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Accepted Paper:

Welfare as social infrastructure in Amsterdam  
Venicia Sananes (Leiden University)

Paper Short Abstract:

This paper examines plans to build a social infrastructure that would assemble, facilitate, and fund a welfare community in every neighbourhood in Amsterdam. It traces the political imagination and roles of welfare actors that this state experiment entails and envisions.

Paper Abstract:

Like elsewhere in Europe, in the Netherlands, welfare state tasks have been devolved to the local level and unto what is imagined as an active and caring community. Such community-based welfare aspirations are thwarted by increasing precarity and sustained distrust of state institutions. Indeed, since 2023, bestaanszekerheid (“existential security”) has emerged as a central theme and the Netherlands, with a traditionally robust welfare state, has seen the triumph of far-right populist politics.

In this dilemmatic context of wanting to work with increasingly precarious and estranged communities to provide welfare in intimate ways, the municipality of Amsterdam introduces a seven-year long welfare program (2025-2032) aimed at restructuring the city’s sociale basis. Sociale basis is a nebulous and elusive policy term that encompasses the whole of organisations, services, facilities, and relationships that enable individuals to participate in society and care for one another in their neighbourhoods.

This paper examines the plans for the sociale basis as an attempt at social infrastructuring. The goal is to build a social infrastructure that would assemble, facilitate, and fund a welfare community in every neighbourhood. What political imagination does this state experiment entail? What state-society and state-citizen relations does it envision? And what are the roles of the myriad welfare actors contracted to repair and reinvent Amsterdam’s welfare infrastructure?

Panel P154
Reimagining welfare futures as things fall apart [Anthropologies of the State (AnthroState)]
  Session 2 Friday 26 July, 2024, -