Foucault’s work has inspired studies examining how subject positions are constructed for citizens of the welfare state that encourage them to adopt the subject position of active and responsible people or consumers. Yet these studies are often criticised for analysing these subject positions as coherent constructions without considering how their construction varies from one situation to another. This paper develops the concept of subject position in relation to the theory of justification and the concept of modality in order to achieve a more sensitive and nuanced analysis of the politics of welfare in public debates. The theory of justification places greater weight on actors’ competence in social situations. It helps to reveal how justifications and critiques of welfare policies are based on the skilful contextual combination of diverse normative bases. The concept of modality, in turn, makes it possible to elaborate how subject positions in justifications and critiques of welfare policies become associated with specific kinds of values. We demonstrate the approach by using public debates on children’s day care in Finland. The analysis illustrates how subject positions are justified in relation to different kinds of worlds and made persuasive by connecting them to commonly desirable rights, responsibilities, competences or abilities.
- Citizenship, justification, subject position, modalities, welfare state, welfare, public debates, governmentality