Social Policies and Public Action  book cover
1st Edition

Social Policies and Public Action

ISBN 9781138347496
Published August 14, 2018 by Routledge
186 Pages

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Book Description

The concept of public action is a magnifying lens for shedding light on the plurality of institutional and social actors interacting in policies. Taking into account a changing social world that is redefining the State and its instruments, it is well suited for picking out transformations that have been affecting European social policies for some twenty years or so now: the territorial reorganization of powers; the spread of a public-private mix in the provision of services; the rise of new forms of collaborative governance; the institutionalization of the European agenda on social investment.

This book examines social policies as normative and cognitive devices that contribute to organizing social life and are themselves moulded and redefined by it. The perspective of public action is located where it is possible to observe how these devices come into action, the powers and interests they help mobilize and the dynamics they generate. Policies thus appear as a tangle of rather diverse processes in which the erosion of the ‘social’ coexists with the emergence of innovative forms of social organization.

Public action is the key tool that helps to deal with this tangle by posing the following questions. What vocabularies, significances and practices are set in motion by the ‘social’ today? What are the resources that fuel it? What powers are deployed in it?

Table of Contents

Introduction: Social policies and public action: What is the ‘social’?

Public action

Dimensions of analysis

What is the ‘social’ in social policies?

The structure

Part I: The framework

1. Concepts and issues

The ideas

The institutions

Agency and capabilities

2. What is social in Europe?

 A common heritage

The European social model

Facing the crisis 

Part II: Public action and social policies: Dynamics

3. The Changing Architecture

A scenario

Institutional changes: New public management and governance


Problems and opportunities in changing public action

4. The social investment

Common but not shared perspectives


What sort of agency? Problems

What sort of agency? Opportunities


5. Participation

The context

A few distinctions

Dimensions, questions, factors

Voice and capacity to aspire


6. Public-Private


Social market


Public administration


Part III: Public action and social policies: a changing social domain

7. Young school-to-work transitions

Problems and solutions

The informational bases of justice: Merit

Beyond employability: The Workable research

Young people’s transitions and capacitations


8. Care and choice: The position of the recipients

Freedom of choice and its instruments

Instruments in action


9. Inclusion and the city

The agenda of the inclusive city in Europe

Diversity, participation, social innovation

Part IV: Conclusions

10. Back to the ‘social’?


Between market and the self-organized community


Possibilities of the ‘social’



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Lavinia Bifulco is Professor of Sociology at the University of Milan-Bicocca in Italy.


‘Lavinia Bifulco presents a rich and subtle analysis of the changing fortunes of the social dimensions of Europe. She combines attention to the complex trajectories of social welfare, in their variations across place and time, with a clear grasp of the forces that have been subordinating the social to the economic.’ - John Clarke, The Open University, UK