This chapter draws on a recent study of the social construction of social citizenship in eight European Union countries, considering both the historical evolution of social rights and the prevailing discourse of key policy actors. It observes that underlying their dramatically different historical trajectories, the countries had had some key transitions in common: an early consensus favouring social insurance for workers; some more or less limited constitutional acknowledgement of social rights; and, more recently, varying levels of submission to neo-liberal principles of social provision. Conceptual understandings of social rights among policy actors were found to be varied and inconsistent: social policy discourse across Europe is not cogently informed by any shared understanding of social citizenship. The chapter concludes with a discussion of the idea of a European Citizen's Income. It is suggested that such an idea could provide a focus, and attract consensus, in the same way that, in a previous era, social insurance once did. The right even to a modest European Citizen's income might provide a meaningful and unifying social dimension to a supra-national form of citizenship.
Chapter 5 examines the relation of EU citizenship to work, and describes tensions between formal and substantive equality in Europe. To what extent are workers across Europe truly citizens, as opposed to merely factors of production? And to what extent can those across Europe who are not or cannot be engaged in the labour market truly be equal citizens? Dean argues that these questions have general relevance for the terms under which EU citizens can have rights to equality of social status, equality of treatment and parity of participation in the public sphere. How might EU citizens, whether ‘at home’ within their own country or migrants within Europe, be assured of meaningful equality of social recognition and respect?
Social rights may be understood as articulations of human need; as the mutual claims that human beings make upon one another as members of a uniquely social species. In recent times, collectively guaranteed social rights have been recognized in economically developed countries as rights of welfare state citizenship. But they have also been recognized as a core component of an international framework of human rights. The idea that human development necessarily entails social as well as economic development has resulted in rights-based approaches to policies and provision for social protection and security on the one hand, and for human services, such as health care, education and housing, on the other. Rights-based approaches, however, can take different forms and may prioritize self-determination and individual freedom; the realization of agreed standards of social provision; or the identification and eradication of poverty as a violation of human rights. Social rights are dynamic social constructs, central to social policy and development.
This chapter discusses, first, the difference between the things human beings need in order to survive and those they need to flourish; and a further distinction between needs that are conceptually defined – by economists, psychologists, philosophers or political theorists – and those practically defined through everyday meanings and practices. Second, the chapter examines how human needs may be met through ‘social’ rights to subsistence, shelter, education, health and social care. In economically developed countries these may be provided as rights of citizenship – selectively to those in greatest need; or as collectively organized protection against common risks; or universally to all. Social rights are also incorporated into the international human rights framework and are important in promoting social development in poorer countries. Social rights may arguably be regarded as an evolving articulation of the needs that human beings claim against, and mutually recognize amongst, each other.