Nos anos 1990, quando fazia doutorado – Poverty and Citizenship: transitions and institutions in Baden-Württemberg (Germany) and Lombardy (Italy) –, Yuri Kasepov percebeu a importância das dimensões territoriais ao pesquisar as origens da pobreza em duas das cidades mais ricas do mundo: Stuttgart, na Alemanha, e Milão, na Itália. Ele percebeu que algumas políticas públicas, como seguro desemprego, eram reguladas pelo poder central e outras, como renda mínima, pelo poder local. “Parece um item banal, mas suas implicações, do ponto de vista teórico ou empírico, não são”, observa o professor da Universidade de Urbino (Itália). Nesta entrevista, feita por e-mail, ele aborda também o princípio da subsidiariedade, um conceito introduzido na União Europeia pelo Tratado de Maastricht, segundo o qual a autoridade central deve ter uma função subsidiária, isto é, cabe a ela realizar apenas as tarefas que não podem ser executadas de forma eficaz em um nível mais imediato (ou local). O fato de o Brasil ser um Estado federativo, como a Alemanha, é um complicador para o processo de regionalização? Veja a resposta para essa e outras questões a seguir.


Regiões e Redes – O senhor coloca, principalmente nos seus recentes trabalhos (relacionados ao projeto Rescaling Social Policies towards Multilevel Governance in Europe), que a dimensão territorial tem sido uma perspectiva negligenciada na análise das políticas sociais. Como o senhor e seus colaboradores tem trabalhado essa dimensão?

(You maintain, primarily in your recent works, that the territorial dimension has been a neglected perspective in the analysis of social policies. How have you and your associates worked on this dimension?)


Yuri Kasepov – My interest in the territorial dimension of social policies developed during my PhD in the early Nineties on poverty in Milan and Stuttgart, two of the wealthiest cities in the world. In studying the local dimension I realized the very banal fact that I could not understand the two cities without embedding them into their multiple territorial relations. These relations pertain not only to the socio-economic sphere but also the regulative one. If someone becomes unemployed in a city it is a nationally defined and regulated benefit to provide an income-maintenance scheme, if someone has no income, very often it is the local level that provides a last safety net. At the end I realized that in different countries different levels play different roles, again a banal result which, however, has non-banal implications from the theoretical and empirical points of view.

When I started investigating these relations comparatively I realized that comparisons were always done at the national level and – with very few exceptions – the interactions among levels were a neglected perspective.What I use as a starting point of the territorial analysis of social policies is the fact that the local level conflates all levels. The challenge is to disentangle them. This is what we started to do in several projects from the mid 2000 onwards with several research teams in Europe and Italy. Indeed we found out that in most European countries the territorial dimension started to become an important issue in the reorganization of social policies. For this reason we decided to look into the issue more closely, trying to understand how not only regulation, but also management, funding and implementation changed scale over the last 25 years. This entailed looking into reforms reallocating responsibility for these tasks and functions at different scales, but also at practices which need to be considered as well in order to have a clearer picture of the processes taking place.


RR – A noção de escala tem um papel de destaque nas suas investigações, assim como a noção de governança. O senhor poderia nos contar um pouco como tem relacionado essas duas noções na análise dos sistemas de bem-estar social?

(The notion of scale plays a key role in your investigations, as does the notion of governance. Could you tell us a little about how you have related these two notions in your analysis of social welfare systems?)


 YK – In the last few decades most social policy reforms across Europe addressed changes in both the scale at which policies are designed, managed, funded and implemented and the type and number of actors involved in that exercise.These parallel trends find legitimacy and are rhetorically explained and justified though the principle of subsidiarity, which is the key concept that brings the two together. In synthesis, this concept – introduced also in the institutional architecture of the European Union with the Maastricht treaty – asks that matters ought to be handled by the smallest (or, the lowest) competent authority. This implies that a central authority should have a subsidiary function, performing only those tasks which cannot be performed effectively at a more immediate (or local) level. It is an ambiguous concept, because it relies on the appropriateness of scales and actors and of course the definition of what cannot be performed at local level is a matter of conflict, negotiation and compromise.


RR – Também no âmbito dos trabalhos relacionados ao projeto Rescaling Social Policies towards Multilevel Governance in Europe o senhor apresenta uma tipologia para a organização territorial (local autonomy centrally framed; regionally/centrally framed; regionally framed; transitional mixed), sistematizando a relação entre escalas, tipos de governança e ‘welfare models’ para culminar em uma análise do que denomina de inovações sociais. O que o senhor tem entendido por inovações sociais? O senhor identifica um arranjo (político, institucional, territorial) que propicie/favoreça essas inovações? Como essas inovações podem contribuir para a construção de políticas sociais menos fragmentadas e mais horizontais?

(Also in the works related to the Rescaling Social Policies towards Multilevel Governance in Europe project you conceive types of territorial organization (local autonomy centrally framed; regionally/centrally framed; regionally framed; transitional mixed), systematizing the relation between scales, types of governance and welfare models to result in an analysis of what you call social innovations. What do you see as social innovations? Have you identified an arrangement (political, institutional or territorial) that favours such innovations? How can these innovations contribute to the construction of less fragmented and more horizontal social policies?)


 YK – Our assumption is that different welfare systems provide specific contexts for different governance arrangements (i.e. relations among the actors involved). They are characterized by different types of territorial organization, but also by different resources, entitlements and duties. You are asking if we identified some specific arrangements that favour innovation. We are currently engaged in another project ( that investigates exactly that. Our working hypothesis is precisely that welfare and governance arrangements influence innovations, but that social innovations are given everywhere. What changes – so our hypothesis – are the contextual elements. For instance, different welfare systems are able to upscale such innovations to very different degrees. The same variety is true in relation to the ability to cluster systems of innovations, if it lacks social innovations remain quite fragmented. The state surely plays a crucial role in translating social innovationsinto institutional learning.

In this scenario, the European Commission embraced the concept of social innovationas a catch all option to look for new solutions to old and new problems. My concern is that also social innovation is an ambiguous concept.The ambiguity is entailed in the possibility to use the term to support both “progressive” or “backward” experimentations. The risk of offloading social responsibility to social innovative projects is a reality. This shall reinforce inequalities rather than contrasting them, in particular in less equipped institutional contexts. This might be the case in countries where no upscaling, no institutionalization, no support, no wider access to these projects is given.


RR – O senhor poderia elencar alguns elementos que apontam para a mudança no desenho das fronteiras da cidadania (com proeminente papel das cidades e dos sistemas locais de bem-estar), que identifica em suas pesquisas? E, nesse sentido, comentar como a relação entre cidadania e políticas sociais podem produzir diferentes manifestações escalares?

(Can you list a few elements that point toward change in the design of boundaries of citizenship (with a prominent role played by cities and local welfare systems), that you have identified in your studies?And, in this regard, can you comment on how the relationship between citizenship and social policies can produce different scalar manifestations?)


YK – In most European countries devolution characterized most reforms trends in the last 25 years. Take for instance the definition of framework laws at national, federal and even regional level that identify at the municipal level the real actor defining the relevant criteria for accessing specific policies and provisions. This devolution trend has been supported rhetorically and economically also by international organizations like the IMF, the OECD under the assumption that the local level is better suited to understand and solve problems. Our research confirmed the devolution trend as a general direction taking place in most countries. However, we also found out that the trend is more complex and has often different impacts according to the context in which it is taking place. More over trends are not that clear cut and parallel to devolution trends you can find also the recentralization of some measures. These trends, for instance, are becoming relevant in Nordic countries like Sweden, Norway,…they realized that an extreme decentralization was increasing the levels of inequality which had to be contrasted. Indeed, it is difficult to decentralize without increasing the risk of fragmentation and inequalities. You need equalization funds and compensation mechanisms or specific guidelines to limit the range of variation. Otherwise social policies will develop in different directions in different contexts, providing different citizenship arrangements in different places. The consequence is that the rights and provisions a person in a condition of need can access in a specific city or region won’t be the same rights and provisions in different cities or regions. Is this acceptable at a national level?


RR – Como o senhor analisa o papel desempenhado pelos atores privados nas políticas sociais, particularmente na provisão de serviços e conformação de tipos de governança? Qual é a relevância desses atores na configuração da organização territorial e dos sistemas de bem-estar social, nos casos analisados em suas pesquisas?

(How do you analyse the role played by private actors in social policies, especially in terms of service provision and the formation of types of governance? What is the relevance of these actors in the configuration of territorial organization and of social welfare systems, in the cases you have studied?


YK – Private actors are playing an increasing role in social policies and governance arrangements almost everywhere. This role is mainly related to service provision, but not only. Indeed increasingly these actors are involved also in policy management and in the process that defines access criteria to services and provisions. This general trend, however, refers to very different contexts in which these actors play substantially different roles. You have countries like Sweden in which social services delivered by private providers increased up to 15% in the last 20 years, 12% of which are for-profit and just 3% non-for profit. On the other side of the spectrum you have countries – like almost all Mediterranean countries – in which the provision of services is by almost two thirds managed by the non-for-profit sector. In this case, however, you have to pay attention to the role of the state. You can have countries in which the non-for-profit sector is as high as in Mediterranean countries, but in which the allocation of public funding to these organizations is much higher, like for instance in Germany. In both countries the concept of subsidiarity is high on the agenda, but in Italy it is mainly passive subsidiarity, that is allocation of responsibility without allocation of public resources to face this responsibility. In Germany, on the contrary, it is active subsidiarity, that is allocation of responsibility for specific tasks accompanied by the allocation of resources to face these responsibilities. It makes a big difference. So in order to analyse the role of actors you have to consider the regulatory frame that formally allocates responsibilities and tasks. You have also to “follow the money”, i.e. to see how the funding structure of social services provision is taking place: who pays whom for what and how much. You might also need to investigate the complex issue of how regulations are translated into practice by street-level bureaucrats and non-for-profit actors involved in the policy management and implementation. The degree of freedom they have varies substantially from country to country and has an important impact on the changing boarders of citizenship arrangements.


RR – No Brasil não há uma tradição de formulação de políticas sociais na escala regional. Que desafios o senhor elencaria para o processo de regionalização das políticas sociais, em um país federativo, de grandes dimensões territoriais e com históricas e profundas desigualdades socioespaciais, como é o caso brasileiro?

(In Brazil there is no tradition of social policymaking on a regional scale.What challenges would you foresee for the process of regionalization of social policies in a federative and territorially vast country with deep and historical socio-spatial inequalities, such as the case of Brazil?)


 YK – Countries characterised by a federal system are in many cases characterised also by more pronounced territorial differences than centrally regulated national states. This truism poses the crucial issue of how to deal with these differences. In many federal countries there are the so called equalization funds mentioned before. These funds try – often on an annual basis – to foresee a re-allocation of resources from richer regions to poorer regions on the basis of shared criteria. These funds are based on an idea of territorial solidarity within the federation. Even though there are always conflicts about the amounts to be transferred it is an important (and shared) mechanism of interregional solidarity. In Germany it is called the Finanzausgleich and is discussed every year at the Bundesrat, the Federal council representing the Länder at the federal level. Countries that don’t have this kind of law and have deep socio-spatial inequalities (e.g. Italy) face in the current situation big problems.

For Brazil, this would be one of the important issues to be put on the political agenda, underlying the importance of similar rights and duties across the different states. If inequalities raise too much the whole federal system will suffer. Germany is so successful partly also because of its redistributive mechanisms regulated at federal level. The challenge is to identify which policies have to be regulated at the federal level and which policies can be regulated at the regional level. A well balanced distribution of responsibilities across different scales might produce a very effective multilevel arrangement, a badly balanced distribution of responsibilities might produce overlapping responsibilities, conflicts, loss of resources.


RR – As políticas atuais de maior atenção ao espaço regional podem convergir para uma maior igualdade social e territorial?

(Can the current policies focused on regional space converge bringing greater social and territorial equality?)


 YK – I would not take this for granted or exclude this a-priori. Much depends on the complex interaction between the institutional design of the policies and the pattern of socio-economic development. It’s a complex relationship but, as you can easily imagine, if the economy is growing it is also easier to keep (if there is one) or establish (if there is none) an inter-regional solidarity pact and equalization funds. Constructing a well-balanced multilevel governance arrangement is a precondition for greater social and territorial equality, but it does not suffice. Are inequalities in Brazil declining also because of social policies? I am not an expert of your country, but growth and redistribution are easier to coexist and social policies might contribute to that. Is it their regional organization? I doubt. Rather it might be a mix of growth and nationally defined policies.


 RR – Que outras experiências internacionais o senhor recomendaria para o estudo dessa temática?

 (What other international experiences can you recommend for studies about this subject matter?)


YK – The landscape of research on these issues is quite fragmented and dependent on different disciplinary traditions. In Brazil, the Centre for Metropolitan Studies in Sao Paulo is doing excellent work from different disciplinary perspectives on this, also providing scholars around the world a unique access to Brazilian data. In Europe, which is the context I know best, there are a few colleagues working on the interrelation between scale and social policies, Maurizio Ferrera, Michael Keating, Louis Moreno just to name a few. There are also research projects addressing at least partly related issues, even though most often concentrating primarily on the local dimension of the policies and not on the complex multilevel governance arrangements within which the local dimension is embedded. The Cope project, the Localize project or the Wilco project, all funded within the 7th framework programme of the European Union do this in interesting ways. The improve project I mentioned before – also funded within the 7th framework – attempts to go one step further by establishing a link between different multi-scalar relations involved and different forms of social innovations contrasting poverty and social exclusion. As I mentioned before, our assumption is that different social policy arrangements provide specific contexts for different scalar and governance arrangements. These differences play a crucial role in fostering or hindering social innovation and in fostering or contrasting inequalities. But we might talk again in one year, when results of the project will be available.




Yuri Kazepov teaches Urban Sociology and Compared Welfare Systems at the University of Urbino (Italy). He has been Jean Monet Fellow at the European University Institute (1995-96) visiting professor at the University of Bremen (1998) Lund and Växjö (2008) and Leuven (2012-2016). He is a founding member of the Network for European Social Policy Analysis  (ESPAnet) and the current president of RC21, the Research Committee on Urban and Regional development of the International Sociological Association. His fields of interest are urban governance, citizenship and poverty, social policies and social innovation in compared perspective. On these issues he has been carrying out comparative research and evaluation activities for the European Commission (DG Research, DG Culture, DG Employment) and many National Agencies (NWO, Nicis, FTSE, CNR, …). He has been international coordinator of the following EU projects: EUREX (Minerva) and the E-Urbs (Virtual Campus) SEFIRA (FP7) and the national partner of the following projects URBEX (FP4), GOETE (FP5), IMPROVE, ISPIRES, DIVERCITIES, (FP7). Among his publications we have (2005) Cities of Europe. Changing contexts, local arrangements and the challenge to social cohesion, Blackwell, Oxford (ed.), (2009) “La dimensione territoriale delle politiche sociali in Italia” Carocci: Rome; (2010) Rescaling social policies towards multilevel governance in Europe, Ashgate; (2013) Il Welfare frammentato Carocci: Rome (editor with E. Barberis). Para ver o CV completo de Yuri Kasepov e acessar seus trabalhos clique aqui


Translate »