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[Lunt][2008][SPS][E] Welfare Social Development NZ

[Lunt][2008][SPS][E] Welfare Social Development NZ

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12/26/2013

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Social Policy & Society 7:4, 405–418 Printed in the United Kingdom
C
 2008 Cambridge University Press
doi:10.1017/S1474746408004387
From Welfare State to Social Development: Winning the War ofWords in New Zealand
Neil Lunt
Public Sector Management, The York Management School, University of York E-mail nl517@york.ac.uk 
This paper examines how ‘welfare state’ and ‘welfare’ have been displaced by a ‘social development’ agenda within New Zealand. The discussion outlines a growing attentionto language and the place of vocabulary and discourse as a valid research agenda. The paper then traces the end of welfare and the rise of ‘social development’, assessing theimpact on citizenship debates. It suggests reasons why ‘social development’ must behandled carefully given its assumptions around temporality, its elevation of the market,the diminishing of the social, the stunted vision of development and its peculiar view of  progress.
Introduction
Since the 1980s, New Zealand has experienced continuous reforms of its economic andsocial welfare system. In economic policy, perceptions of a bloated public sector, endlessbureaucracy, and market disincentives were countered by attempts to foster the free-flowof people, products and capital; in social policy fields the shibboleths of public provisionandstaterelianceweremetbythepromotionofmarketsandindividualandfamilyrespon-sibility. Macro demand management, import and capital controls and the primacy of pub-licpurseprovisiongavewaytosupply-sidesolutionsfocusedonincentives,freeingupthelabour market, and the enforcement of responsibilities (‘public provision on condition’).Writers from across the ideological spectrum provided assessments of policy change,weighingaccess,effectiveness,equityandefficiencyintheirjudgementofpolicyprogress.Thesediscussionsfocussedonthedisassemblingandreassemblingofthewelfaremachinethrough legislation, organisational restructures and new policy missions.The tack of this paper is to complement the ‘real’ restructuring of welfare deliverymechanisms with a discursive focus, tracing how ‘welfare state’ and ‘welfare’ havebeen displaced by a ‘social development’ agenda within New Zealand. At the onset,however, it is important to caution against drawing a sharp distinction between thelinguistic and the real, given their interrelationship as constituents of welfare worlds.How public and collective provision is described and defined is not an aside to the‘real’ empirical work of social and policy analysis. As Fox Piven (1995: xiv) writes:‘Welfare policies and practices have meanings, and these meanings help to define andorganisethesocialworld.’Vocabulariesandlinguisticdevicesinformpolicypositionsandpossibilities,settingparameterstowhatmaybespokenwithinwelfaredebatesandframinghow we view them (Sch¨on and Rein, 1994; Hastings, 1999; Finlayson, 2004; Marston,2004). Language shapes social relationships, and operates to naturalise and to neutralisedissent(Edelman,1964,1971,1988).Wrestlingwithsuchdiscursivestrategiesrevealsthe
405
 
Neil Lunt 
occluded ways in which welfare reform is advancing and may provide opportunities forresistance (Fairclough, 2000: 167). More fundamentally, such inquiry gives insight intothe rhetorical nature of social welfare politics itself (Finlayson, 2004).This paper aims to trace the rise, demise and, ultimately,
end 
of welfare within NewZealand, exploring shifts in the vocabulary and concepts across recent decades:
First, it outlines the growing attention to how language constitutes the boundaries of debate.
Second,itidentifieshowvocabulary,languageanddiscourseconstituteavalidresearchagenda.
Third, the paper interrogates New Zealand developments, tracing the end of welfareand the rise of ‘social development’.
Fourth, the paper explores the discursive calling of ‘social development’ and itsimplications for citizenship debates.
Social policy, methodoltry and the linguistic turn
Thestudyofwelfarepolicyemanatesfromsocialadministrationandafocusondescribinginstitutions and their consequences. Inherent to social administration was a rational andoptimistic approach to policy design and the belief that social problems were objective,identifiable and open to amelioration. The focus of inquiry was broadly positivisticand institutions and legislation were described, their implementation difficulties anddeficiencies noted and changes suggested (Schram, 1995; Jacobs and Manzi, 1996).For critics, such a stance was a-theoretical or even anti-theoretical guilty of ‘methodoltry’, lacking analytical rigour and attempting to alleviate symptoms whilstignoring causes.
1
From the 1960s and early 1970s, a range of structural influences beganto challenge such views, while a growing cultural influence attempted to reconceptualisehow vocabulary, metaphor and discourse worked
vis-a-vis
human and policy sciences.Traditionally language was seen as
about 
objects and experience, and observationlanguage was expected to act as a conduit to the truth. In the language turn, languagebecameseenasinteractionalandconstitutiveofdebates(Ortony,1984)withvocabularies,concepts and metaphors facilitating investigation of diverse political realities by framingthese realities along the way. Metaphors, for example, rather than taking pictures of aworld that exists are constitutive of world-making (Kittay, 1987; Hastings, 1999; Schmidt,2001a,b; also Williams, 1976). One tradition, that of problem constructionism, beganto engage in a detailed exploration of the mechanisms whereby the social world was‘problematised’ or ‘normalised’.In these processes, disadvantage and inequality become reproduced, and failure tounderstand how theoretical discourse is used in social debate, political analysis andcultural transmission is to collude in the maintenance of systems of inequality, power andcontrol (Shapiro, 1981; Bourdieu, 1991; Fairclough, 2001). Consequently, vocabularyand language transcend an interest in ‘mere words’ to embrace how the political world isdefined, controlled, legitimised and power relations sustained (Fairclough, 2001: 75). Thetextual and the social are thus intricately linked and knowledge-power is a fundamentalform of critical analysis (Milliken, 1999).Thisfocusonlanguagehas,ineffect,thrownatheoreticalhand-grenadeintothemidstof positivist and empirical social sciences and the fallout continues to reverberate through
406
 
From Welfare State to Social Development 
the social and political sciences. In political studies and public policy, the previousneglect of linguistic, discursive and communicative realms was argued to be detrimentalto policy analysis (Sch¨on and Rein, 1994; Yanow, 1996; Chilton, 2004). Similarly, thosestudying social and welfare policy have increasingly sought to grasp the ways competingvocabularies offer insight into
how 
change occurs within policy settings.Vocabulary and discourse contribute towards an understanding of how the policyprocess advances, but also how welfare reform is enacted
upon
individuals, householdsand communities. Hence, while social and policy sciences emphasise that policy isshaped by actors’ tactics and alliances and in turn shapes families and communities,discourse is a core mechanism through which welfare is restructured and populationsare ‘governed’ (Fairclough, 2000). Bourdieu (1998) argues that neo-liberal discourse is aconstituent of how resources are used strategically to further neo-liberal embededdness(also Hay, 2004). Debates around the Third Way and the ‘social investment state’ usecultural and conceptual resources to identify how binaries, rhetoric and linguistic devicesadvance political positions (Powell, 2000; Lister, 2003; Williams, 2004; Dobrowolskyand Jenson, 2005). Policy reconstructions move beyond legislative, organisational andfinancial change to encompass linguistic and discursive strategies. Put simply, languageperforms ideological work (Marston, 2000) and is continuously performing policy work.
Linguistic and discursive resources
Discourse has assumed very different understandings across social science, referringvariously to: tight linguistic analysis, processes producing power relations and as a wayof outlining the totality of relations constituted by language (Chadwick, 2000). The firstapproach may involve close reading of particular utterances but does not necessarilyinvolve an interest in the socio-political context. The third approach – to encompassinga totality of relations – does not necessarily involve close analysis of texts (see also,Hastings, 1998). So, whereas linguistic analysis frequently risks getting too close to thepage, adopting too wide a lens may disengage with empirical resources and beget aprocess of claims-making.The challenge is to go beyond na¨ıve readings or simple word counts and theirpositivist leanings, and to avoid unbounded relativism. Retaining an empirical focus andensuring conceptual and analytical awareness are not mutually exclusive. The range of concerns around language – indexality, binary, stories, metaphors, frames, vocabulary –is intertwined with discursive relations of power, inequality and privilege. These arecore social policy interests and as a theoretically informed empirical discipline, it isitself well-placed to guide research. Retaining empirical commitments around collection,organisation and interpretation of data are fundamental. These include comprehensivecoverage, systematic interrogation of data and transparency in allowing others tounderstand and replicate what you have done. The challenge is not simply identifyingthat there
is
a discourse (as some descriptive task) but the broader interpretive issue of how it works and how it appeals.In this light, an important contribution has been Critical Discourse Analysis(CDA), which has emphasised the interrelations of language with power and suggestedmethodologicalpathways(Riggins,1997;Fairclough,2001;Meyer,2001;Marston,2004).Theapproachdescribesandanalysestextsandlinksthemtotheirinstitutionalcontextandsocial structure (Fairclough, 2001). In so doing, it identifies the dominance of particular
407 

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