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Title: Perspectives on the social question : poverty and unemployment in liberal and neoliberal Britain
Author: Taylor, Nick
Awarding Body: University of Warwick
Current Institution: University of Warwick
Date of Award: 2015
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The thesis seeks to ask what we can learn from historical perspectives on poverty and unemployment in the liberal era for an understanding of poverty and unemployment in the neoliberal era. It does this through staging a series of historical interventions with figures and groups in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century (1870 to 1939) and then turning to the twenty-first century to look at how poverty and unemployment have been conceptualized and governed. It explores the continuing role of moralizing discourses targeted at the poor and unemployed, variously labelled as the “residuum”, “unemployables”, “habitual loafers”, “shirkers” and “scroungers”. In both the liberal and neoliberal eras, the objective is to explore how these discourses, and various practices of classifying and excluding the poor and unemployed, and seeking to conduct their behaviour, constitute a kind of “illiberal liberalism”. The thesis employs theoretical approaches from Marxist, Foucauldian and history of economic thought literatures to understand this in terms of different forms of “social control”. It finds that moralized judgements of behaviour, character and class significantly affect how poverty and unemployment are thought about, even as structural and economic understandings of these problems advance and become more “scientific”. The first set of perspectives it explores is from late-nineteenth century neoclassical economist William Stanley Jevons and Alfred Marshall. The second set explores the contributions of social reformers Charles Booth, Helen Bosanquet and Hubert Llewellyn Smith. The final set looks at the interwar era and includes the National Unemployed Workers’ Movement and the reading of George Orwell’s The Road to Wigan Pier. The thesis draws from these perspectives to demonstrate the historical resonances of illiberal discourses and practices in the neoliberal workforce era, analysing the way that social control runs through the marketization of employment services and the renewed focus on “character”.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: HC Economic History and Conditions