Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology

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Volume 19 Issue 6 (November/December 2009), Pages 393-520

The effortful citizen: Discursive social psychology and welfare reform (pages 393-410)

Abstract

The present study applies a broadly discursive approach to the representation of welfare reform and unemployment through an analysis of the deployment of an interpretative repertoire of effortfulness in posts to an internet discussion forum. It is argued that when posters construct versions of unemployed people or welfare recipients as characterized by ‘laziness’ or lack of ‘effort’ the attribution of responsibility for unemployment is frequently not the only piece of discursive business being attended to. In addition, posters attend to issues of their own accountability and, significantly, the accountability of the government or welfare system itself for the extent to which welfare recipients are formally held to account. It is argued that this approach extends previous social psychological work on the explanation of unemployment insofar as it pays attention to the context‐specific functions performed by such explanations. Moreover, in orienting to the welfare system as having a responsibility to hold welfare recipients to account, posters are drawing on a set of discursive resources which essentially treat the government of individual psychology as a legitimate function of the welfare system. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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