The effortful citizen: Discursive social psychology and welfare reform

Stephen Gibson*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Citations (Scopus)


The present study applies a broadly discursive approach to the representation of welfare reform and unemployment through an analysis of the deployment of an interpretative repertoire of effortfulness in posts to an internet discussion forum. It is argued that when posters construct versions of unemployed people or welfare recipients as characterized by 'laziness' or lack of 'effort' the attribution of responsibility for unemployment is frequently not the only piece of discursive business being attended to. In addition, posters attend to issues of their own accountability and, significantly, the accountability of the government or welfare system itself for the extent to which welfare recipients are formally held to account. It is argued that this approach extends previous social psychological work on the explanation of unemployment insofar as it pays attention to the context-specific functions performed by such explanations. Moreover, in orienting to the welfare system as having a responsibility to hold welfare recipients to account, posters are drawing on a set of discursive resources which essentially treat the government of individual psychology as a legitimate function of the welfare system.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)393-410
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Community and Applied Social Psychology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2009


  • Discourse
  • Discursive social psychology
  • Effort
  • Explanations
  • Interpretative repertoires
  • Social citizenship
  • Unemployment
  • Welfare reform

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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