Towards a Global Civic Minimum? the Idea and Practice of Minimum Income Security

Monday, 11 July 2016: 15:00
Location: Hörsaal 11 (Juridicum)
Oral Presentation
Lutz LEISERING, Bielefeld University, Germany
The idea of a social minimum to be secured to all human beings is widely accepted, advanced by political philosophers like Rawls and by international organizations like the ILO (Convention no. 102, 1952; Declaration on ‘Social Protection Floors’ 2012). In (most) Western welfare states, fighting poverty is the least common denominator, and this implies a notion or even specification of a social minimum. In the face of vast inequalities, states and international organizations tend to give priority to securing at least a minimum for the poor, as in Sustainable Development Goal no. 1. Basic socio-economic security not only provides welfare but also enables citizens to participate in public affairs (civic minimum).

 The rise of social protection since the 1990s, both in global discourses and in countries of the global South, especially of social assistance, suggests that the idea and practice of a social minimum is spreading worldwide. The paper puts this suggestion to the test, based on original data from the interdisciplinary FLOOR project, taking income security as example.

 The paper (first) seeks to conceptualize and operationalize the notion of a social minimum. Second, the paper inquires into the notion of a social minimum in three global arenas: international human rights law and human rights discourses; discourses on development by international organizations; and domestic policies and institutions in low and middle income countries. We find that minimum income security is largely absent in global politics, not only in practice but more fundamentally even in ideas, norms and policy designs. Third, the paper seeks to explain the weakness of the idea of a social minimum, naming discursive and organizational factors.

 We conclude that basic security is not a moral minimum in global politics, political rhetoric notwithstanding. This qualifies the notion of an emerging global social policy.