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Reclaiming Responsibility: The Case of Welfare-to-Work Policy


Welfare-to-work programmes have a contested normative foundation. Critics argue that ‘citizen responsibility’ is being promoted to the sacrifice of more important social values, such as solidarity and fairness. This paper seeks to recapture what is valuable in citizen responsibility and to challenge the idea that the concept is intrinsically bound up with detrimental policy strategies. The paper develops a view of the responsible citizen as an appropriate addressee of moral expectations. This view highlights how addressing someone as responsible involves a presumption of reasonableness. Thereafter, the view is applied to conditions of street-level interaction, the design of policy instruments, and political discourse.

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Journal of Social Policy
  • ISSN: 0047-2794
  • EISSN: 1469-7823
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