Learning, Emancipation and The Societal Unconscious in Occupational Rehabilitation

Activity: Talk or presentationLecture and oral contribution


Over the past few decades occupational (re)habilitation and the use of job activation has become a pivotal dimension in Danish social policy. So far, research within the field of unemployment has engaged with this development by contributing with insights into the historical trajectories of policy-making, the disciplinary technologies and governmentality of the employment system, the subjectification of the unemployed, the consequences for practices of social work and the micro-interactions between professionals and citizens. However, seldom has unemployment and occupational rehabilitation been explored from the standpoint of the subject, rarely against the theoretical backdrop of adults’ learning processes and subjectivity and even rarer: with the ambition of connecting the subjective dimensions with the societal conditions for learning.
Consequently, this paper aims at emphasizing the subjective experience of the long-term unemployed in understanding and tracing conditions for learning brought about by the current social organizing of the employment/occupational rehabilitation system. The analysis is based on excerpts from life history interviews conducted with long-term unemployed people in relation to one of the authors’ ongoing doctoral dissertation, and the interviews are analyzed drawing on a psycho-societal methodology, which entails understanding the learning processes of the unemployed as dialectically conditioned by both the unconscious psychodynamics, life history, subjective experience and the socio-cultural embeddedness of work.
The paper will show how the state of unemployment produces the need (or demand) for an ambiguous, latent and conflicting complex of learning processes that transcends significantly the forms of learning that is currently thought of as important in occupational rehabilitation. Through the analysis of these processes, it is demonstrated how occupational rehabilitation reproduces both restrained and restraining (unconscious) socio-cultural notions and practices of work (as paid labor), which function as the social conditions for disturbances, suffering and conflicts in the learning and subjective experience of the long-term unemployed.
Period8 Sep 202110 Sep 2021
Event title24th Rehabilitation International World Congress: Moving Societies
Event typeConference
Conference number24
LocationAarhus, Denmark
Degree of RecognitionInternational