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Accepted Paper:

Far right as welfare  
Agnieszka Pasieka (University of Montreal)

Paper short abstract:

The paper discusses the conceptualizations of the welfare state by far-right activists. Drawing on ethnographic research in peripheral Milan, it explores the ways in which far-right actors link the questions of labor with the ideas of human fulfillment, social belonging, and national autarchy.

Paper long abstract:

My paper discusses the conceptualizations of the welfare state by contemporary far-right activists. Focusing on a series of projects undertaken by two far-right movements in peripheral districts of Milan, Italy, it explores the different ways in which the movements' leaders appeal to the sensibilities of both prospective members/supporters and a wider population, the target of their "welfarism"/ "assistentialism" (assistenzialismo). It focuses on three main aspects: first, it analyzes the strategies the activists employ in order to link charity activism with community-building practices. Second, it discusses the ways in which research participants relate the questions of labor with the ideas of human fulfillment and social (national) belonging. Third, it discusses their views on the role of the state and the very meaning of politics, demonstrating ambiguities inscribed into those views. In so doing, the paper demonstrates a skillful appropriation of the discourses and categories traditionally associated with the political left, an appropriation that enables the far right to reach to a variety of social actors in quest of belonging and stability.

The paper uses the case study of Italy as a point of departure for an investigation of broader transnational far-right discourse, which advances the criticism of neoliberal economy with the support of the ideas of national autarchy inspired by interwar economic ideologues.

Panel P011
Renegotiating the social contract: ethnographic explorations of the contemporary welfare state [Anthropology of economy]
  Session 1 Friday 17 August, 2018, -