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Towards a critical policy ethnography.: Lessons from fieldwork on welfare control in France

Abstract : Policy ethnography approaches provide useful qualitative data that offer a nuanced and realistic ground-level view of policies, too often analyzed abstractly from the top. However, the ambition of these approaches must not be limited to producing more precise information. Fieldwork on the control of welfare recipients in France shows that ethnography, and more specifically direct observation, is particularly suited to uncovering the structural features of the new wave of public policies sweeping through advanced societies in the wake of demise of the Fordist-Keynesian compact. Indeed, among other consequences, the "de-objectivation" of the collective categories built during the process of welfare state development leads to more astringent and intense controls of recipients. These controls are based on loose criteria defined in situated practices and interactions. The ethnographic capture and analysis of the concrete practices of the agents of welfare bureaucracies enable us to track and critique the more abstract transformations of the social state in the age of "workfare." Such fieldwork provides an illustration of the empirical and theoretical potentials of critical policy ethnography.
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Contributor : Vincent Dubois <>
Submitted on : Thursday, June 3, 2010 - 3:17:44 PM
Last modification on : Thursday, February 7, 2019 - 4:43:37 PM
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Vincent Dubois. Towards a critical policy ethnography.: Lessons from fieldwork on welfare control in France. Critical Policy Studies, Routledge, 2009, 3 (2), p. 219-237. ⟨halshs-00488980⟩

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