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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

work-to welfare « Previous | |Next »
September 14, 2006

The Howard Government's baby bonus---or maternity payment, which currently pays $4000 for each new arrival, rising to $5000 in 2008, is aimed squarely at the many thousands of suburban families the Government likes to call Howard's battlers. This is the new aspirational middle class--the new version of the old Protestant moral middle class-- who base their lives on the moral virtues of hard work and diligence and firmly believe in the moral benefit of work and its ability to enhance character.

Jenny Stewart, in an op.ed. in The Canberra Times, observes that:

There is one group, however, that the Government is hoping will not be receiving the payment, and that is sole parents. If you are a married woman and your partner is employed, Mr Howard wants you at home having babies. If you are a single woman, he wants you to put your kids in care and go out to work. Sole parents and their children are undoubtedly the Government's least-favourite form of family, particularly when they are receiving public benefits.

Many critics of the welfare state claimed that welfare bred a poor work ethic and a self-perpetuation "culture of poverty" in which ambitions focused on staying on welfare and avoiding productive work.The single female parents were seen to be in need of some discipline to break the welfare dependency by forcing them back into the workforce. So, under the new Welfare-to-Work provisions, single mums receiving Parenting Payment must start to look for a job when their youngest child turns eight.

BabyBonus.jpg
Sharpe

The Government is trying to reduce welfare dependency (including the disabled) by reducing the number of people receiving pension payments. In doing so it is intervening in people's lives. So we have a social form of governance with a new political (neo-liberal ) rationality.This aims to extend the economic form to the social--the other side of welfare to work is deregulating the labor market and reducing the minimium wage. Welfare-to-work reform highlights how the neo-liberal shift to the market is both a political program and a reorganization or restructuring of technologies of government.

Stewart says that the welfare-to-work system refers not only to the role of Centrelink, but to the Job Network, the name given to the collection of private-sector organisations (including many not-for-profits) that deliver publicly supported employment services. She adds :

Overall, the Government's propensity for social engineering has created something of a monster. The welfare-to-work system is policed by Centrelink (itself overseen by the Department of Human Services), organised by the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations, and what social policy there is comes from the Department of Family and Community Services. Rather than being delivered by one organisation, as in the days of the Commonwealth Employment Service, the Government's interest in employment services is delivered under contract by more than 100.

This mode of social governance, is judged by those on the social democratic left to be wrong. It is held that discipline is bad and domination should be condemned. Thus Mark Bahnisch points out over at Larvatus Prodeo that what has been created by the big government conservatives is 'an intrusive and paternalistic bureaucracy which obsesses about turning people into compliant ‘work ready’ citizens.'

Where to now? Don Arthur over at Club Troppo looks at some basic income options. It's not easy spelling out the options ---human capital development programs for the jobless is another ----as we live in a time characterized by a weak and sceptical left, the departure from class politics, and the failure of progressive visions that could represent alternatives to the contemporary order.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 3:19 PM | | Comments (4) | TrackBacks (1)
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» beyond welfare from philosophy.com
Mitchell Sviridoff in a review of Lawrence Mead's Beyond Entitlement The Social Obligations of Citizenship in the New York Times (circa 1985) gives a useful account of the rightwing critique of the welfare state. He says: The assault on the American we... [Read More]

 
Comments

Comments

The articles suggestion that the focus is on sole parents is misleading. For reasons I can't fathom, it fails to mention that the same rules have been applied to partnered parents. In fact, they've been applied in a rather more severe way.

Spog,
Stewart is highlighting the differences between the Howard Government's strong support for families and its negative treatment of single mums. Single mums are not "proper" families.

Judging from your remarks I presume that partnered families are also not seen to be "proper" families by the social conservatives in Canberra.

I think it's probably families on "welfare" that is the issue. After all, if the treatment of single and partnered parents is negative, what's left?

spog,
not just families. It is also the disabled. The social form of governance is quite extensive.