Paradise paved? Reflections on the fate of social citizenship in Canada
The aim of this paper is to assess the potential of the concept of social citizenship for articulating progressive policy development in Canada. I argue that the revisioning of social citizenship is hampered by a recent notion that it is part of the superseded welfare policy paradigm of the past. Many analysts characterize a shift in the objectives of Canadian social policy as a move away from a 'golden age' policy paradigm, which emphasized the social rights of citizenship, to a neo-liberal paradigm promoting market citizenship. I suggest that there is an overstatement in the current literature of the extent to which social citizenship rights were ever realized, or even pursued, in Canada. There are two tendencies toward over-generalization in the literature that obscure a more complex picture of social policy development in Canada. The first concerns the relationship between social policy and the social rights of citizenship. The blurring of these two concepts underlies some of the overstatement in the literature about the past implementation of social citizenship rights. The second tendency to over-generalization relates to the observation of a paradigm change in social policy orientation. While things may be shifting, there are grounds to believe that this is largely a within-paradigm intensification-from mean and lean, to meaner and leaner. Finally, I suggest that the conceptual foundations of the social rights of citizenship must be re-worked in a way that acknowledges contestation over the terrain and quality of the 'social' and that challenges the distinctness and priority of the 'market'. There is a continuing need to strengthen and promote the social rights of citizenship as a discursive and practical challenge to neo-liberal interpretations of the 'good' society as a 'market' society. This would involve contesting the claim that the market is the arbiter of the quality of life, and claiming the market itself as a social arena.