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13 - Redefining Vulnerability and State–Society Relationships during the COVID-19 Crisis: The Politics of Social Welfare Funds in India and Italy

from Part III - Citizens

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  04 November 2020

Miguel Poiares Maduro
Affiliation:
European University Institute, Florence
Paul W. Kahn
Affiliation:
Yale University, Connecticut
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Summary

There is a general consensus that COVID-19 is rapidly and radically transforming the democratic relationship between state and society. Focusing on political and legal arrangements, some argue that the virus gives a fillip to authoritarian tendencies by eroding constitutional checks and balances, while others suggest that it will reshape the state and its constitution owing to new understandings of mutual interdependence and solidarity.

We make a different argument here: Democracy is also being transformed by significant changes in the state’s fiscal arrangements and its political economy. We do so based on scrutiny of a specific type of fiscal vehicle that crystallizes and regulates state–society relationships: Special-purpose social welfare funds. These are collected pursuant to state law to tackle the vulnerability of specific social categories, such as unorganized migrant labor in the construction sector in India or the underdevelopment of certain regions in Italy. We argue that these funds are a site through which social actors, and especially the state, define social vulnerability, and more generally welfare.

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Chapter
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Democracy in Times of Pandemic
Different Futures Imagined
, pp. 182 - 195
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2020

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