The danish welfare state and digital spatiality: Spaces of inclusion and exclusion

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In the last several decades welfare states have increasingly used digital technologies as a means of both delivering welfare services to citizens (Eriksson 2012) and restructuring public sector institutions (Henman, 2010; Henman & Dean 2010). Dating back to the early 1950s (Margetts, 2009) government officials have often thought digital technologies as offering simple, technical solutions to complex organizational problems. Such officials have touted digitalization as an almost magical means of making public institutions more flexible, innovative and efficient. Existing research on ‘e-government’ and ‘digital era governance’, however, has tended to neglect questions of statehood, politics and spatiality. This neglect of spatiality stands in stark contrast to the work of radical geographers and critical sociologists. Such scholars have consistently emphasized that state spatiality is a continuously unfolding, variegated and conflictual set of processes (Brenner, 2004a; Lefebvre, 2009; Peck, 2001); in addition, researchers in this area are producing a growing body of work concerned precisely with the new digital geographies now being constructed (Ash, Kitchin, et al., 2018). Exploring phenomena such as ‘Smart Cities’ (Tironi & Valderrama, 2018; Vanolo, 2014) and surveillance technologies for mapping urban crime (Jefferson, 2017; Wiig, 2018), this research has demonstrated how new spaces of discipline, inclusion and exclusion as well as state power are coming into being. The aim in this paper is to contribute to the ongoing conversation regarding the spatiality of capitalist states in general and the emergence of digital spaces in particular. I wish to do so by focusing on some of the more mundane forms of state spatiality that are currently being constructed through processes of public sector digitalization. During recent decades citizen service centers have been transformed as most people are supposed to act as digital citizens and this paper reports on a two-year empirical study of new spaces and frontiers of welfare professionals. In advancing the concept of new digital state spatiality, I hope to demonstrate how digital infrastructures, political discourses, public sector institutions and citizens are collectively forming new and layered spatial configurations. In addition to providing important insights into contemporary processes of state restructuring and rescaling, the articulation of this new concept paves the way for further conceptual and empirical work on the state spaces forged under contemporary conditions of entrenched neoliberalism and advanced digitalization.
Original languageEnglish
Publication date2 Jun 2021
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jun 2021
EventInterpretive Policy Analysis Conference 2021: Interpreting politics, Governance and Space - Virtual format
Duration: 30 Jun 20212 Jul 2021


ConferenceInterpretive Policy Analysis Conference 2021
CityVirtual format


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