Unemployment and learning: the depoliticisation and taboos of work(lessness)

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Abstract

This article analyses how the learning – understood as an aspect of individuals’ life-historical experiential processes – of long-term vulnerable unemployed individuals in a Danish context is affected by the neoliberal organisation of the employment system and back-to-work policies and practices. In doing so, a psychosocietal approach to the study of adults’ learning – in which learning processes are explored from the standpoint of the subject – is applied: an approach that is analytically sensitive to the dialectic interconnectedness of subjective and objective conditions of learning during unemployment, that is, of embodied and life-historical experience, conscious as well as unconscious, and the cultural and sociopolitical embeddedness of work(lessness). In seeking to understand the ambiguities related to learning during long-term unemployment, the article argues for the usefulness of applying a broader concept of adults’ learning in addition to a recognition of negative experience. Through the life history of Richard, the article demonstrates how the neoliberal organisation of back-to-work practices – emphasising the standardisation of methods, the maximisation of efficiency, self-reliance, social discipline, externally determined learning goals and the self-transparent subject – conditions the learning processes of vulnerable unemployed individuals in ways that lead to blockages of experience, differentiated forms of self-alienation and defensive, self-preserving psychodynamics: hence, constituting challenges to learning, solidarity and self-realisation while acting as a catalyst for a reproducing subjective embodiment of societal processes relating to the depoliticisation of work. 
OriginalsprogEngelsk
TidsskriftJournal of Psycho-Social Studies
Vol/bind13
Udgave nummer3
Sider (fra-til)287-301
Antal sider15
ISSN1478-6737
DOI
StatusUdgivet - 1 nov. 2020

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