Welfare-to-work reform, power and inequality: from governance to governmentalities

Adam Whitworth, Eleanor Carter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The past 15 years have seen considerable change in how welfare-to-work provision (WTW) is organised and delivered across the advanced economies with a consistent trend towards new public management (NPM) principles of contractualism, managerialism and marketisation. The financial crisis of 2008, and ensuing economic downturn, has done nothing to move European policies leftwards and the drift towards these neoliberal inspired WTW arrangements is as strong as ever. The aim of this article is to focus on the governmentalities of these new WTW regimes and to raise provocations for WTW analysts around underlying discourses, framings and power relations within these reforms. Taking the UK Coalition government's WTW programme as its empirical focus, the article emphasises the analytical relevance and leverage of the recent US-focused literature on neoliberal paternalism as well as Foucault's governmentalities framework. In doing so the discussion highlights the need to recognise the discursive and symbolic project of truth (re)creation as a (perhaps the) core part of the Coalition's policy programme with significant and enduring impacts both on the unemployed and social inequality more broadly.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)104-117
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Contemporary European Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 11 Jul 2014


  • governmentalities
  • neoliberal paternalism
  • welfare-to-work
  • activation
  • Foucault
  • social inequality


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