Geographies of Social Reproduction and the Welfare State: Comparisons from the US, Canada, and the UK

Wednesday 11th May 2022 (14:00-15:00)
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With Caitlin Henry, Manchester University.

This is an online seminar and all are welcome. Please contact for the link.

Part of the Economic Worlds Seminar Series.


Health systems and hospitals are literal and symbolic manifestations of the welfare state. In the last two decades, hospital landscapes in western welfare states have been changing in strikingly similar ways, as hospitals are closing, consolidating, or downsizing. This constitutes a considerable change in how and where health care is delivered and the role of hospitals in the healthcare system. Hospitals, however, are more than acute healthcare settings. They are central to the social reproduction of communities, which is why their closures or downsizings have regularly proven controversial. Thus, the transformation of hospital systems is a shift in welfare state governance and assurance. Given healthcare’s centrality to social reproduction, these transformations undermine possibilities for living in place.

In this article, I analyze trends in the US, Canada, and the UK to show continuities across very different health systems. Rather than a simple process of privatization or welfare state rollback, what is underway across all three states is a spatial transformation in where care happens and where livelihoods are possible. Approaching this as a shift in welfare state governance enables seeing transformations in how health care, and even broader social reproductive, needs are – and are not – being met in these transformations, and continuities across both contexts and care settings.

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