EU immigration, Welfare Rights and Populism: A Normative Appraisal of Welfare Populism


Populists in the EU often call for restrictions on EU immigrants’ access to welfare rights. These calls are often demagogic and parochial. This paper aims to show what exactly is both distinct and problematic with these populist calls from a normative point of view while not necessarily reducible to demagogy and parochialism. The overall aim of the paper is not to argue that all populists call for such restrictions nor to claim that all calls for such restrictions are populist. The purpose of the paper is rather humble. It only aims to show that populist calls for restrictions on EU immigrants’ access to welfare rights are characterised by two normatively problematic arguments that target two different subsets of the citizenry: what I dub for the purpose of this paper the moralists and the immoralists. It is the way populists address these two subsets of the citizenry, as well as the fact that they could simultaneously appeal to the concerns of both groups, that makes populist approaches to welfare rights both conceptually distinct to other approaches as well as potentially politically appealing to a more diverse population of voters.

Author Biography

Dimitrios E. Efthymiou, Goethe University Frankfurt
Dimitrios Efthymiou is a postdoctoral research fellow at Goethe University in Frankfurt. He is principally interested in normative political theory and has a particular interest in its feasibility conditions and application to public policy. His current research project focuses on labour migration in the EU and its normative implications for the nature and scope of the welfare state. Other research interests include: the role of state responsibility in theories of international justice, especially in the case of the EU; the relationship between goods-oriented approaches and domination-based accounts of economic exploitation as well as  topics such as environmental justice and the relationship between equality and legitimacy. His current research is funded by Justitia Amplificata and the German Research Council.


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