‘We’ve got a file on you’: problematising families in poverty in four periods of austerity

Horsley, Nicola, Gillies, Val and Edwards, Rosalind 2020. ‘We’ve got a file on you’: problematising families in poverty in four periods of austerity. Journal of Poverty and Social Justice. 28 (2), pp. 227-244. https://doi.org/10.1332/175982720x15791324075050

Title‘We’ve got a file on you’: problematising families in poverty in four periods of austerity
TypeJournal article
AuthorsHorsley, Nicola, Gillies, Val and Edwards, Rosalind
AbstractThis article considers a genealogy of the governing by data of families in poverty; a case study of the codification of disadvantaged families and problematisation of their difficulties over the course of a century and a half. Influenced by Bacchi’s ‘what the problem is represented to be’ approach, we explore a genealogy of the micro acts of ruling that reveal the practice of constructing and governing of disadvantaged families. We draw on a case study analysis of materials recorded and collected by the Charity Organisation Society and its subsequent guises, during four major periods of recession in Britain, from the late 19th century to the early 21st century. We outline the ‘problematisation’ approach to governance that underpins our discussion before describing the administrative records with which we worked. We argue that the genealogy of the construction, positioning and governance of poor families over time in this case may be observed in terms of three key shifts in problematisation: (i) from the identification of deservingness towards the assessment of risk; (ii) from a gendered concentration of parents to the perceived needs of children; and (iii) from consultation of authority figures to a reliance on increasingly ‘professionalised’ data capture tools.
KeywordsPublic Administration
Sociology and Political Science
JournalJournal of Poverty and Social Justice
Journal citation28 (2), pp. 227-244
ISSN1759-8273
Year2020
PublisherBristol University Press
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.1332/175982720x15791324075050
Publication dates
Published online11 May 2020
Published in print01 Jun 2020

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