Power and Social Policy
Changing power relations shape social policy decisions and outcomes. In general, it is common in sociological and political theory to draw a line between power as capacity (power to) and power as domination (power over). On one hand, political actors can bring people together to form coalitions and mobilization politically in order to reform social policy. On the other hand, social policy arrangements may reflect and even exacerbate asymmetrical power relations and forms of domination associated with factors such as age, class, ethnicity, and gender. These two sides of power intersect in part because the mobilization capacity of actors (power to) can vary due to institutionally-embedded forms of economic and social domination.
The objective of this session is to analyze the multifaceted intersection between social policy and asymmetrical power relations around the world. Questions raised may include: How do new coalitions emerge in the contemporary politics of social policy? What factors increase or decrease the capacity of political actors to mobilize various social policy constituencies? How do social and political actors mobilize to use social policy to fight different forms of economic and social inequality? How does policy design affect the changing distribution of economic and political power in society? How do social policy ideas and discourse reflect or challenge asymmetrical power relations? How do beneficiaries and disadvantaged groups cope with, or resist against, social policy-related forms of domination? Finally, how do changing power relations shape the politics of social policy change in contemporary societies?
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