The category of ‘unemployment’ is gradually being replaced with ‘job-seeking’, in contemporary welfare policy – driven by ‘liberal’ or neo-liberal politics. Here we attempt to go beyond the ‘deprivation theory’ of unemployment, emphasising how the experience of ‘unemployment’ or ‘jobseeking’ is shaping the way it is governed – drawing on the Foucault inspired governmentality approach. Firstly, we examine the apparatus of supervision, interventions and sanctions introduced in Ireland under Pathways to Work. Secondly, we analyse a set of interviews with job seekers in 2014, specifically focusing on interactions with the social welfare office, internships, sanctions and job-seeking activities. Building on these empirical investigations we suggest that unemployment/ job-seeking can be understood as an artificially produced liminality, characterised by uncertainty, self-questioning, tedious time to be filled and frantic seeking to escape to a job, and, in many cases, repeated failure.
Boland, T., & Griffin, R. (2015). The death of unemployment and the birth of job-seeking in welfare policy: Governing a liminal experience. Irish Journal of Sociology, 23(2), 29–48. https://doi.org/10.7227/IJS.23.2.3