- Egalitarian paternalism: interactional forms of negotiating equality and intervention in Dutch policy practices
- Citizenship Studies
- Volume | Issue number
- 20 | 3-4
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences (FMG)
- Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research (AISSR)
Governments develop new strategies to ‘guide’ citizens’ behaviour. Simultaneously, hierarchical policy intervention is increasingly frowned upon. The apparent tension in contemporary social policy between the will to intervene, on the one hand, and the will to be equal on the other hand is the central problematic of this article. The Netherlands are a strategic context in which to investigate how egalitarianism and intervention are negotiated in practice, because of claims of strong egalitarianism and a long and heavy history of paternalism. This article looks at a case of paternalist intervention there: parenting guidance. Using ethnographic data, it argues that today’s paternalism is distinctly egalitarian in its form. Egalitarian interactional forms such as debate and negotiation were produced between mothers and practitioners. These forms prevailed, no matter what content practitioners and mothers discussed. I offer the concept egalitarian paternalism to understand this and suggest that this concept and the focus on interactional forms in policy practices may give important clues to researchers beyond the Netherlands on reinventions of the relationship between the state and its citizens.
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