Social policy: books and edited monographs

KONOPÁSEK, Z. (1998): Estetika sociálního státu: O krizi reprezentace (nejen) v sociálním zabezpečení [The welfare state aesthetics: On the crisis of representation (not only) in social security]. Praha: G plus G. 341 p.

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The book challenges the usual views of the welfare state which seek to explain its current difficulties in terms of economics, politics or ethics. Instead, it prefers the perspective which I call "welfare state aesthetics". By this term I mean a study of welfare institutions as a kinds of texts representing social phenomena that are to be coped with. These texts should be studied relatively independently of their authors' convictions or wishes as well as of social scientists' objective knowledge of the phenomena. The title term "aesthetics" indicates that it is presumed that realism of these institutional texts is based on artful illusion-making and on processes of translation from one text to another rather than on the mimetic mirroring of "real life". In the book, I use such a perspective for an analysis of social security benefit schemes. Benefit formula are seen and analyzed as texts that representing, in some way, the reality of "income insufficiency". It is argued that in the postmodern era, the universalism of these texts increasingly undermines their realism and vice versa. The tension between universalism and realism is at the core of what I mean by the term crisis of representation in social security. The representation crisis, of course, affects a wide range of social texts ranging from biographical constructions of identity to scientific constructions of truth. Thus, some aspects of the welfare state crisis may be understood against precisely this wider context.

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