Neo-Liberal, Conservative, Catholic or Radical? the Right(s) and Minimum Income Preferences in an Age of Austerity

Thursday, July 13, 2017
Anatomy - Large LT (University of Glasgow)
Marcello Natili , Department of Social and Political Sciences, University of Milan, Italy
Traditionally under-researched in welfare state literature, the role of right-wing parties in shaping social policies is gaining new attention. Taking the partisanship argument seriously actually requires a more nuanced approach to welfare preferences than simply presuming that the Left always wants more and the Right always wants less state intervention. Recently, Jensen (2014) emphasized that right parties have different incentives to support social policy expansion in different social policy area, since right-wing voters are more exposed to life-course risks – e.g. old-age and health related risks - than to labour market risks. Less attention is given to the fact that different parties and ideologies exist on the right side of the political spectrum, which in fact comprises Neo-liberals, Conservatives, the Catholic and the Radical right.

This article elaborates theoretically on the preferences and competition dynamics among right parties in the field of minimum income (MI) protection, a sector where welfare beneficiaries – i.e. the poor – are not among traditional right parties’ constituencies. Two main arguments are made: i) due to different cleavage constellations in the various countries, MI protection can be framed differently by diverse right-wing governments, thus allowing - or impeding the very existence of such anti-poverty benefits; ii) since migrant generally constitute a high share of MI beneficiaries, the emergence of radical right parties in several European countries prompts a within the right pole competition, which provides right-wing political entrepreneurs with positive incentives to favour retrenchment in this (once less contentious) policy field.