Crisis and Renewal: Welfare States, Democracy and Equality in Hard Times. An interdisciplinary conference at the University of Iceland, Reykjavik, 2–3 June 2011.
The economic crisis of 2008–2010 has had a major impact on the social and political systems of European states from Greece in the South to Iceland in the North. It puts an increased strain on the welfare state which now faces the double burden of growing needs and reduced resources. In many countries, the crisis has seriously undermined established social rights and caused political turmoil in which fundamental issues about legitimacy, governance and responsibility in the political system have been called into question.
The aim of this conference is to encourage discussion across disciplines on the impact of economic crises on democracy, equality and social welfare in the context of the current crisis as well in an historical perspective. We invite proposals for papers that analyze these issues with particular emphasis on the following themes:
* The welfare impact of the economic crisis on individuals,groups and classes.
* How has the current economic crisis affected different groups and classes in terms of e.g. poverty, unemployment and health? Can new family survival strategies be discerned?
* Social policy: consequences and reaction. What are the effects of major crises, past and present, on the welfare system? What has been the impact of the current crisis on welfare policies? Are budget cuts used to reinforce liberal ideological agendas of “downsizing” and of reducing the role of the state in society? Are the boundaries between individual and state, national and international being redrawn?
* Men, women and economic crises. Is the impact of economic crises different for women than men? How sensitive are policy-makers to the gender dimension in responses to economic crises and, more generally, in strategies to promote employment and equality in the labour market? Has the crisis affected people’s attitudes towards gender roles? Has it affected the gendered division of labour, both within the home and between the home and the labour market?
* Politics of reconstruction. Modern welfare states are at a crossroad as they try to work their way out of the crisis. One path is the social investment strategy and stimulation of the economy, another is cutting state budgets and retrenching the welfare state. How has economic crisis affected the basic democratic institutions and political landscapes? Does it make sense to talk about a right and left wing strategy of reconstruction or will structural pressure lead countries down the same path? Are there any viable alternatives?
* The severity of the current crisis in some countries has led to a political crisis in which the legitimacy of the political institutions has been called into question. How is the reconstruction going to take place? Are reforms likely to strengthen or weaken established social citizenship and what are the determinants of the outcome? In a broader historical perspective, how has the relationship between social rights and democracy evolved over time and how has it been affected by crises?
* Michael Freeden, Professor of Politics, University of Oxford
* Christopher Lloyd, University of New England, Australia
* Stefán Ólafsson, Professor of Sociology, University of Iceland
* Diane Perrons, Professor in Economic Geography and Gender Studies, LSE
The conference is organised by three centres of excellence, NORDWEL, REASSESS and EDDA, and will be hosted by the University of Iceland. The organising committee include: Prof Pauli Kettunen (University of Helsinki), Prof Klaus Petersen (University of Southern Denmark, Odense), Lecturer Irma Erlingsdóttir (University of Iceland), Prof Sigríður Þorgeirsdóttir (University of Iceland), Prof Gudmundur Jonsson (University of Iceland) and Kolbeinn Stefánsson, Head of research at Edda (University of Iceland).
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