PhD Defence by Jannick Schou: “Remaking Citizenship – Welfare Reform and Public Sector Digitalization”

Assistant Professor in TiP Jannick Schou will defend his PhD thesis “REMAKING CITIZENSHIP: Welfare Reform and Public Sector Digitalization” on December 5, 2018.

Examination Committee:
Associate Professor, Head of Department, Lone Malmborg, IT University of Copenhagen, Denmark (Chairman)
Professor Katarina Lindblad-Gidlund, Mid Sweden University, Sweden
Professor Thomas P. Boje, Roskilde University, Denmark

Supervisor:
Associate Professor Morten Hjelholt

Abstract of Jannick Schou’s PhD thesis


“Since the early 1990s, advanced capitalist states have increasingly turned to digitalization as a new means of welfare state restructuring and public sector reform. Often narrated as a simple, technical solution to complex political and institutional problems, digitalization has risen to the top of policy agendas in Europe and beyond. Yet, so far, little research has been conducted on the impact and consequences of this political instrument for welfare institutions and citizenship. Not least due to an intellectual division of labor, research on digitalization has largely tended to work in isolation from citizenship studies and research on the welfare state.

This dissertation sets out to remedy this gap by presenting a study of welfare reform and public sector digitalization from a citizenship perspective. Doing so, it seeks to unpack how and in what ways citizenship has been remade in the transition to an increasingly digitalized public sector. The dissertation attends to these questions through a case study of digitalization reforms in Denmark, a country that has been continuously promoted as an international frontrunner in terms of digitalizing its public sector. Through five separate research publications, the dissertation examines the remaking of citizenship as a simul- taneously political, institutional and technological set of processes stretching back to the early 1990s. The publications investigate the discursive construction of citizenship in national policies, the local governance of citizens in municipal citizen service centers and the exclusionary patterns that are currently emerging in and around contemporary ideals of citizenship.

In doing so, the dissertation documents a series of interlinked political, institutional and structural shifts connected to digitalization reforms. First, it shows how new normative expectations have been constructed by policymakers as to the proper forms of citizen- subjectivity. Framing citizens as inherently active, self-sufficient and responsible beings, policymakers have increasingly come to maintain that all citizens are or must be digital and self-serving. Second, it demonstrates how these political discourses have paved the way for new legal mechanisms, technological infrastructures and institutional configurations. Zooming in on municipal citizen service centers, the dissertation foregrounds how new discipli- nary practices are coming into being, premised on transforming citizens that do not conform to the dominant normative expectations. Third, it details how these processes have served to uphold and produce both new and old patterns of exclusion. Most substantially, the dissertation argues that citizens already at the fringes of the welfare state are being further excluded with the turn towards increasingly coercive forms of policy implementation. Taken together, the dissertation argues that these different forces must be grasped as part of a layered political strategy seeking to significantly alter the relation between the Danish state and its citizens.

By demonstrating these changes, the dissertation contributes with original knowledge to existing research on citizenship and welfare state reform. It does so, empirically, by showcasing the concrete changes taking place to citizenship in an era of intensified digitalization and, theoretically, by pushing for the integration of several areas of research that have so far remained disparate. The dissertation thus gives a forceful argument for why scholars of citizenship and welfare restructuring can only ignore digitalization at their own peril.”