The Activation of Citizenship in Europe

The Activation of Citizenship in Europe

Thomas Pfister

Print publication date: 2013

ISBN: 9780719083310

Publisher: Manchester University Press


This book illuminates the links between the currently dominant transnational discourse on what constitutes ‘modern’ social policy and contemporary concepts and practices of citizenship. Throughout Europe, we are witnessing a large-scale reshuffling of welfare economies based on the guiding principles of ‘activation’ and an ‘activating welfare state’. Moreover, the European Union has become a major driving force behind this transformation. What are the consequences of this fundamental reorientation for citizenship? How does it relate to patterns of exclusion and inequality inherent in each historical citizenship formation? What exactly is the EU’s role in this context? The book examines how such a powerful conceptual debate intervenes in the conditions of political membership in terms of rights and duties, participation, and access to societal resources. The detailed qualitative study focuses on the European Employment Strategy (EES) – and in particular its gender equality dimension – as a central process where the activation agenda is constructed and equipped with meanings. It traces how this European debate has unfolded, how it has been received and translated into shifting practices of citizenship in three EU member states – Germany, the UK, and Hungary. The book provides instructive insights in how the activation discourse reshapes the conceptual foundations of citizenship. Despite their indirect and intellectual nature, these changes significantly intervene in the contested development and the exclusionary elements of citizenship.