Financialization and Welfare Surveillance: Regulating the Poor in Technological Times (Australia & Lebanon)
Shelley Bielefeld, Kathryn Henne, & Jenna Harb
In light of concerns that the technologies employed by the digital welfare state exacerbate inequality and oppression, this article considers contemporary shifts in the administration of social assistance. Specifically, it examines the surveillance of recipients of government income support focusing on marginalized peoples in two jurisdictions: social security recipients subject to the Cashless Debit Card (CDC) in Australia, many of whom are Indigenous, and persons under the purview of the Lebanon One Unified InterOrganizational System for E-Cards (LOUISE) in Lebanon, many of whom are Syrian refugees. Taken together, the cases illuminate embedded ideologies and adverse experiences associated with the financialization of social assistance and the digitization of cash. Through a dual case study approach, this analysis draws out patterns as well as contextual distinctions to illustrate how technological changes reflect financialization trends and attempt neoliberal assimilation of social welfare recipients through intensive surveillance, albeit with disparate outcomes. After considering how these dynamics play out in each case, the article concludes by reflecting on the contradictions that emerge in relation to the promises of empowerment and individual responsibility through financialized logics and technologies.