Recent political and social transformations have clearly been affecting welfare institutions. Populist and nationalist forces have been gaining momentum in Europe and elsewhere, and they may boost nationally variable chauvinist welfare outcomes. Exclusionary discourses and practices affecting “marginal” people may spiral; consequently, various types of disadvantaged groups are blamed, some forms of protection are jeopardized, and some social policies are abandoned – in sum, inequalities may increase.
Also, these processes do not seem to occur evenly from a spatial point of view. Evidence of (re-)emerging and plural territorial cleavages at intra- and international levels converge toward a reprise of territorial unevenness. Therefore, the transformation and new hierarchy of rights and right holders should find a place in the scientific and public debate on welfare futures (including the micro-dimensions pertaining welfare spaces in city planning and architectural projects).
Nevertheless, in this context, there is also evidence of innovation and pro-welfare activism aimed at remaking welfare measures in a more inclusive way. Such innovations are sometimes cluttered and hard to generalize beyond their very place-specific experimentation. In the end, the risk exists of a “militant particularism” (to quote Raymond Williams and David Harvey) in grassroots movements, producing a new segmentation of rights. How innovations are institutionalized – and the barriers to their success – requires a specific focus.
In this respect, the twelfth ESPAnet Italy annual conference aims to shed light on the complex intertwining of politics and policy, scales, and opening and closures in welfare transformation, that may increase inequalities. Therefore, the following and not complete list of themes for session proposals is suggested:
– social policies facing new political instability;
– changes in the culture of politics and their effects on policy decisions;
– marginalized people, their rights, and social citizenship;
– balancing social protection between old and new needs;
– the room for institutionalizing social innovations;
– grassroots mobilizations for the protection and definition of new welfare measures;
– roles, skills, and training of social workers and other professionals facing new needs and policy change;
– multilevel governance and coordination of national and international social welfare policy;
– welfare spaces and places, also from the point of view of city planning and architecture;
– the transformation of spatial unevenness and related welfare responses;
– the future of Europe as an actor in welfare policy making and in relation to national systems of protection;
– new trends in social inclusion policies;
– policy-specific (e.g. health, poverty, immigration, family, education) changes related to general trends in social change.
– evidence-based policy-making;
– technological changes and their effects on work, welfare and citizenship;
– negotiations, conflicts and innovations in specific policies.