Telling stories of 21st century welfare: The UK Coalition government and the neo-liberal discourse of worklessness and dependency

Jay Wiggan*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Policy documents are a useful source for understanding the privileging of particular ideological and policy preferences (Scrase and Ockwell, 2010) and how the language and imagery may help to construct society's assumptions, values and beliefs. This article examines how the UK Coalition government's 2010 Green Paper, 21st Century Welfare, and the White Paper, Universal Credit: Welfare that Works, assist in constructing a discourse about social security that favours a renewal and deepening of neo-liberalization in the context of threats to its hegemony. The documents marginalize the structural aspects of persistent unemployment and poverty by transforming these into individual pathologies of benefit dependency and worklessness. The consequence is that familiar neo-liberal policy measures favouring the intensification of punitive conditionality and economic rationality can be portrayed as new and innovative solutions to address Britain's supposedly broken society and restore economic competitiveness.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)383-405
Number of pages23
JournalCritical Social Policy
Volume32
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2012

Keywords

  • Coalition government
  • neo-liberalism
  • poverty
  • unemployment
  • welfare reform
  • REFORM
  • POLICY

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