Doing class in social welfare discourses: ‘unfortunate families’ in Russia
This chapter addresses the relationship between class, family and social welfare policies by analysing the construction of the identity category of ‘unfortunate families’ (neblagopoluchnye sem’i) in popular scientific discourses, governmental policy documents and discourses of social services, and by examining how those labelled as ‘unfortunate’ negotiate this identity conferred to them. The chapter shows that gender and class are closely intertwined in the production of this identity, as it is single mothers who are primarily categorised as ‘unfortunate’. In our analysis we draw on multiple sources of data. First, we analyse in-depth and focus group interviews with service providers and clients and participant observation data from a number of Russian cities. Second, we analyse various government documents and social advertisements, mass media materials, social policy and social work textbooks, and popular scientific texts published during the 1990–2010s. This chapter begins with a review of Western theoretical discussions of class in the context of family and welfare in order to see how Russia fits into these debates. Western class analysis was considered irrelevant in the Soviet Union due to the supposedly classless nature of advanced socialism, but the transition to a market economy in the 1990s and the new kind of class society it engendered have made these discussions topical in Russia. In the second section of this chapter we offer a brief description of the main principles of the Soviet and post-Soviet welfare ideologies and the policies towards families. The following sections examine how popular scientific discourses, governmental policy documents and social advertisements, and social service providers construct class with the concept of the unfortunate family. The last section preceding the conclusions analyses how mothers labelled as unfortunate negotiate this stigmatised identity.