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‘Show me you're trying, that's all...’: Exploring the discursive impact of punishments and incentives in the Welsh homelessness system as 'controlled conditionalities’

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journal contribution
posted on 2023-09-26, 13:06 authored by Edith England

Discussion around sanctions within the welfare state has been largely framed within a Wacquantian understanding of punitive modes of governance, neglecting the discursive life of conditionality as a source of normative social control. I use a Critical Discourse Analysis of extended interviews with 98 actors within the Welsh homelessness system to propose that conditionality operates through sanctions to further an agenda of creating a context responsibilisation and empowerment. I draw upon Deleuze's Societies of Control approach, proposing the term ‘controlled conditionalities’ to account for the power of illusory freedom through opportunity, operating through tight control of choice. I show (1) that despite the changes to homelessness law in Wales, Wacquantian-style punitive conditionality is perceived as largely irrelevant by those engaged in administering the system; (2) ‘controlled conditionalities’ operate through abandonment of welfare citizens (3) ‘controlled conditionalities’ operate primarily through curating a desire in applicants to be recognised as normative and compliant. The paper offers a nuanced counter to a prevailing understanding of punitivity as a dominant and effective form of welfare governance and advances theoretical approaches through the development of the concept of controlled conditionalities.





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England, E. (2023). Show me you're trying, that's all…’: Exploring the discursive impact of punishments and incentives in the Welsh homelessness system as ‘controlled conditionalities. Social Policy & Administration. doi:10.1111/spol.12949

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  • Cardiff School of Education and Social Policy

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Edith England

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