What can the unemployed teach us about work?

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Fergusin, H 2013, 'What can the unemployed teach us about work?', Continuum: Journal of Media & Cultural Studies, vol. 27, no. 2, pp. 311-322.

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This article explores two discourse communities made up of income support recipients who articulate disparate discourses of work. By analysing their responses to the Mutual Obligation welfare reforms of the Howard years, which were designed to move them into (more) paid work, I demonstrate that a broader discourse of work lends itself to different understandings of, and responses to, this suite of policies. This article does not suggest policy solutions nor does it advocate cultural change. Its aim is modest: to ask what the unemployed can teach us about work. It surveys a particular group of people in Australia who have an alternative understanding of work and aims to give some insight into the impact these understandings have on their everyday life practices. It contends that understandings of work that extend beyond a narrow focus on employment shape the everyday life experiences of income support recipients by emphasizing the value of unpaid activities and diminishing the emphasis on employment for its own sake.

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