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Garland, C. (2016) Reductio ad absurdum: Workfare and Bogus ‘Volunteering’ to Discipline the Unwanted Surplus Labour of Capital, Work, Employment and Society Conference 2016, 6-8 Sept 2016 Leeds University Business School (LUBS), University

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Garland, C. (2016) Reductio ad absurdum: Workfare and Bogus ‘Volunteering’ to Discipline the Unwanted Surplus Labour of Capital, Work, Employment and Society Conference 2016, 6-8 Sept 2016 Leeds University Business School (LUBS), University of Leeds,
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  Work, Employment and Society Conference 2016Tuesday 6 to Thursday 8 September 2016eeds !ni"ersity #usiness School $!#S%, !ni"ersity of eedsW&'( )* C')S)S!npaid and unfree +ork stream 'eductio ad absurdum Workfare and #o-us ./olunteerin- to iscipline the !n+anted Surplus abour of CapitalChristian arland, 3lliance45#S, !ni"ersity of 5anchester Since at least the mid-1980s, parties of all shades have been in agreement over the need for ‘welfare reform’ aka ‘active labour market policies’ meaning the neoliberal imperatives of ‘welfare-to-work’, along with the immutable ‘accepted truth’ that unemploment must be individuali!ed accordingl" #owever in the $%, whilst the first notable e&ample of ‘active labour market policies’ could be said to have appeared in the mid-80s with compulsor ‘'estart’ interviews for unemploed claimants, replaced b similar measures such as ‘(ro)ect *ork’ and +ew abour’s ‘+ew eal’ the latter lasting from its introduction in the late-1990s until .011, the /onservative-led coalition government and since last ear .012 the incumbent /onservative government have intensified the various ‘workfare’ schemes in a wa previousl unseen"*ith such conspicuous ‘ramping up’ of state programmes operated b private welfare-to-work industr subcontractors and organisations commercial, public sector and voluntar acting - with or without prior knowledge - as ‘placement providers’, there has however been ver effective contestation and resistance to such a wholesale ‘re-writing’ of the substance and realit of unemploment" 3ndeed as of +ovember .01, the *( announced that it was 4not renewing5 i  two of the most punitive of such programmes, ‘6andator *ork 7ctivit’, and ‘/ommunit *ork (lacements’, the latter onl having been launched the previous ear .012" his paper will aim to criticall analse the ideological nature of the intensification of workfare and bogus ‘volunteering’ in the contemporar $%, identifing in it the neoliberal determinant of ‘fle&ible labour markets’ and indeed a social authoritarianism fre:uentl if not alwas framed in terms of ‘positive thinking’ and self-help ;iedelli < Stern .01 ii , =arland .01 iii , forthcoming .01> iv 2" o be sure, the precarious realit of underemploment and temporar emploment in the famousl ‘fle&ible labour markets’ of the $%, finds a market discipline overseen b the state and the growth industr in its own right that is ‘welfare-to-work’, in the bulwark of workfare in which inductees - are forced to - do the same thing as the paid emploees of an organisation whilst being neither, paid nor emploees" 3n addition to this ver unpaid and unfree work which is removed from the unemploment and claimant total, there is bogus ‘volunteering’ in which 1  unemploed claimants are made to ‘volunteer’ under implicit threat of ‘sanction’ for non-compliance" his paper will seek to give a critical overview of how workfare and the implicitthreat of workfare operate ver much in keeping with both ‘fle&ible labour market policies’ and indeed its far less celebrated obverse, ‘precarit’" he paper will also aim to set out some of the notable e&amples of contestation and resistance as well as defeats inflicted on workfare in the contemporar $%" ???‘*orkfare’ can be defined as different from welfare-to-work of which it is also a composite part, as the demand that unemploed claimants work unpaid for either a compan, public sector organisation, charit or increasingl a ‘social enterprise’, under threat - implicit or otherwise - of ‘sanction’ aka the removal of benefits" 3t is the contention of this paper that such punitive measures are a definite ideological strateg to discipline the unwanted surplus labour of capital, keeping it in a state of continuous and limitless insecurit under performative market pressures which also serve to present the realit of structural unemploment as individuali!ed moral failings" Reductio ad absurdum  is ver much in keeping with the title of this stream - unpaid and unfree work - and indeed the title of the conference itself, *ork in /risis@ workfare being perhaps the paradigm e&ample of unpaid and unfree work in contemporar $% societ, which is also of course an ‘advanced econom’ in which work itself is in crisis" ‘*ork’ understood as emploment ma be seen as the primar form of social reproduction in modern societ, and 6ar& :uoting /harles oudon notes,   4abour is life, and if life is not each da e&changed for food, it suffers and soon perishes" o claim that human life is a commodit, one must, therefore, admit slaver"5 v hose in receipt of what the state defines as ‘subsistence’ Aob Seeker’s 7llowance2,are the surplus labour of capital, and specificall that section of surplus unemploed2 labour reduced to negotiating the bureaucratic labrinth of the *(’s Aob /entres and third or fourth part subcontractors, under the market imperative of workfare thrown into an unending war of attrition to maintain this - ver - basic social entitlement under threat of its removal, this usuall implicit threat alwas having beena core foundation of ‘welfare to work’ or ‘active labour market policies’" ‘7ctive labour market policies’ of which workfare is a longstanding element are also a longstanding and ke component of what is still broadl termed, ‘neoliberalism’@ )ust as structural unemploment became standard over the course of the past B ears, the euphemism of ‘welfare reform’ became the accepted mantra b politicians of all shades along with polic groups, the euphemism as with so much 2  of the neoliberal vocabular hiding its true nature, in this case making what was srcinall supposed to be universal and unconditional, wholl conditional according tothe whims of the incumbent government, and it is contended here, this has come intoits own in the course of the last  ears, being intensified and accelerated with crude ideological measures having suffered however, some ver notable defeats along the wa"  7lthough workfare did e&ist prior to .011 vi  under the different governments of +ew abour, the last ears of =ordon Crown’s tenure implemented the ‘;le&ible +ew eal’ which made use of workfare, and was be:ueathed to the incoming coalition before it attempted to roll out its own - at the time - five variants of workfare@ besides the flagship ‘*ork (rogramme’ vii , it offered the ‘/ommunit 7ction (rogramme’ viii , ‘6andator *ork 7ctivit’, ‘Sector-Cased *ork 7cademies’ i& , and ‘*ork D&perience’ & "*orkfare in keeping with its veiled ideological nature, continuousl and breathlessl e&tols how ‘empowering’ it is along with the ‘opportunities’ it affords its inductees, who in spite of the neoliberal watchword of ‘choice’ reall have none" he brute material realit of being made to work unpaid or ‘volunteer’ so as to not face what this is underwritten b@ ‘sanctions’ which are not ever e&plicitl presented e&cept in small print@ so far as is possible, ‘placements’ are presented as being ‘voluntar’ so that servitude is self-managed, and conse:uences for non-compliance can be individuali!ed as wholl the doing of the individual" ;or unemploed claimants branded since the mid-90s as ‘Aobseekers’, being unemploed is a full-time unpaid2 )ob" 3ndeed, as 3vor Southwood has noted, 4he onl labour now e&changed at the Aobcentre is the performative sort@ empt gestures, feigned enthusiasm, contained hostilit, and the suppression of resentment"5 &i  ;rom their first inception before the arrival of neoliberalism proper toward the end of that decade the E0s2 and the start of the one it is most closel associated with - the 80s - ‘active labour market policies’ aka ‘welfare-to-work’ and ‘welfare reform’, performative demands were made of claimants as the condition of being able to be in receipt of the state’s definition of subsistence" Such ‘conditional’ demands usuall amounted to being re:uired to attend workshops in appling for  )obs, and gaining unaccredited certificates for doing so, and although actual ‘workfare’ did first appear albeit tentativel and without fanfare, in the $% in the earl-90s in the form of bogus volunteering, in the ‘/ommunit 7ction (rogramme’, in which claimants had to perform unpaid work 4of benefit to the local communit5 &ii , it was not until the .010s, that is became conspicuous" Corrowing the title of a well-known book, workfare reall is ‘iscipline and (unish’" isciplining the unwanted surplus labour of capital to accept that it is their own fault that the are surplus at the same time it glosses this Fictorian workhouse ideolog with went-;irst /entur ‘can-do’ self-help mantras of ‘fulfilling potential’ and ‘empowerment’, veiling the harsh realit of material compulsion and social authoritarianism, with ‘fake smiles and first names’ and ‘forced informalit’, the ‘/old 3ntimacies’ of emotional labour identified b Dva 3llou! &iii  ‘(unishment’ is both the fact of material compulsion and of course the even harsher punishment of being rendered destitute from ‘sanctions’ aka the withdrawal of subsistence benefits, the 3  entire benefit sstem being strewn with interpretive tripwires to trip the unwar claimant" ;ar from ‘help and support, active labour market policies and workfare, are what the alwas were, Gsecuring compliance through threat of sanctionsG &iv " 3n spite of this, the *( believes the word ‘support’ to be a generic abstract noun, applicableto whatever it does as the government department charged with administering minimal social entitlements, including its diametric opposites, compulsion and coercion" Contestin- and 'esistin- Workfare he variants of workfare in the $% were reduced from E to  in +ovember .01, after the decision to do so was buried in the *( press release alread cited" he contestation of and resistance to workfare has it should be noted, been highl effective over the past four ears in both ‘actual’ protests and virtual online ones b numerous groups and individuals &v , the latter turning ‘branding’ and ‘reputation management’ back on itself on social media especiall, to result in around 100 organisations - companies, charities, public sector, and social enterprises - ending involvement in one, several, or indeed all of the *(’s schemes, and included in that figure are all the national charities publicl stating that the would not be involved with the ill-fated ‘/ommunit *ork (lacements’ announced in late .01B b former chancellor =eorge Hsborne and launched in earl .01, but scrapped in late .01, having cost I.B,800,000 &vi " 6andator *ork 7ctivit was worth a total of IBE million, IB. million plus another I million to further - unsuccessfull - intensif and e&tend the scheme, which remained available to ‘Aob /entre work coaches’ to impose arbitraril on claimants regardless of how long the had been claiming and regardless of whether or not the had spent the re:uired two ears on the ‘*ork (rogramme’" ;rom earl .01. when ‘workfare’ - the umbrella term referring to the at the time  schemes - first became apparent as a ma)or strateg for the coalition government for ‘reducing unemploment’, the accompaning publicit and media storm around two claimants’ legal challenge meant that all subse:uent attempts to roll out workfare would be dogged b controvers" 7 ear later, the verdict from the #igh /ourt againstthe *( that the schemes challenged b /ait 'eill and Aamison *ilson were 4flawed5, meant several ears of appeals b the *(, and several repeat verdicts ruling against it" &vii  Hver the last four ears against the continuous and ongoing campaign against workfare in all its forms, the *( has battled the 3nformation /ommissioner and successive court rulings that it must disclose the names of ‘placement providers’ for 6andator *ork 7ctivit, finall having to disclose them without further appeal in Aul.01> &viii " his final ruling could be seen as the apogee of the $% contestation of and resistance to workfare, along with the scrapping of ‘/ommunit *ork (lacements’ the ear after the were launched b the e&-chancellor of the e&che:uer, the combined cost of both failed schemes nearing IB00 million" 7s such it is a good 4  place to conclude this paper on unpaid and unfree work and its ideological veiling as ‘help and support’" he contention of this paper is perhaps best distilled in the *(’s new preferred euphemism for conditionalit which it should be remembered amounts to workfare and sanctions2 and the class pro)ect this is for those in work   but who must supplement their meagre earnings with benefits@ ‘in-work progression’, meaning holding emploees but not emploers responsible for underemploment and obligating them - but not emploers - to increase wages andJor hours" 3ndeed in conclusion it ma be agreed with 6ar& and Dngels, that in an advanced econom such as the $%’s where work itself is in crisis but must be upheld - including in its unpaid and unfree forms - as essential for social reproduction of the structure of e&isting societ 43f in all ideolog men and their circumstances appear upside-down as in a camera obscura , this phenomenon arises )ust as much from their historical life-process as the inversion of ob)ects on the retina does from their phsical life-process"5 &i&   5
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