Universalism or Universalisms in Social Policies?
States are generally supposed to provide universal basic services such as health care or a minimum standard of living. The session takes the term “universal” under scrutiny. How “universal” are universal pensions, cash transfers or health insurances? As recent work (e.g., Anttonen and Sipilä 2014; Martínez Franzoni and Sánchez-Ancochea 2014; Devereux 2016) suggests, universalism means many things. This has led to the creation of the paradoxical term “universalisms” suggesting that “universalism” requires definition with regard to its reach. Indeed, most “universal” programs are based on criteria of inclusion and exclusion, for example age or citizenship for old-age pensions or targeting criteria for cash transfers or health fee exemptions.
The proposed session takes the term “universal” to discussion: What types of universalisms are there? Who is included, who is excluded and how are these criteria legitimated? How do these “universalisms” relate to issues of legitimacy justice and social citizenship? Do they exert unjust power or are they legitimate? To what extent do such exclusion criteria or mechanisms represent structural violence towards vulnerable people? The session is interested in the analyses of social policies and their effects as well as the mechanisms through which social policies and “universal services” work and legitimize their limitations. It especially welcomes contributions from and on the Global South.
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