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Jay Wiggan wins ISRF grant for Labour market research

Social Policy's Dr Jay Wiggan has successfully won a grant from the Independent Social Research Foundation for his research project "Bringing labour back in: class antagonism, labour agency and Britain’s active labour market reforms".

He will undertake original new work over the coming year to develop deep new insights based on the outline below:

Since the 1980s, successive UK governments have portrayed unemployment as a result of a mismatch between the skills, attitudes and expectations of non-employed citizens and the jobs available. The result has been the construction of a ‘work first’ system of labour market activation to cajole out-of-work benefit claimants into employment as quickly as possible, irrespective of job quality and wages.

The project challenges top-down accounts that explain this transformation through a focus on the ideas and interests of elites. Adopting an Autonomist Marxist perspective the study instead foregrounds labour as an active agent in policy development, recovering labour’s contestation, subversion and evasion of the demand from policymakers that people make themselves available for any job.

The core of the work is an excavation of the submerged history of resistance to ‘labour activation’ and an exploration of how past, present and future labour market and social security policy discourses and practices are (re)made. The study applies a Causal Layered Analysis framework, incorporating multiple methods (archival research, critical discourse analysis, oral history interviews and focus groups) to facilitate the retrospective/prospective approach.  

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