9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN32 Political Sociology

2009-09-05 13:30:00 2009-09-05 15:00:00 Saturday, 5 September 13:30 - 15:00 Modes of Participation and Characteristics of Participants Building I, 2E9

Translucent social citizenship: Detecting and governing "work ability" in Swedish public employment services

The refashioning of the welfare state towards enhanced efficiency and effectiveness involves a number of significant challenges, tensions and contradictions. The many institutions of the welfare state are up against the task of making clearly visible and legible guiding norms and policies, while at the same time being attentive and attuned to the sway and tides of the global economy. In times of financial crises, these tensions grow all the more severe, and involve reconfigurations of social citizenship and as well as re-articulations of responsibilities.
In this paper, we wish to highlight the ways in which social citizenship is being re-negotiated through the local practices of public employment agencies. The new policies and routines being put in place in Swedish public employment agencies rest on a set of governance techniques that involve the active participation and activation of the individual. The individual is taught to see him or herself through the evaluative template of the agency, and to engage in a consensus-oriented dialogue with a grassroots level bureaucrat aimed at classifying his or her "employability" and "work ability". The paper identifies and critically analyzes the governance technologies in use in this work. We argue that these technologies involve a silencing of conflictive agentic power and alternative points of view. Moreover, we argue that the contemporary economistic turn in public policy, as evinced in Sweden, encourage a reconfiguration of agency that speak to more encompassing changes in the notion of social citizenship. The paper aims to contribute to a critical discussion of the place of such governance techniques in the larger space of a changing political and social landscape.