The Regulation of Poverty and the Stigmatization of the Poor
The maternalist subsystem of welfare crumbled in Hungary and motherhood was dislodged as a central eligibility criterion. With this shift, all needs talk was confined to the material and recipients' eligibility came to be based on financial conditions. This chapter analyzes the liberal welfare state of 1985–1996 to reveal how the needy were reinvented yet again, this time in material terms. Neoliberal discourses of poverty regulation transformed the national and the local policy apparatuses: universal and maternalist welfare provisions were dismantled and were replaced with means-tested poor relief. A study of case files and ethnographic research reveal how the materialization of need transformed casework into piecework and widened the social distance between welfare workers and clients. In the policy sphere, major reforms reconfigured the eligibility criteria underlying assistance programs. These transformations culminated in the policy apparatus being subjected to income tests. Out of this separation have emerged mythologies about the new welfare client—myths that imbue welfare practices with stigmatizing tendencies that have never before characterized the welfare system.
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