Lower classes and public institutions
European societies have been experiencing major socio-economic challenges for the last four decades. Rises in unemployment and poverty rates have reinforced social needs and problems and defined new ones in many areas, from education to housing and from health to crime. In the meantime, public services and policies addressing these issues have been extensively reformed and sometimes subjected to cuts, impacting their responses to an ever-increasing and diversifying social demand. This research questions the intersection of these two trends and its social effects by examining the concrete interactions between individuals and institutions. It focuses on the relationship to public institutions in the lower classes, the category most affected by these changes. How do the socioeconomic difficulties they face, their previous experiences and their social features affect the way members of these classes deal with institutions? In turn, what are the effects of renewed forms of institutional processing on their living conditions, social trajectories and attitudes? This project proposes a ‘people-centered’ approach accounting for the citizens’ experiences and points of view, where most literature focuses on organizations and their agents. It provides a comprehensive view of individual experiences, beyond institutional boundaries, whereas usually, when research is conducted on the clients’ side, it generally focuses on a category defined after a policy sector (e.g. welfare recipients). The field survey carried out in deprived urban areas in France (200 interviews) will soon lead to the preparation of a book. On this basis, I plan to set up an informal network and various collaborations with colleagues from other countries (or working on other countries) to compare the diverse and changing roles public institutions play in restructuring the lower classes as a social group in various national settings impacted by the neoliberal turn.