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Capital & Class

http://cnc.sagepub.com/ 'Work-Welfare'and the Regulation of the Poor: The Pessimism of Post-Structuralism

Phil Mizen Capital & Class 1998 22: 35 DOI: 10.1177/030981689806500105 The online version of this article can be found at: http://cnc.sagepub.com/content/22/2/35

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Through a concern with disciplinary power, post-structuralists have recently turned their attention to the discursive force of welfare in constituting the poor as docile and subservient populations. Far from representing a new and fruitful mode of radical analysis, it is argued that the idealism of the post-structuralist position produces a rigid determinism. Using the recent example of work-welfare in Britain, the pessimism of this position is rejected by pointing to the continuing importance of resistance and opposition, while considering their wider signicance for the analysis of welfare provision.

Work-Welfare and the Regulation of the Poor: The Pessimism of Post-Structuralism

by Phil Mizen

he Marxist tradition of critical analysis of socialised welfare provision has recently been subject to an intense critique from an increasingly inuential post-modernist and poststructuralist literature, attracted to the claim that the postmodern condition requires new modes of thinking about welfare as a precondition for radical change (e.g. Hillyard and Watson, 1996; Penna and OBrien, 1996; Thompson and Hoggett, 1996; Hewitt, 1994; Williams, 1996; 1994; Mishra, 1993; Squires, 1990). With the apparent failure of welfare statism, the inability of collectivism to withstand the current phase of welfare retrenchment and the growing influence of the new social movements and the voices from the margins, post-modernism and post-structuralism have been embraced as offering new ways of thinking about welfare and social policy, ranging from their critique of universalism and advocacy of a radicalised pluralism, through to the post-modern attention to the destabilisation of space and the rejection of essentialist theories of the welfare state. Most enthusiasm, and what in many ways gives these postmodernist fragments their linking theme, however, has been reserved for the post-structuralist notion of disciplinary power


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and its applicability to the analysis of welfare. In what is endorsed as a radical departure from both orthodox Marxism and the naive social democratic faith in progress through positive knowledge, the post-structuralists advocate a rejection of the modernist belief in truth and rationality in favour of a consideration of the disciplinary effects these claims to truth entail. By giving attention to such discursive and theoretical expressions, they claim the idea of knowledge as something objective or neutral, to be put to use by welfare experts as the vehicle of progress and emancipation, is undermined; and that it is through such regimes of truthi.e. systematic constructions of knowledge containing complex technologies of identification, classification and control much loved by the analysts and practitioners of welfarethat attempts to identify, dene and regulate the totality of human experience take place. Against social policys claim to represent the ordering of the the social through rational and progressive change, they suggest that the modernist project itself has involved the refinement and dispersion of techniques of domination and control. By deconstructing discourses of welfare and the social to reveal their hidden meanings and devitrifying consequences, the emergence of a disciplinary welfare state and the punitive and coercive forms of social policy frequently deployed under the mantle of welfare (Squires, 1990: 1) can be brought into clearer relief. It is this emphasis on discursive power which is identied as having so much to offer social policy (Hillyard and Watson, 1996: 329), because knowledge and language are viewed as integral components of a pervasive system of power and regulation. Since power is seen to reside in knowledge and discourse and has neither an identiable nor reductive source, it is inherent in all social processes and therefore constitutes an inescapable force. As a totalising force, however, power is seen to operate not in a negative way by marking repression, submission and restraint, nor through physical force, external sanction or by throwing a veil over the real. On the contrary, the claim is that power constitutes a positive force in the sense of actively constituting an authority of norms and values through which the individual is both defined and objectified, excluded and controlled; and that it is in this way that discourses of welfare are implicated in producing docile individuals at the material level and constituting subjects at the ideological level (ibid: 327).

Work-Welfare and the Regulation of the Poor


Finding its ultimate goal and effect in a process of normalisation, in which psychological and social irregularities are eliminated around constructions of the norm, the subject of welfares power emerges as at once both the object of these discursive processes and the effect of these technologies of control. It is through knowledge and discourse that the subject is actively constituted and it is in this process of denition that the individual is simultaneously ordered, shaped and controlled. It is the intention of this article to take issue with this increasingly inuential post-structuralist thesis and its equation of discourses of welfare with powerful processes of incarceration, confinement and discipline. It does this by emphasising the equally signicant counter activities of opposition and release, in contrast to the post-structuralist focus on subjugation and control. By showing that those who are the object of welfares coercive networks of surveillance and control are not the docile, submissive or obedient subjects the theorists of discourse lead us to believe, it will be claimed that not only do people remain active in the reconstitution of their social lives, but they do so in ways which, to varying degrees of success, continually frustrate and subvert attempts at further regulation. Rather than a pervasive domination and all-embracing modes of governance, it will be demonstrated that inertia, resistance and opposition remain the dening counter tendency to welfares coercive thrust and that it is here, from what Edward Thompson (1978) called social being, that future analysis should proceed. The need to encourage a dialogue between social being and the concepts and organising principles through which this is understood is, indeed, the second purpose of this paper. It is argued that the absence from poststructuralist accounts of any systematic examination of social subjects as active, whether as individuals or in groups, confronting, frustrating or struggling against welfares coercive dimensions is not simply an oversight, omission or a different set of discourses waiting to be revealed. The claim here is that this concern with authority, domination and obedience is the necessary outcome of post-structuralisms idealist methodology in which a self-generating realm of discourse and theory is privileged over any systematic engagement with, or understanding of, the complexities of social life. These twin themes are undertaken by addressing another common post-structuralist claim, namely the tendency of critics in general, and Marxist critics in particular, to erect straw post-


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structuralist men and women only to knock them down. Thus critics have been accused of
falling into the trap that many commentators on post-modernism have fallen into before [by] using the term in such a reified wayan it if you like, which does or is such and such (Hillyard and Watson, 1996: 322)

rather than a discrete set of ideas applied to an identiable body of knowledge. Given the sheer eclecticism of much poststructuralist and post-modernist writings such practices could perhaps be easily forgiven. Nevertheless, this article intends to avoid such accusations of obfuscation (at least) by addressing itself to a particular literature in which the post-structuralist notion of power outlined above is directed to the analysis of the regulation of the destitute and the poor. In the next section, therefore, the idealism of the post-structuralist position will be explored through a number of related post-structuralist texts dealing with poverty and their tendency to position the poor as docile and obedient groups, with little active will, volition or consciousness of their own. In the second section of this paper, this concern with regulation and control will be contrasted to the recent experience of the unemployed and attempts to impose upon them what has been described as a system of work-welfare. It will be suggested that far from being constituted as a subservient population, a libertarian impulse to step outside of these new institutions by confronting, frustrating and opposing their coercive dimensions remains a defining characteristic of the contemporary unemployed. This theme of opposition and struggle will be explored more extensively in the nal section, where it will be argued that it is through acknowledging the importance of these as class struggles that future analysis should be developed.

Discourse, Idealism and the Subordination of the Poor The post-structuralist claim to represent a new radical agenda for the analysis of social welfare provision is considerably less impressive, however, when positioned in relation to wider developments in radical thought. Ellen Wood (1995a; 1995b; 1986), for instance, has meticulously detailed how the present

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concern with discourse and language represents the culmination of long-running attempts to escape the determinist legacy of orthodox western Marxism which came to dominate post-war radical discourses (see also Clarke, 1991). What began as an attempt to establish a clear degree of non-correspondence between economic and non-economic forces, in its various post-Marxist forms (see also Miliband, 1985) increasingly involved the progressive separation of the political and ideological realms from any meaningful relationship with material and social life. Taken to its post-structuralist extremes, this has more recently involved the complete randomisation of ideas and language from the social world and the wholesale rejection of material considerations in exercising any determining inuence upon social life, through an exclusive focus on discourse, ideas and knowledge. As Wood makes clear,
the theoretical tendency to autonomise ideology and politics is, at its most extreme, associated with a drift toward the establishment of language or discourse as the dominant principle of social life the ultimate dissociation of ideology and consciousness from any social and historical base (1986: 5; see also Anderson, 1983).

The consequences of this abstraction of non-economic forces from their relationship with the material world are signicant, since in practice it has involved elevating ideas, theoretical activity and language to a determining force. The consequences of such an idealism are made patently clear in Edward Thompsons (1978) searching critique of Althusserian Marxism. For Thompson, Althussers idealism arose from a belief in the privileged position of theoretical and conceptual activity (in his case a particular reading of Marx) over any meaningful engagement with social and historical life.
Such idealism consists, not in the positing or denial of the primacy of an ulterior material world, but in a self-generating conceptual universe which imposes its own ideality upon the phenomena of material and social existence, rather than engaging in continual dialogue with these (1978: 13).

By viewing this self-generating conceptual universe as the source of all knowledge, untainted by any sustained contact with


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empirical and historical facts, not only did Althusser subordinate social and historical life to its t with his pre-existing theoretical concepts. But in doing so, he reduced the complexity and unpredictability of social being to an inert, pliant kind of stuff, with neither inertia nor energies of its own, awaiting passively its manufacture into knowledge (Ibid: 7). A similar point has recently been made by Anna Pollert, where she too has pointed to the strong similarities between Althusserian structuralism and post-modernism, where both deny that lived experience or material existence can be validated in any way, and both operate at the level of the autonomy of ideas (in post-modernism, language) and a type of theorisation which is self-enclosed in its own activity (1996: 651). In the same way that Althussers rigid determinism was a product of the privileging of knowledge and ideas, so too does the postmodernist and post-structuralist preoccupation with discourse lead to similar conclusions. It too views knowledge, ideas and language as the outcome of pure and untainted intellectual activity with no meaningful relation to the social world; it too elevates this realm of ideas to a privileged position in relation to our knowledge of the social; and it too, in doing so, imposes these ideas upon the social world so that people appear as passive subjects patiently awaiting these theoretical and linguistic expression to give meaning to their otherwise empty lives. As David McNally makes clear, for the post-structuralists it is through theory, ideas and language that issues of power and domination are resolved, since oppression is said to be rooted in the way in which we and others are defined linguistically, the way in which we are positioned by words in relation to other words (1996: 13). Moreover, as power is a function of knowledge and discourse, our inability to transcend the boundaries of language means that it is also an irresistible force as individuals remain forever conned within these prisons of received identities and discourses of exclusions (Best and Kellner, 1991: 57). This tendency towards determinism and closure is vividly illustrated in a growing post-structuralist literature concerned with the regulation of the poor. Here pauperism, destitution and poverty are no longer treated as historical and social facts expressing conicting material forces but derive their signicance from their discursive force. In this way the poor laws, for example, cease to be a feature of the bitter struggles to separate the

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labouring poor from their direct means of subsistence (Thompson, 1968; Polyani, 1957) but emerge from discontinuities in the poverty discourses of pre-industrial England (M. Dean, 1992; 1991). Through 17th and 18th century polemics, theological tracts and economic treatises the poor were dened as a national asset and since this was seen to depend upon population, the scale of which provided an index of wealth, military strength and general prosperity, it followed that they should be put to work: for the industrious encouragement, for the idle the discipline of the poorhouse and for the impotent pity and relief. Out of their subsequent disarray, however, a new field of discourse was constituted which by the beginning of the 19th century had successfully reconstituted the idea of poverty into a necessary precondition of waged labour. To provide relief for the destitute in anything other than conditions of less eligibility, would now invite both the demoralisation of the independent labourer and court the prospect of national ruin. Finding its clearest expression in the prison-like manifestations of the redesigned workhouse, it is difficult to find a better illustration of the semiotics of deterrence at work (Driver, 1994: 54) than in the imposing presence of the Victorian Bastilles. What is noticeable in this history of poverty discourse, however, is the absence of an active poor. We need not dwell here on the fact that the workhouse proved singularly unsuccessful in institutionalising those at which it was aimed (i.e. the ablebodied male pauper) or that every step to implement the 1834 Poor Law was bitterly opposed for well over 50 years (e.g. Williams, 1981; Digby, 1976), other than to note how these omissions underline the absence of any notion of a vigorous poor. What is more to the point, however, is that within these discursive histories the poor appear only eetingly as the prisoners of these linguistic worlds: the shackled, categorised, supervised, segregated and demoralised of Felix Drivers (1994) workhouse for example. More likely, however, is their connement to an awkward footnote in the making of their own lives. It is no coincidence that the ejection of the poor is a precondition of Peter Squires project to elaborate and elucidate the discourses of the social through which the conspirators (people) have sought to erect their programmes, policies and institutions, or within which the conspirators (people) have been caught (1990: xii). Or that Mitchell Deans fastidious chronicling of 17th and 18th century representations of poverty is positioned as


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analytically prior to any considerations of the wretched and starving themselves.

It is indeed the conviction of this study that the genealogy of poverty needs yet to be secured, and only when this has been done can it be condently linked with the history of the social struggles and the resistance of the propertyless (1991: 11).

The poor, or so we are told, have little active part to play in the construction of the conditions of their own existence. More contemporary examples of this trend are also forthcoming where modern systems of social security are held responsible for rendering the poor impotent through their creation of discursive categories of need within which recipients and claimants must accommodate themselves. These partitions of entitlement, constructed through discourses of targeting for instance, function as disciplinary techniques by simultaneously creating specic groups in need of surveillance, thus rendering them powerless, while also identifying them as irregular and different from the non-claiming population (H. Dean, 1992; 1988/89). This process of normalisation again appears in the discursive force of the dependency culture and its capacity to dene and reinforce appropriate notions of powerlessness. Here the regulatory function of social security is seen to reside in the discursive construction of benet recipients as [an] apparently marginal, but in fact centrally supervised milieu by creating specic and highly visible populations whose reliance on state welfare is depicted as both inherently negative and uniquely problematic (Dean and Taylor Gooby, 1992: 147). Alongside its juxtaposition to discourses of independence, as personied by representations of waged labour and the nuclear family form, the high visibility of claimants is not only maintained but its depiction as the antithesis to personal freedom and national prosperity is effected. Accordingly, the disciplinary effect of social security is not seen to stem from the pressure of external sanctions like the tightening of eligibility criteria and the withdrawal of benefit, with the hardship, deprivations and suffering this involves. Rather its disciplinary force emerges through the ways in which these discourses colonise claimants who, by internalising their meanings, work to constitute themselves as docile, compliant and obedient subjects. By generating a sense of their own social

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identity and self-esteem from discourses of the norm (i.e. independence and self-reliance), the personal short-comings and failures of the poor are viciously stressed. While the fact that claimants participate in these discourses along with the rest of the population explodes the myth of the dependency culture, their failure to live up to these categories of success works to underline their own sense of personal failure. In this way, the poor take on the identities of the dependent, internalise its association with failure and effectively police themselves.
The disciplinary effects of the claiming experience therefore do not stem externally or overtly from the pressures applied by the social security system, but internally or covertly from the conict between the claimants own cultural orientation (which values employment) and the nature of his/her experience of claiming (which devalues it) (ibid.: 147).

Work-Welfare and the Regulation of Labour At one level it would be facile to deny the importance of discourse to any analysis of welfare and social policy. In a world in which language, symbols and representations have become an integral part of the machinery of welfare, images are central not only in setting the terms within which public and political debate takes place but also in mediating the most personal experiences. The continuing media vilication of the welfare scrounger and dole queue fraudster are testament to this (Jacobs, 1994; Golding and Middleton, 1982). Yet as we have seen, the post-structuralist position takes us further by suggesting that discourses of welfare are all-powerful, as ideas and language invade and take over the subject, and subsequently dene all aspects of social life. It is beyond the scope of this paper to assess the historical evidence mustered to support this claim, although reservations have already been noted. However, the evidence from the last two decades at least suggests that far from constituting a docile and obedient population, the unemployed have remained active in opposing the increasingly punitive direction taken by the reform of socialised welfare provision. Their experiences of and responses to these measures point to a continuing and active process of opposition rather than a quiescent population who have endorsed or internalised its rhetorical claims. This is so despite the huge


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advertising and publicity budgets which the various initiatives have commanded,1 as well as the increasingly draconian powers that the benefit authorities have been given to enforce their imposition. This is certainly the case for what Desmond King has described as the Atlantacist drift towards a system of work-welfare, a term which
denotes three sorts of government policy for the unemployed: rst, placement policies to marry job seekers with vacancies; second, training schemes, intended to augment job seekers skills; and, third, workfare programs sometimes imposed upon job seekers as a condition of receiving benet (1995: xi; see also King, 1992).

In relation to Britain, notable developments in this work-welfare drift have included the erosion of the social insurance principle and the consequent extension of means testing; the narrowing of eligibility criteria and a series of stiffer availability for work tests; the denial of benet to those who refuse places on approved training schemes; the introduction of compulsory re-motivation courses and the use of intensive periods of counselling and selfassessment; and more recently the introduction of workfare style programmes, where claimants are now required to undertake work experience in return for benets (see also Novak, 1997; Finn, 1993a; Costello, 1993; Bradshaw, 1992; Hill, 1990). With sixmonthly Restart interviews at the centre of this work-welfare regime, the unemployedparticularly the young (i.e. 18 to 24 year olds) and long-term unemployed (i.e. those out of work and claiming benet for 6 months or longer)are now exposed to a menu of options backed up by an expanding range of benet penalties and sanctions for non-attendance and refusal (Bryson and Jacobs, 1992). Whatever the discursive force of this work-welfare drift, with its language of fresh starts, pathways to work, action, counselling, experience and training, the response of claimants themselves is a salutary reminder of its limitations. The system of Restart interviews, for example, has been dogged by indifference, suspicion and deance since its introduction as a national programme in 1988. The Employment Departments own research illustrates how the unemployed have reacted with scepticism to its claims to counselling, alongside considerable misgivings about its efficacy as

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a way back into work (Finn, 1993b). Participation is more likely the outcome of a perceived need to protect benet entitlement, rather than evidence of its rhetorical power (McCabe and Finn, 1989). Indeed, it has been the failure of Restart interviews to reconstitute the unemployed in line with its language of action, motivation and fresh-starts, particularly the long-term unemployed, which has provided the impetus for subsequent change. Since 1990, a further series of Employment Service initiatives, again backed up by the expansion of the scope and scale of benet sanctions for noncompliance, have introduced a number of mandatory programmes for the long-term unemployed, including Restart Courses, Jobplan Workshops and, for the 18-24 age group, Workwise and 1-2-1 Interviews. 2 Notwithstanding their language of personal responsibility, confidence building, re-motivation and selfappraisal, the Employment Departments own research once more paints a picture of ambivalence, suspicion and refusal (Murray, 1996). Once referred to a programme rates of failure to start Restart Courses (45 per cent), Jobplan Workshops (51 per cent) and Workwise (56 per cent) are running at spectacular levels and rates of early leaving are endemic (15, 7 and 28 per cent respectively). The signicance of these gures should not be underestimated given that non-compliance without good reason can now lead to the imposition of an extended period of severe benet penalties. Where these initiatives can claim some success, if only by their own standards, is through their role in funnelling claimants into government training schemes and work experience programmes. Restart interviews have been one of the primary sources of recruitment to adult training programmes like Employment Training (ET) and its successor Training for Work (TfW), which have offered unemployed adults a programme of work experience with employers together with an element of off-the-job provision. These programmes have certainly attracted large numbers of unemployed people and, at their peak, constituted signicant interventions. Nevertheless, numbers alone are not a sufficient measure of their disciplinary power and here too we nd little evidence that trainees are active or positive participants, or that they have internalised their claims. Employment Training, for instance, established as a national programme of work experience for benet plus 10 a week had a short and singularly undistinguished history. Originally anticipating 600,000 recruits each year on courses lasting six months, numbers were rapidly revised downwards as recruits became harder to nd. During its rst 18 months, just over


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half of those referred to a scheme actually completed their four day initial assessment programme and among those who continued beyond this point, more than two thirds left early (Durning et al, 1990; Training Agency, 1990a). After a year in operation two thirds of the places remained vacant and the growing torrent of early leavers complained of ETs failure to live up to its much publicised slogan to get the workers without jobs to do the jobs without workers, its irrelevance to their needs, the inappropriate nature of the work experience placement and the lack of preparation among training providers. Suspicion that work experience placements were little more than exploitation, providing cheap labour for employers was widespread and dissatisfaction with placements was rife (Finn, 1989; see also NACAB, 1994; Banks and Bryn Davies, 1990; Durning et al 1990). ET peaked in 1990 with 210,000 participants before declining to 113,000 with its demise in 1992. The introduction of its successor, TfW, was indeed testament to the continuing inability of such programmes to reconstitute the unemployed in the way desired and initial assessments suggest that it too is plagued by a similar catalogue of problems. The lack of any systematic or in-depth assessment of the impact and significance of these programmes no doubt underestimates the true levels of ambivalence, disillusionment, suspicion and opposition. This is certainly the case if the experience of nearly 20 years of youth training programmes is anything to go by, where the modern lexicon of work-welfare was effectively forged. School leavers have long had to suffer work experience programmes as a solution to chronic levels of unemployment, with their new vocabulary of vocationalism and transferable skills as a preparation for working life (Ainley, 1988; Finn, 1987), yet here too we discover that its impositions have not been suffered lightly. Indeed, during a period in which it has become unfashionable to talk in terms of exploitation, youth trainees have been willing to articulate its modern-day realities (i.e. schemes as cheap labour and slave labour) to anyone willing to listen (Mizen, 1995; Coffield et al, 1986). This has been as true north of the Border (Raffe, 1989; Raffe and Smith, 1987) as it has been south (Mizen, 1995; Lee et al, 1990; Cockburn, 1987), where trainees grudging acknowledgement of the opportunity to actually do something in the context of few alternatives has been tempered by a sustained and deeply felt cynicism of the motives of both government and employers (Courtenay, 1989; Raffe, 1989). The bleak record of youth training

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was nicely captured in the conclusions of an extensive survey of young people where despite all the Thatcher governments efforts to establish a universal training culture along Continental lines there were few signs that most school leavers had taken it on (Banks et al, 1992: 44, my emphasis). The governments own research into youth training is equally explicit. Data from the Training Agency (TA) reveals the persistent and seemingly intractable problem of early leaving. During the Youth Training Schemes (YTS) rst three years, early leavers accounted for about half of all entrants with over one third leaving before half of their schemes had been completed and with trainees spending an average of only 40 weeks on programmes supposed to last 52 (Gray and King, 1986). The TAs own 100 Per cent Follow Up Survey of Youth Training Scheme Leavers also illustrates that early leaving remained a dening feature of the programme with, at one time, as many of two thirds of trainees leaving early (Training Agency, 1990b). Early leaving rates among black trainees are even higher (Usher, 1990) but for all trainees, reasons given have been dominated by criticisms of the schemes performance, doubts about the quality of training, the failure to provide help or advice and the paucity of the training allowance. While the single biggest reason for leaving has been the prospect of a job, considering the vast majority of rst time jobs for school leavers continue to involve dead-end jobs in semi- and unskilled work (Training Agency, 1989) paying increasingly lower wages, this too is more indicative of the desire for escape from schemes rather than an active participation in its discursive world. It is a sobering reminder of the hostility youth training has invoked that even today, with the official unemployment claimant count still around one and a half million and with no other legitimate source of income beyond a scheme or job, over 100,000 16 and 17 year olds have simply dropped out of the labour market altogether (MacLagan, 1993).

Placing Struggle at the Centre There is no doubt that the unemployed of all ages do participate in the various institutions which comprise work-welfare, whether a counselling or self-assessment session, motivation, training or work experience programme. But their participation, together with the absence of any organised or highly visible opposition to


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work-welfare from claimants themselves, should not been taken as evidence of the power of the discursive to constitute docile, obedient or submissive subjects, actively policing themselves and ready to participate in their own subordination. To do so is to ignore the fact that it is with only the greatest difficulty and reluctance that unemployed claimants make anything more than a physical transition into Jobcentres, Jobclubs, work experience and training schemes; and that once there they remain unconvinced of their ideological or discursive claims. At every stage of their development these new forms of work-welfare provision have met with apathy and hostility, stasis and suspicion, not least through a deeply ingrained and enduring sense of cynicism about their motives, together with a startling readiness to act upon these sentiments despite the sanctions this may invoke. Just as Foucaults (1979) charting of the great incarceration of the 18th century neglected the equally signicant counter-theme of excarcerationthe growing propensity, skill and success of London working people in escaping from the newly created institutions that were designed to discipline people by keeping them in (Linebaugh, 1993: 23, 3)so too do his contemporary followers fail to acknowledge the signicance of these continuing processes of intransigence, defiance and resistance. Greater coercion may have been played out through the training programmes, narrower eligibility criteria, Restart interviews and training schemes of recent years, but so too have these been accompanied by the continuing disposition of unemployed workers to resist their impositions by stepping outside of the very institutional forms intended to close them in. Given that the over-riding inuence of Foucaults work is on the ways in which individuals are classied, excluded, objectied, individualised, disciplined and normalised (Best and Kellner, 1991: 55), it comes as little surprise that this libertarian impulse the processes of disobedience, opposition and struggle to escape these new forms of controlis either ignored or excluded by the post-structuralists. Nevertheless, this emphasis on discipline and obedience is not just a matter of omitting the wider research material or failing to give voice to discourses of dissent; although in both areas the accounts examined here are lacking. The problem is far more fundamental since, as we have seen, the idealism of the post-structuralist position necessarily gives rise to a rigid determinism and pervasive pessimism in which domination and control is the inescapable function of discursive

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power. Yet each new work-welfare initiative has brought forth equally specic forms of refusal, obstruction and dissent so that far from suggesting categories of closure, predictability and stasis, the experience of struggle and resistance emphasises the open nature of social relations as we can see all around us that the normal condition of things is one of instability (Holloway, 1991: 237), uncertainty and change. Antagonism, resistance and the activity of freedom must therefore be treated as something inherent in the organisation of what Thompson (1978) termed social being and not as a marginal or intermittent event to be reinserted into some previously dened discursive environment. On the contrary, recognition of the centrality and persistence of struggle as a core component of social being emphasises the ways in which social life is expressed through fragile and indeterminate social forms and thus opens up possibilities for social change. Through a rejection of closure and an emphasis on struggle and movement, the continuing and fundamental importance of social relations of class are made patently clear since, as Ralph Miliband succinctly summarised, class analysis is largely class struggle analysis 1989: 3, original emphasis). Unlike the poststructuralist neglect of class and its denial of the systemic nature of capitalist social relations of production, a focus on struggle once more emphasises the ways in which welfare provision involves the organisation of claimants into distinctive sets of social relations, dened by incessant contradictions and antagonisms (LEWRG, 1980). Struggle points to the ways in which, in the organisation of work-welfare, more or less common experiences of suspicion and hostility are engendered in the process of claiming benet; and that in the conscious identication of this as antagonistic to their needs, claimants have responded with practical acts of deance, opposition and even simple stubbornness as they seek to handle its impositions. It is through such notions of welfare as social relations of class and class struggle that we can understand how, among apparently disparate groups of unemployed workersblack, white, women, men, old and youngnot united by the immediate process of production or even by the immediate experience of claiming benefits, the experiences and perceptions, motivations and oppositions of welfare claimants take such specic forms. And it is through such notions of everyday class struggle that we can reject the pessimism of the post-structuralist position, since it is from here that possibilities for change and renewal can be found.


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My thanks to John Clarke, Mick Carpenter, Ray Kiely and the four referees for their comments on this paper.



1. Dan Finn (1987), for example, details the huge advertising and publicity budgets that were deployed throughout the 1980s to convince the young unemployed of the merits of these new schemes. 2. Restart courses were made mandatory in 1990 for all those who declined the offer of a government scheme after two years of continuous unemployment. Initially one week full-time, they were subsequently modied to two weeks part-time, paralleled by an extension in the maximum duration of benet penalties for non-attendance. Jobplan Workships were introduced in 1993 as compulsory one week remotivation courses for claimants refusing a Restart menu option at the 12 month interview. In its rst year around 450,000 attended a course. Workwise, or Worklink in Scotland, was introduced in 1995 for unemployed 18-24 year olds as a replacement for Jobplan Workshops. It was considered that this age group required Workwises more intense four week regime of assistance and motivation and was closely linked to 1-2-1 case load interviews, involving up to six intensive self-assessment sessions with individual counsellors.


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