Confronting the Destruction of Social Rights through Considerations on the Crisis of the European Social Model and Options to Tackle It

Friday, 20 July 2018: 14:45
Location: Constitution Hall (MTCC NORTH BUILDING)
Oral Presentation
Roland ATZMUELLER, Johannes Kepler University, Austria
The financial and economic crisis of 2008, which was subsequently transformed into a sovereign debt crisis and subsequent austerity policies have (further) polarised the European Social Models. Young people are among those who have been affected hardest. In Southern and Eastern European countries high levels of unemployment of up to 60% and poverty and social exclusion linked to austerity related cutbacks of social support and educational and VET (vocational education and training) systems transformed youth into a social problem. Also in the dominant European countries, young people were affected more strongly by economic crisis and permanent austerity. As even neoliberals have to admit that young people are not yet full market individuals and human capital they are still seen as a legitimate target of social policies. Notwithstanding far-reaching differences, a converging neoliberal governmental rationality concerning the problems of young people as well as the best strategies to tackle them is emerging. Thus, the situation of young people is ascribed to a lack of adequate human capital (i.e. low educational levels and skills) which is said to result from the social deficits of their respective family background, ethnic origin, non-conformist lifestyles etc. Tackling the crisis and transformation of capitalism is therefore shifted to the adaptability of young people and their willingness to transform their abilities into human capital policed by an expanding set of disciplinary social policies. Only when the individualised and human capital centred understanding of welfare and justice is replaced by a renewed conceptualisation of freedom and individual autonomy which runs counter not only to market-processes but also gendered and ethnicised structures it will be possible to confront the crisis of the European social models and to upend the emergence of centrifugal tendencies (right wing populism) which threaten to tear apart the EU.