A war on the poor: Constructing welfare and work in the 21st century

Marston, Gregory J. (2008) A war on the poor: Constructing welfare and work in the 21st century. Critical Discourse Studies, 5 4: 359-370. doi:10.1080/17405900802405312

Author Marston, Gregory J.
Title A war on the poor: Constructing welfare and work in the 21st century
Journal name Critical Discourse Studies   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 1740-5904
Publication date 2008-11
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1080/17405900802405312
Volume 5
Issue 4
Start page 359
End page 370
Total pages 12
Editor Ruth Wodak
Norman Fairclough
Phil Graham
Place of publication Abingdon, England
Publisher Routledge
Collection year 2009
Subject C1
160806 Social Theory
940116 Social Class and Inequalities
Abstract This paper examines how the discourse of workfare, which has swept a number of Western countries over the past two decades, perpetuates social divisions and facilitates the intensification of Western capitalism. The social politics of workfare in Western countries is underpinned by dubious notions about the flawed behaviour and morality of welfare recipients on the one hand and the virtue of paid work on the other, often expressed as a ‘work-first’ approach. This policy narrative is guided by the belief that the sources of economic disadvantage are largely attributable to the behavioural problems and moral shortcomings of an established ‘underclass’, rather than the result of structural inequalities in the national and global economy. While some critical attention has been paid to the words of welfare, far less attention has been paid to the effects of discourse, particularly in terms of analysing how ‘target’ populations respond to the policy frames that are used to legitimate welfare state restructuring. This paper draws on a 3 year semi-longitudinal study with long-term unemployed in Australia to examine how low-income people respond to problematised constructions of citizenship, such as ‘welfare-dependent’ and ‘work shy’. Through this form of ‘reader research’ I aim to show that ‘welfare reform’ is much more than a set of policies aimed at managing the poor and the long-term unemployed in advanced capitalist economies; it also reinforces a system of values and beliefs about how all citizens should behave.
Keyword Welfare reform
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Confirmed Code
Institutional Status UQ

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
Collections: 2009 Higher Education Research Data Collection
School of Nursing, Midwifery and Social Work Publications
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Created: Fri, 17 Apr 2009, 14:50:30 EST by Elena Stewart on behalf of School of Social Work and Human Services