Beyond welfare chauvinism? Populist radical right parties’ social policies and the exclusion of migrants from national welfare in Italy
The present article contributes to the advancement of the understanding of the social policies of populist radical right parties (PRRPs) by focusing on the case of Italy during the Conte I government (June 2018-September 2019). By taking the Italian PRRP, the League, as an example, it investigates the ideological and rhetorical frames exploited by PRRPs to promote and legitimize cuts in welfare generosity toward migrants when they hold governmental positions. The specific welfare benefit under observation is the 2019 means-tested Citizenship Income (Reddito di Cittadinanza, RdC). The article relies on the theoretical framework by Abs (2021), showing that PRRPs exploit two different frames to promote restrictive social measures against migrants during national elections and in their manifestos, i.e., the welfare chauvinism (WC) and the welfare producerism (WP) frames. The article assesses whether, and to what extent, PRRPs transpose these frames into their governmental action. Furthermore, it also examines which of these frames ruling PRRPs are most likely to exploit. The findings show that, when in a ruling position, the League supports exclusive solidarity (i.e., the exclusion of TCNs from access to RdC) by exploiting the very same ideological and rhetorical frames exploited during the electoral campaign, i.e., both the WC and WP. It does not try to frame welfare cutbacks in more morally and politically acceptable terms in light of Western European democratic standards. This article confirms that PRRPs tend to de-emphasize social issues in their discourses and hold a clear-cut position only with regard to migrants’ entitlement to the benefit, adopting a clear nativist approach. Moreover, the analysis points out that the overused concept of welfare chauvinism is not fully adequate to illustrate the PRRPs’ social policy formula.
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