Field Theory and Welfare State Regimes: Moving Beyond the Domestic

Monday, 16 July 2018: 16:15
Oral Presentation
Amanda SHRIWISE, University of Oxford, United Kingdom
A key challenge in both social theory and social policy research is to revise theoretical and conceptual tools designed for use within a national context for appropriate use in transnational and global research. To contribute to this broader project, this paper explores how field theory might expand our understanding of why and how welfare state regimes operate beyond their domestic borders. In particular, it explores the degree to which field theory helps to explain: (i) the relationship between social policy and foreign policy; and (ii) state involvement in welfare provision beyond the domestic domain, with a particular focus on foreign aid dedicated toward welfare. In so doing, I argue that dominant understandings of welfare state regimes perceive the state and its behavior as a product of power resources, enabling particular types of capital accumulation, with insufficient attention given to the power relations that underpin the ‘meta-field’ of the state. This gap in theory becomes apparent when trying to explain the external behavior of national welfare state regimes in a global context. Using foreign aid dedicated toward welfare as an example, the paper then illustrates how a field approach contributes to a more nuanced and thorough understanding of the transnational nature of welfare state regimes by illuminating: (i) how national welfare state regimes extend their approaches toward welfare in the global space/sphere; and (ii) how they have contributed to the emergence of a global field of welfare provision and distribution.