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Supply and Demand of Social Policies: Rationality of the State and Consumer Strategies

Carlos A. La Serna, Jacinta Burijovich and Jorge Ahumada

This paper presents an analysis of the problem areas arising from the relationship between state action in the social policy field during a crisis and adjustment stage and the requirements derived from consumer practices of the beneficiary population of such services.

The question lies basically in the compatibility between rationalisation modalities of the supply of services and the consumer strategies applied by the users of said services.

A set of conceptual developments are used in analysing these problem areas. On the one hand, the contributions of the systemic-critical school are put forward to explain the transformation processes taking place in the rendering of social services and the political confines and organisational contradictions to which these state strategies or processes are subject. On the other, Bourdieu’s sociological point of view is adopted to analyse the consumer practices and strategies of those social sectors characterised as being in a critical situation of relative poverty.

This work is the result of a theoretical and empirical effort which has allowed for the hypothetical characterisation of supply and demand modalities in social sectors, as well as the relationships established between these two poles. Based on a case, it offers suggestions for the study of spatial links between the state and society in relation to policies that are relevant to the living conditions of extensive social sectors in Latin America. In regard to service management, the results obtained have led to a rethinking of the design of public action and its modalities in the social policy field.

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