Policy Press

The Politics of Unemployment Policy in Britain

Class Struggle, Labour Market Restructuring and Welfare Reform

By Jay Wiggan

Published

Jul 26, 2024

Page count

288 pages

ISBN

978-1447366119

Dimensions

234 x 156 mm

Imprint

Policy Press

Published

Jul 26, 2024

Page count

288 pages

ISBN

978-1447366133

Dimensions

234 x 156 mm

Imprint

Policy Press

Published

Jul 26, 2024

Page count

288 pages

ISBN

978-1447366133

Dimensions

234 x 156 mm

Imprint

Policy Press
The Politics of Unemployment Policy in Britain

This book provides an account of the evolution of social security and employment policy and governance in Britain between 1973 and 2023. It explains how this remaking of policy and governance shaped, and was shaped by, the transformation of the labour market and power of claimants and workers.

Advancing a class-centred explanation the text situates contemporary working age active labour market policy as the contingent outcome of a long struggle over curtailment of labour autonomy and the challenges arising from policy ‘success’ for securing social cohesion, state legitimacy and better economic conditions for growth.

“Jay Wiggan’s book, drawing on Marxist perspectives, provides an invaluable analysis of the history of state unemployment since the 1970s. He argues that whilst policies are aimed at disciplining labour at the same time they are constantly subject to working class struggle and resistance. Wiggan explains why ruling elites abandoned full employment as a policy objective, and how the move, since 2010, towards a regressive labour regime is shaped by wider austerity politics.” David Etherington, Staffordshire University

“The story of shaping social security policy and employment institutions from the shifting logic of 'gendered full employment' to 'full employability' is explored through a valuable lens of class struggle. Wiggan eloquently traces how austerity, managerialism and marketisation hastened the journey on the low road to activation in ways that preserved the authority of capital. Essential reading for anyone who wants to know why things are as bad as they are.” Mary Murphy, Maynooth University

“This thorough, detailed text lays bare how policy underpinning social security benefits and employment programmes for unemployed people has evolved over the last 45 years in the UK.” Martin Power, University of Limerick

Jay Wiggan is Senior Lecturer in Social Policy in the School of Social and Political Science at the University of Edinburgh.

1. Introduction

2. Labour Commodification, the State and Class Politics

3. Labour Market Restructuring and the Changing Class Composition of Labour

4. Labour Autonomy, State Conciliation and the Emergence of Special Employment Measures: 1973 – 1979

5. A Cautious Offensive: Class Decomposition, Disorder and the Transitional Labour Market Policy Regime: 1979 – 1985

6. The End of Conciliation and Social Concertation: Dis-Embedding Labour 1985 – 1989

7. On the Offensive – Enterprise, Employability and Selective Activation: 1989–1997

8. Inclusive Employability, Consolidation and the Progressive Market Liberal Turn: 1997 – 2004

9. Disciplinary Inclusion and Extensive Labour Utilisation: 2005 – 2010

10. Austerity and the Imposition of Work Discipline: 2010–2016

11. Consolidation and Labour Market Policy Continuity in the Shadow of Crisis: 2016–2023

12. Concluding remarks