Welfare reform and public justification
This paper investigates the conditions of political argument with regard to welfare legislation. It connects to the discussion on the role of ideas in political change but develops a new approach by investigating arguments in light of theories of public justification in a democratic society. The paper uses a recent Norwegian law as the case for studying how politicians frame their arguments for “mandatory activation,” meaning the policy that requires recipients to participate in work-oriented activities. The paper finds that Norwegian advocates of activation use a “justificatory narrative” that presents the new law as a form of paternalistic concern for the benefit recipients. It is argued that this justification can be understood as shaped by certain basic conditions of political viability.