages27
JournalDevelopment and Change
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 3 Feb 2020

Bibliographical note

Work on this article and on editing the Debate section of this Forum issue was funded by his research project (Aiding Social Protection: The Political Economy of Externally Financing Social Policy in Developing Countries), which has received funding from the European Research Council under the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement No 638647).

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