Catalonia: from the fight against poverty to the fight against poor people

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Glasgow Caledonian University
This chapter contends that there has been a significant shift in emphasis in how the problem of poverty is conceived and addressed in Catalonia. At the current time, a growing demonisation of people experiencing poverty is evident, which sits alongside a general mood in favour of nationalism. Support for both comes from neoliberal responses to financial pressures exacted on the state. Although far from intertwined or an inevitable coupling of interests, these dominant moods reflect the contemporary reality of Catalonia. It is particularly noteworthy for Scotland, where welfare debates have largely been seen as central to the independence debate, as it shows that political self-determination is not intrinsically socially progressive. After the end of the regime of dictator Francisco Franco, Catalan society pursued a progressive goal of ending poverty. Dozens of campaigns against poverty and in favour of labour, social services and affordable housing established the socio-economic framework for a Catalan welfare state. 1 However, in the decade following 1996, Catalonia took a neoliberal turn and, instead, pursued the enrichment of the few at the expense of the majority. Although GDP rose by three points during the decade, the Gini co-efficient rose in a similar proportion. 2 More recently, this situation has worsened as the pursuit of neoliberal goals that were initially merely unfavourable to people experiencing poverty has been succeeded by social policies that are explicitly hostile towards them. Fiscal pressure is used as an argument for the necessity of scaling back on social protection expenditure, although, as it will be argued here, the underlying …
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