While accepting Banton’s recently expressed view that sociology and social policy are distinct disciplines, this article argues that times of radical change can profitably bring the two into closer dialogue. Considering an argument from Emirbayer and Mische that agency becomes especially apparent in unsettled times, it focuses on conceptions of agency at play in the design and implementation of recent UK welfare reforms, and in subsequent legal challenges. Identifying a series of key measures in the Welfare Reform Act of 2012 and the Welfare and Work Act of 2016, this article examines the challenges that have ensued, and the way that agency is revealed as both a site of disciplinary control and as a focus for contestation, pitting the purposive rationality of welfare reform against the practical reason that emerges from claimant experience.
SOURCE: Morris, L. “Activating the Welfare Subject: The Problem of Agency.” Sociology, August 28, 2019.
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