Intra-State Conflicts In Activation Reforms: Authority Delegation and Bureaucratic Centralization In The “Privatized” Implementation Of Welfare-To-Work In Israel

Thursday, July 17, 2014: 5:30 PM
Room: F203
Oral Presentation
Sara HELMAN , Sociology and Anthropology, Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Beersheba, Israel
Asa MARON , Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Beersheba, Israel
Based on the Israeli case, this article highlights the role of intra-state conflicts between bureaucratic actors in the politics that surround the reform of the governance of public employment services and the ways in which these conflicts have shaped not only the reform process, but also the institutional makeup of the reform itself.  We  analyze the politics that surrounded proposals to change the governance of long-term unemployment in Israel (1997-2004) and shaped the institutional makeup of the reform (2004-2010). We highlight how intractable conflicts between state agencies— the Ministry of Finance (MoF) and the Israeli Employment Service (IES)— brought about the delegation of administrative authority to private agents as a strategy that enhanced the autonomy of the MoF and its bureaucratic control over the management and implementation of a workfare program that targets the long-term unemployed who are entitled to social assistance benefits. We suggest that the delegation of administrative authority to private agents in no way represented a rolling back of the power of state agents, or a transition to a “regulatory” or “steering” state. On the contrary, we argue that this delegation of authority actually enabled state agents to strengthen their intervention in the routine management of the program, bringing about a process of bureaucratic re-centralization. We conclude that the initiation of 'partnerships' with private agents does not necessarily signal a transition to a steering state or towards a collaborative mode of governance, but may also function as a strategy through which certain state agents seek to impose their projects, thereby marginalizing alternative or competing conceptions of the role of the state in society.