In the aftermath of the global banking crises, a political economy of permanent state austerity has emerged, driven by and legitimated through a hardening anti-welfare commonsense. As welfare programmes are cut, privatised and marketised it is increasingly unclear what elements of the British state welfare will remain. During previous recession periods, public support for welfare provisions increased as poverty and hardship became visible in everyday lives. In contrast, during the most recent economic downturn, there has been demonstrable and growing public support for cuts to state welfare programmes for working-age people.
This article develops existing theoretical insights into the formation of post-Keynesian welfare regimes through an explicit focus on the mechanisms through which anti-welfare commonsense is legitimated. The emphasis of this analysis is one of the key figures of anti-welfare commonsense, the ‘benefits brood’ family. There is attention to the co-production of ‘benefits broods’ across cultural and political sites of mediation in 2013, when an intensive focus on particular kinds of families within the news media and popular culture became intertwined with debates about the Welfare Reform Act (2012), Through the unpicking of these mechanisms of consent it becomes possible to fracture this neoliberal imaginary, and offer alternative visions of welfare futures.
In the aftermath of the global banking crises, a political economy of permanent state austerity has emerged, driven by and legitimated through a hardening anti-welfare commonsense. We argue that, while there is an excellent evidence base emerging around solidifying negative public attitudes towards welfare, critical policy studies needs to attend to the cultural as well as the political economies through which an anti-welfare commonsense is formed and legitimated. We adopt a ‘cultural political economy’ approach to examine the cultural and political crafting of ‘benefit brood’ families within the wider public sphere, to examine the mechanisms through which anti-welfare sentiments are produced and mediated. Through a case study of Mick Philpott, we demonstrate how ‘benefits broods’ operate both as technologies of control (through which to manage precariat populations), but also as technologies of consent through which a wider and deeper anti-welfare commonsense is effected.
Tracey Jensen and Imogen Tyler
‘Benefits broods’: The cultural and political crafting of anti-welfare commonsense
Critical Social Policy 0261018315600835, first published on August 25, 2015 doi:10.1177/0261018315600835