The moral economy of the digital welfare state: fostering efficiency and nurturing neoliberalism

Jannick Schou, Morten Hjelholt

Publikation: Konferencebidrag - EJ publiceret i proceeding eller tidsskriftKonferenceabstrakt til konferenceForskningpeer review


This paper provides a historical analysis of the different moral economies that have
accompanied the digitalization of the Danish welfare state, one of the leading nations
worldwide in terms of ICT adoption. Adopting Fassin's (2005) use of the term moral
economy, understood as "the economy of the moral values and norms of a given group in a given moment" (p. 365), we show how the digitalization of the Danish state has implied the invocation of particular normative claims as to the function, shape, and purpose of data-driven governance. Relying on archival research of policies, strategies and public statements, the paper shows how the moral economy has changed significantly from the 1970s and up until the present. In the 1970-1980s, digitalization was mainly conceived as a way of improving the internal efficiency in the public sector. From the 1990s, digitalization was awarded a much more prominent position, being seen as a way of renewing democracy by ensuring participation, transparency and inclusion of citizens. However, from 2001, economic efficiency, growth, and competitiveness have become the dominating moral claims attached to digitalization, replacing previous ideals with neoliberal beliefs. Digitalization has come to equal economic prosperity, and through the implementation of coercive laws, forcing citizens to adopt data-driven systems, new disciplinary practices have also emerged. The paper contributes with new insights into the moral and normative dimensions of data-driven governance, showing how data-driven governance is imminently a political project. Analysing the different moral economies
emerging over time, the paper opens up a room for critical reflection on the contingent decision that have shaped and continues to steer digitalization.
Publikationsdatojun. 2017
StatusUdgivet - jun. 2017
BegivenhedData Power 2017: An international conference on (big) data & power - Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada
Varighed: 22 jun. 201723 jun. 2017


KonferenceData Power 2017
LokationCarleton University