Street-level morality at the digital frontlines: an ethnographic study of moral mediation in welfare work

Anja Svejgaard Pors, Jannick Schou

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Information and communication technology (ICT) has become increasingly important in public administration and street-level bureaucracy. As digital platforms replace traditional forms of contact between state and citizens, new professional dilemmas and tensions emerge. This article presents an ethnographic study of such tensions by focusing on citizen service centers in Denmark. Drawing on recent literature on moral agency, the analysis showcases how digital reforms have implied the construction of new moral economies and negotiations. In particular, the article foregrounds the moral dilemmas faced by frontline workers who are increasingly made responsible for creating self-serving digital citizens. We argue that frontline workers become moral meditators, tasked with interfacing between the individual needs of citizens and the demands of policymakers. Highlighting the complexity of these moral struggles, the article challenges ideas of digitalization as an easy and neutral fix. Instead, the analysis foregrounds the merging of political, professional and personal struggles that are currently being formed at the frontline of the digital welfare state.
TidsskriftAdministrative Theory & Praxis
Antal sider18
StatusE-pub ahead of print - 25 jun. 2020


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