Race, Ethnicity and Welfare States
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Race, Ethnicity and Welfare States

An American Dilemma?

Edited by Pauli Kettunen, Sonya Michel and Klaus Petersen

In this interdisciplinary volume, leading and emerging scholars examine the relationship between homogeneity and welfare state development. They trace Gunnar Myrdal’s influence on thinking about race in the US and explore current European states’ approaches to the strangers in their midst, and what social citizenship looks like from a global perspective.
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Chapter 11: The transnational social question: cross-border social protection and social inequalities

Thomas Faist


This chapter looks at a crucial aspect of the transnational social question: how efforts to provide social protection for cross-border migrants affect social inequalities. While the ‘old’ social question of the conflict between workers and capitalists was addressed within the frames of national welfare states and social policies from the late nineteenth century onwards, the ‘new’ social question – running along diverse lines of inequalities such as gender, class, ethnicity and religion – has implications far beyond national borders since flows of persons, goods, capital and services are transnational. Migrations are of particular relevance for understanding the transnational social question because they link disparate and fragmented worlds of unequal life chances and social protection. Of particular interest is how cross-border social protection involving migrants serves to reinforce existing inequalities, e.g. between regions or within households, and creates new lines of inequalities. This state of affairs requires a rethinking of national social citizenship and its significance for the legitimation of social inequalities. There is no easy escape to global social policy, as we are dealing with complex local, national and cross-border assemblages of social protection and political struggles around it.

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