Benefits broods : the cultural and political crafting of anti-welfare commonsense

Jensen, Tracey and Tyler, Imogen (2015) Benefits broods : the cultural and political crafting of anti-welfare commonsense. Critical Social Policy, 35 (4). pp. 470-491. ISSN 0261-0183

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In the aftermath of the global banking crises, a political economy of permanent state austerity has emerged, driven by and legitimated through a hardening anti-welfare commonsense. We argue that, while there is an excellent evidence base emerging around solidifying negative public attitudes towards welfare, critical policy studies needs to attend to the cultural as well as the political economies through which an anti-welfare commonsense is formed and legitimated. To this end, in this article we adopt a ‘cultural political economy’ (Jessop, 2010; Sum & Jessop, 2013) approach to examine the co-production of the Welfare Reform Act (2012), (and in particular the Household Benefits Cap element of this legislation), and the cultural and political crafting of “benefit brood” families within the wider public sphere, to examine the mechanisms through which anti-welfare sentiments are produced and mediated. Our analysis begins with the case of Mick Philpott, who was found guilty in 2013 of the manslaughter of six of his children. We will show how this case activated ‘mechanisms of consent’ (Hall et al. 1978) around ideas of acceptable family forms, welfare reform and parental responsibility. Through this case-study, we seek to demonstrate how anti-welfare commonsense is fundamentally dependent upon wider cultural representational practices, through which those who claim welfare come to be constituted as undeserving and morally repugnant, to the extent that the very concept of ‘claiming welfare’ is reconceived within the social imaginary as debauched. Figures such as ‘benefits broods’, we argue, operate both as technologies of control (through which to manage precariat populations), but also as technologies of consent through which a wider and deeper anti-welfare commonsense is effected.

Item Type:
Journal Article
Journal or Publication Title:
Critical Social Policy
Additional Information:
The final, definitive version of this article has been published in the Journal, Critical Social Policy, 35, (4), 2015, © SAGE Publications Ltd, 2015 by SAGE Publications Ltd at the Critical Social Policy page: on SAGE Journals Online:
Uncontrolled Keywords:
?? austeritybenefits stigmacultural political economyneoliberalismwelfare reformwelfare statepolitical science and international relations ??
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Deposited On:
09 Jul 2015 14:16
Last Modified:
22 Jul 2024 23:23