3 Personal agency, participation and refusal: gathering evidence

While it is difficult to exaggerate the impact of this construction of ‘welfare dependency’, particularly in the USA, this construction does not go unchallenged. A very wide range of groups of people who are poor or who are subject to discrimination succeed in shaping welfare arrangements by evading, refusing or resisting policies. Historically, there are numerous examples of collective agency in resisting and reshaping welfare policies. In the USA, Fox Piven and Cloward (1977) trace the
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2.1 Background and historical overview

As we saw in Section 1, everyday talk, public discourse and political debates sometimes treat the concepts of ‘welfare’ and ‘work’ as separate spheres of activity, or even binary opposites: welfare or work. This can occur in different ways, for example:

  • an explicit connection
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Learning outcomes

By the end of this unit you will be able to:

  • outline the ways in which the relations between work and welfare are made and remade in different places and at different times;

  • explain how these changing relations contribute to constituting welfare subjects;

  • describe how welfare provision that is connected to work affects the lives of different welfare subjects in different and unequal ways;

  • assess the relative influences and effects of
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6 Further resources

Gilleard and Higgs (2000) more fully develop some of the ideas explored by Giddens (1994) in their useful and comprehensive introduction to post-structural readings of older age. Elder's (1977) life history account offers compelling insights into the intersections of class and gender through a socialist lens, and represents an early and interesting example of the life history and biographical method. Chamberlayne et al. (2000) provide comprehensive and thoughtful insights into biographical me
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4.1 Introduction

The 1970s marked a period in which the cessation of the ‘normal’ period of full-time employment at 60 or 65 years had become the accepted orthodoxy. The personal lives of older people had thus become constituted outside the domain of paid employment and within the arena of public and private welfare. As we illustrated in the preceding section, pensions, organised around fixed ages of retirement based on chronological measurements of age, played a crucial role in this process. Further, as
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3.2 The 1908 Pensions Act and the inter-war years: counting age and discounting older workers

The 1908 Pensions Act represented the first time welfare interventions in older age were based on chronological age. It set the pension age at 70 years. Prior to this, although chronological age was often noted in Poor Law records, it did not constitute the basis of eligibility. Rather, age, and older age specifically, was constructed in terms of particular forms of embodiment, with older people being defined as those whose bodies were ‘past’ work, ‘worn out’ by work or ‘too frail
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Learning outcomes

By the end of this unit you should be able to look at how:

  • experiences of being an older person are shaped through a historical and mutually constitutive process involving an interplay between the personal, work and welfare; and the points of continuity and difference this interplay illuminates;

  • personal experiences of being older are constituted not only through age divisions, but also through loci of social difference and inequality organised around class, (dis)
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5 Further resources

For an overview of demographic change, Michael Anderson's chapter in the Cambridge Social History of Britain (1983) provides a nuanced overview of what historical demography can offer. John Gillis' A World of Their Own Making (1996) is a fascinating account of the changes in family rituals and meanings in Western societies since the medieval period. Lesley Hall's Sex, Gender and Social Change in Britain since 1880 (2000) provides a good introduction to histories of sexual
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3.4 Sexuality

Just as ‘normal’ parenthood was seen as outside the realm of social policy (although framed and supported by it), sexual practices within marriage were widely seen as an essentially private matter. Foucault (1984) argued that while sexualities were very actively shaped by the Victorians through a range of discourses, particularly those of professional, medical and scientific interests, within marriage it was increasingly an area of silence. Up to the eighteenth century matrimonial relatio
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3.2 Marriage

Like other areas of personal life and sexuality in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries (see Section 1.4), marriage was emerging as a more explicit area of social policy and state regulation, and parenthood and sexuality were being re-examined and reshaped within marriage. In Section 3 we explore changes in the leg
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3.1 Demographic changes

From the selective feminist historiography of fertility decline covered in the previous section, we can see how a historical approach that focuses on gender can illuminate the relationships between sexuality, personal lives and social policy. A feminist theoretical perspective concerned with agency and power in gender relations has been particularly helpful in exploring the changes in sexual practices that resulted in fertility decline. It has also drawn attention to the connections between p
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2 Explaining fertility decline from a feminist perspective

Feminist theory underpins one of the most influential historiographies of fertility decline and it allows us to foreground gender as a dominant feature in questions of heterosexuality and parenthood. This is not to suggest that divisions of class, ‘race’, (dis)ability and generation are unimportant in this historical phenomenon, and any full understanding of fertility decline would be incomplete without including them. But in this unit the main focus will be on gender and these other soci
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1.6 Using a historical approach

By adopting a historical approach we gain some distance from the present and everyday, viewing more clearly our taken-for-granted assumptions. Today's formations of parenthood and sexualities did not suddenly appear fully formed, but are the results of centuries of change. By looking at a particular historical phenomenon, fertility decline in Britain, we can explore some of the tensions and contradictions between deeply embedded and newer ideas and practices emerging at that time. These strug
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1.5 The personal

The close relationship between parenthood and sexuality illustrates the importance of the personal in social policy in a number of ways. First, it shows that the growing interest in procreation, sexuality and parenthood by policy makers was never a one-way process whereby policy was simply imposed on people. Rather, individuals who set new terms for their experience of parenthood through changes in procreative sexuality were also helping to shape the policy formations within which they found
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1.4 Sexuality, parenthood and social policy

Just as procreative sexuality within marriage has rarely been the focus of historical research, as a social phenomenon it has also been viewed as inherently unproblematic in terms of social policy. Unlike today, there was very little explicit legislation or public policy that directly addressed the ‘private’ sphere of marriage and family during the fertility decline. However, there were a number of broad social policy formations that made assumptions and reinforced dominant messages about
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1.3 Sexuality and parenthood

In this unit sexuality is used to refer to heterosexual reproductive sex, relationships and relations, and the meanings and discursive constructions which are associated with these. Sexual practices resulting in conception and the experience of parenthood are among the few remaining areas that are considered a ‘natural’ part of human existence. Just as sexuality has been seen as a ‘natural’, elemental drive in human identity, parenthood has also been closely associated with the ‘nat
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1.2 Defining parenthood

As a starting point, we need to distinguish parenthood from parenting. Parenthood is more about the role, social status and meanings associated with being a parent, of bringing children into the world and having children to look after. Parenting, on the other hand, is associated with the activities of looking after children and raising them to adulthood. Parenting can be undertaken by a range of people: a man, a woman, a relative or an unrelated carer. It implies a sustained
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Acknowledgements

The material below is contained in chapter 3 of Economics and Economic Change Microeconomics (2006) (eds) Graham Dawson, Maureen Mackintosh and Paul Anand, which is published by Pearson Education Limited in association with The Open University. Copyright © The Open University.

The material acknowledged below is Proprietary, used under licence and not subject to Creative Commons Licence (see terms and condit
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References

The Economist (2000) 'Supplement: The new economy: untangling e-conomics', 23 September.
The Economist (2001) 21 July, p. 86.
Fisher, F. and Rubinfeld, D. (2000) 'United States v. Microsoft: an economic analysis', Public Law and Legal Theory Working Paper No. 30, UC Berkeley School of Law, Calif., at http://papers.ssrn.com (accessed September 2001).
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4.2.2 Figure 9b: A selection of 35 mm digital cameras

Figure 9b
Copyright © IPC Media Ltd ©
Copyright © IPC Media Ltd
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