Power and Welfare: Understanding Citizens' Encounters with State Welfare, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Power and Welfare

Understanding Citizens' Encounters with State Welfare, 1st Edition

By Nanna Mik-Meyer, Kaspar Villardsen


176 pages

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Paperback: 9781138817845
pub: 2014-09-12
Hardback: 9780415534420
pub: 2012-11-20
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pub: 2012-12-07
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In the welfare provision of today, power takes both the shape of juridical sanctions and of attractive offers for self-development. When state institutions punish criminals, remove children at risk, or enforce sanctions upon welfare recipients the question of power is immediately urgent. It is less readily evident that power is at stake when institutions educate, counsel or ‘empower’ citizens. This book offers a framework for understanding and analyzing these complex and implicit forms of power at play in the encounters between citizens and welfare institutions.

Taking as its starting point the idea that power takes many different shapes, and that different approaches to power may be necessary in the diverse contexts where citizens encounter welfare professionals, the book demonstrates how significant social theorists, spanning from Goffman to Foucault, can be used for inquiries into these encounters. Guiding the reader from their epistemological foundations to lucid ‘state of the art’ case examples, the book unpacks each of its six theoretical perspectives, and explains selected key concepts and explicates their potential for analysis. The final chapter discusses the usefulness of the theoretical approaches, their weaknesses and indicates some possibilities of theoretical integration.

Including case studies of patients, nursing home residents, unemployed people, homeless people, and young offenders, from the USA, Denmark, France, Sweden, Canada, and Australia, Power and Welfare is designed for students and researchers of social policy, sociology, anthropology, political science, education, nursing and social work.


‘Theory is, or should be, the servant and facilitator of empirical inquiry, which cannot take place without it. In this book, Mik-Meyer and Villadsen offer a sustained and disciplined example of that approach to theory. Power and Welfare is clear and accessible … and will still be read when many fashionable theory texts have vanished from view.’ – Richard Jenkins, Professor, Department of Sociological Studies, The University of Sheffield, England.

‘This book is not only an examination of highly relevant and applicable theoretical approaches to power and welfare. It also shows the multiple forms and aspects of the play of power in the encounters between the citizen and the professional within the highly ambiguous context of contemporary liberalism. In both these respects, it is a leading example of what is emerging as a distinctive Copenhagen approach to public policy and governance.’ – Mitchell Dean, Professor, University of Newcastle, Australia, and Copenhagen Business School, Denmark.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction 2. Foucault: The Flexible Critique of Welfare 3. Goffman: Interaction and Identity Negotiations 4. Bourdieu: Field, Symbolic Violence and Domination 5. Luhmann: Welfare in Communicative Systems 6. Neo-Institutional Theory: Myths and Legitimacy 7. Risk Theory: Normality, Deviation and Neo-Liberalism 8. Transcending the Approaches

About the Authors

Nanna Mik-Meyer is Associate Professor in the Department of Organization and the Director of the Center for Health Management at Copenhagen Business School, Denmark.

Kaspar Villadsen is Associate Professor in the Department of Management, Politics and Philosophy, Copenhagen Business School, Denmark.

About the Series

Routledge Advances in Health and Social Policy

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Human Services
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Sociology / General