Justice in Social Policy and Social Work in the Low Countries – ESPAnet NL-VL Farwell Conference of Prof. Dr. Trudie Knijn

14 May 2020, Utrecht University Hall, Utrecht, The Netherlands

For a long time, justice did not gain much interest from the social sciences. As an abstract philosophical concept, it was too far removed from welfare state analyses and interventions in social practice. More recently, justice has become a focal point in reaction to increasing welfare gaps between generations, the wealthy and the poor, native citizens and immigrants, and the able-bodied and people in need of care. While social policies can be analysed by applying various criteria of justice to widely available studies of what majority populations think or studies on political discourse, these studies don’t say much about how justice criteria are applied in social practice or within welfare institutions. How do social workers and case managers cope with criteria of reciprocity, need, and control? And how does this relate to the social rights paradigm that once guided social assistance? How does the lack of recognition (othering) of vulnerable populations affect the redistribution of goods and services? How does the community care discourse (reciprocity) relate to gender equality and individual rights? Justice refers to differences in group access to public goods, public attitudes towards equality, the extent to which needs of vulnerable groups are met and/or whether the perspective of vulnerable citizens is represented.

A growing sense of insecurity and forced interdependency without consent contributes to the increased relevance of the question of what is (in)just and to whom (in)justice is done. Are new exclusionary practices developing in the Netherlands and Flanders due to various crises and political reorientation?  Are boundaries of belonging and deservingness redefined and put into practice? Also, is growing social polarization and radicalization inspired by a deep-seated sense of injustice? Tensions between various justice claims and between justice claims of various social groups have heightened the urgency to take a new look at justice conceptions that underpin social policy and social work. Moreover, these tensions urge social science and social work scholars to rethink a variety of institutionalized and non-institutionalized justice practices.

In this ESPAnet NL-VL conference we intend to explore justice claims in social policy and social work in the Low Countries, and especially how to wed the ‘majoritarian’ claims to justice with the justice claims of vulnerable populations. Three workshops, each with three parallel sessions will be held during this one-day conference. The conference program and information about each session can be found here: http://www.espanetnederland.org/justice-in-social-policy-and-social-work-in-the-low-countries/

(Call for papers has closed)