Bring the Poor Back In! Inequalities, Welfare and Politics


This lecture addresses the political impact of the Great Recession in a context of rising inequalities and retrenching welfare states. Do hard times fuel apathy or revolt, abstention or support for the extremes, and more particularly, in the European context, for thriving radical rights? To answer these questions, I shall take the case of France, in the 2012 presidential election, the first post-crisis one. I shall focus on the poor, the disadvantaged: those hardest hit by the recession.

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    These eleven questions were selected on the basis of a factorial correspondence analysis of the answers to forty-two questions exploring the different dimensions of precariousness (gender, age, citizenship, education, employment, type of household, housing, social protection, perceived health, income, financial difficulties, sports and leisure activities, social insertion, access to health care, childhood trauma etc.), first on a large sample of the population examined in the Health Medical Centers of the Social security then on samples drawn from the general population in 2005–2006. The first major axis that comes out of the FCA is an axis of precariousness ranging from the most advantaged to the most disadvantaged. The eleven questions kept are the most correlated to the factor, explaining 91 per cent of the variance (Sass et al, 2006).

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    For a similar analysis, see Schwartz’s (2009) study of bus drivers in Marseille, and the ‘petits moyens’or ‘little middle ones’, studied by Cartier et al (2008).


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I would like to thank Jan Rovny who made me aware, very recently, of the paper he is preparing with his wife Allison on a similar issue ‘Blank and Not Blue: Outsiders at the Ballot Box’, of Oskarson’s (2007) ordinal index of social risk and Schwander and Haüsermann’s (2013) continuous measure of outsiderness.

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Text of the Plenary Lecture titled ‘Inequalities, Welfare and Politics’ given in Bordeaux, on 5 September, for the 7th General Conference of the European Consortium for Political Research (ECPR).

Presentation available at, accessed 26 December 2013.

An erratum to this article is available at

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mayer, n. Bring the Poor Back In! Inequalities, Welfare and Politics . Eur Polit Sci 13, 187–200 (2014).

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  • inequalities
  • poverty
  • social precariousness
  • political participation
  • radical right