construction of welfare fraud in response to responder A’s comments

After reading responder A’s remarks, one can argue that her interpretation of the nature and function of the welfare system fundamentally reflects Ms. Mosher’s analysis presented in her article. A’s remarks refer to the dependency and fear as the principal outline of the modern welfare system. In Ms. Mosher’s article, she emphasized the predominance of harsh punitive measures instituted by the state in pursuing welfare reforms and compliance with ever increasing state demands applied on welfare recipients.

Responder A, in her own words, states the message equally outlined by Ms. Mosher, whereby the punitive approach for any explicit or implicit violations of the welfare system is being harshly dealt with by the state. The concept of the ‘iron fist’ is a principle employed by the state, which is described by Responder A.

Ms. Mosher argues that in the pursuit of social justice, the state, as well as  neoliberal movements have advocated harsher punitive measures to fight welfare fraud as a theft of tax-payer dollars.  Both Responder A and Ms. Mosher  postulate that welfare recipients have been violated in their presumptive innocence in the state’s pursuit of punishment for any violations of welfare regulations. At the same time, both writers emphasize the ability of the state to dehumanize welfare recipients by using invasive strategies for detecting welfare fraudsters by putting their lives under constant surveillance. The use of the word ‘monster’ by responder A emphasizes the point presented by Ms. Mosher in her analysis when she discusses the dehumanizing nature of the welfare reforms introduced and carried out by the state’s agencies.

One principal difference between responder A and Ms. Mosher’s analysis lies in the denial of personal responsibility for committing fraudulent acts by the responder. According to Ms. Mosher, individual responsibility for preserving the integrity of the welfare system lies with the welfare recipients themselves.

Welfare laws in neoliberal societies are fundamentally integral and truly represent a part of what neoliberal society is about. Neoliberal societies’ most important economic values are closely related to economic liberalizations, free trade and open markets, privatization, deregulation and increasing the role of the private sector in modern society. The most important pillar of neoliberal society is the reliance on the private sector and deregulation in achieving ultimate productivity as well as enhancing monetary rewards for society at large.  Anything not directly related to the reliance of the private sector is deemed to be not beneficial for society and its major representative being the middle class. Philosophically and ideologically speaking, neoliberal movements view welfare as a ‘non-important entity’, and laws governing welfare have been created and legislated with such intents in mind. For all practical intents and purposes, welfare in neoliberal societies is considered to be a “pariah” and is not truly reflective of values of these societies.

The issue of welfare is considered to be one of the cornerstones of social policies in the neoliberal movement. The concept of ‘lean state’ has been an integral part of any neoliberal movement, and one of the critical aspects of lean state has traditionally been the attitude of the states towards welfare reform. Welfare reforms have been considered by neoliberal societies in a wider context of eliminating waste and forcing individuals to participate in work and work searching programs.

The ideological foundation of welfare laws in neoliberal societies are based on social attitudes that are mostly represented by the middle class and for the benefits of middle class and principally revolves around deficit reduction, global competition and family values. All other issues not dealing with the aforementioned values are deemed to be either not or marginally important for the betterment of society and thus can be undervalued or summarily ignored, including provisions of welfare reforms.

Welfare laws are intrinsically related and connected with the ways and means of enforcing these laws. Neoliberal societies have been extensively relying on harsh, punitive measures undertaken in the perceived interests of the middle class and promote the so-called values of middle class. Welfare laws as a result are generally designed with the intent to marginalize vulnerable groups of individuals and force them to either comply with whatever benefits the state affords to them or accept employment of any kind.

One can argue that neoliberal societies’ attitudes towards welfare are truly reflected in legislated laws governing it and are fundamentally directed towards creating disparities between the governing middle class and the marginalized groups of individuals relying on handouts from the state. Welfare laws are by and large punitive in nature and rely on harsh enforcement mechanisms introduced and maintained by the state.

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3 responses to “construction of welfare fraud in response to responder A’s comments

  1. Thanks for this detailed response.

    You do a great job of pointing out the parallels between Mosher’s analysis and the statement of A.

    In your post, you note that “One principal difference between responder A and Ms. Mosher’s analysis lies in the denial of personal responsibility for committing fraudulent acts by the responder. According to Ms. Mosher, individual responsibility for preserving the integrity of the welfare system lies with the welfare recipients themselves.” To clarify, Mosher is emphasizing the prevalence of individual responsibilization in neoliberal times. There is a difference between the external imposition of responsibility (for example, through the pursuit of welfare fraud charges) and the internal taking of responsibility (through a personal claim of moral blameworthiness).

    In your discussion of the ‘lean state’ aspect of neoliberalism, you note that “Welfare reforms have been considered by neoliberal societies in a wider context of eliminating waste and forcing individuals to participate in work and work searching programs”. This is an important observation. Moving beyond the level of concrete law and policy changes, we can also observe the creation of a ‘lean state’ ideology through discourse. The re-framing of ‘social welfare’ as ‘entitlement’ is central to the perpetuation of the image of the ‘undeserving poor’.

    Zygmunt Bauman picks up on this theme in his book ‘Wasted Lives: Modernity and its Outcasts’ (2004, Polity), and in his more recent book ‘Collateral Damage’. Bauman notes that persons who find themselves outside the systems of neoliberal economic production are regarded as a ‘surplus population’, collateral casualties of socio-economics. Regarding A’s remarks and Mosher’s discussion of responsibilization, Bauman – citing Ulrich Beck – notes that in the contemporary context, “individuals are now expected to seek biographical solutions to systemic contradictions”.

    • Quick addendum. You state that “Welfare laws are intrinsically related and connected with the ways and means of enforcing these laws.”

      This is an interesting and insightful observation. Could you expand on what you mean by this?

  2. welfare laws as they are viewed by neoliberal movements represent values of the ‘lean state’ and therefore, enforcement of these laws is integral part of the law itself. law cannot exist without its enforcement and welfare laws according to neoliberal movements, incorporates enforcement to enhance the values of this law