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Chapter Summary

Katz, Michael (2001)Work, Democracy, and Citizenship,epilogue of The Price of Citizenship: Redefining the American Welfare State. New York: Metropolitan Books.

In his epilogue, Katz analyses the contemporary concept of citizenship in U.S. society to discuss the viability of welfare in the current context of the three forces that are redefining the welfare state: 1) the war on dependence, 2) devolution, and 3) markets. Within the welfare state ideas about citizenship revolve about whether people born or nationalised are entitled to citizen rights (pre-existing status) or whether people deserve to be citizens (achieved status). By linking the citizenship to a welfare state rooted in the notion of earned benefits and family values, Katz argues, the deserving citizens become defined as those who have jobs and form families. Thus those who do not work, or are single parents, become marginalized as the undeserving poor and consequently second class citizens, disproportionally represented by women and people of colour.

The War on Dependence:
Katz describes how the discourse of dependence the Welfare reforms in the 1990s has encouraged tightening the links between benefits and employment, which makes health insurance, retirement pay, or income support more difficult to claim outside of a regular job (353). At the same time, the increase in jobs is largely in the lower income sector where competition is high due to flex-work and an increased labor supply of former welfare recipients. Katz notes a distinction between work and a job, where work is that which reproduces society, (e.g. domestic labour, community organising, promoting culture), and a job is only that aspect of work that brings you into a relationship with an employer. In contemporary U.S. society, Katz illustrates, good citizens are those who focus on the job instead of work, thereby undermining the social reproduction of society: There is something bizarre about a rich society that assigns so many of its important tasks to a voluntarism that is defined as different from work and that carries no entitlement to the social benefits of citizenship (354).

Katz argues that allowing states to run their own public benefit systems has created vast state by state differences between eligibility for public assistance. As a result it becomes perfectly acceptable that citizens in identical situations experience hardship only due to an accident of geography (355).

Katz argues that the privatisation debate has not sufficiently engaged 1) the question of power in market relations and 2) where markets are appropriate and where they are not. Markets, Katz asserts, reduce societal complexity to mere material incentives and preferences resulting in a process of individualisation that turns relations into commodities and erodes social responsibility. Because markets recast democracy as consumer choice, they redefine not only the welfare state but also American democracy. He concludes that neither the inflow of immigrants nor the challenges of multiculturalism undermine national cohesion, but rather unchecked markets. To contest this process, Katz identifies three points of action: 1) loosen the link between public benefits and employment 2) establish health care as a citizenship entitlement and 3) focus less on caseload quantity and make public assistance accessible to the poorest in society.