Power and Normality in Paratransit – Individual Autonomy in Welfare State Law

Andreas Pettersson

Abstract


This article focuses on power structures that define and conceptualize individuals with disabilities and their claims for transport services in Swedish welfare state law. In the Nordic countries people often expect the government to be both an important ally and a necessary tool for egalitarian emancipation. In many respects the Nordic welfare states are success stories where collective efforts have created a more egalitarian and economically prosperous society. Relative equality and emancipation are never static factors, however; every system creates new challenges and new injustices which add to the old. This article uses the right of people with disabilities to move about in society with the help of special transport services as an empirical example. The right to decide when and where to go where you want to go highlights immediate and important aspects of power relations. In the context of Swedish welfare state law this also creates an opportunity to show how law in the welfare state operates and how law constructs both people and their needs to fit into preconceived patterns of normality and citizenship in the Swedish welfare state. The terms redistribution and recognition are used to illustrate different aspects of social justice. Misrecognition can be understood as a status in society where cultural patterns systematically subordinate people, a situation experienced by many persons with disabilities. At the core of recognition lies parity of participation on equal terms with everybody else. The conclusion of the article is that the law on special transport services is quite capable of reaffirming social justice viewed as redistribution. However, when social justice is viewed as recognition people’s lack of power over daily life decisions makes the law quite oppressive.

Keywords


Sweden; welfare state; people with disabilities; special transport services; redistribution; recognition; citizenship; normality

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