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Societies 2016, 6(3), 28; doi:10.3390/soc6030028

“Activated, but Stuck”: Applying a Critical Occupational Lens to Examine the Negotiation of Long-Term Unemployment in Contemporary Socio-Political Contexts

1
School of Occupational Therapy, University of Western Ontario, Elborn College 1201 Western Rd, London, ON N6G 1H1, Canada
2
Department of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy, Saint Louis University, St. Louis, MO 63103, USA
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editors: Nick Pollard and Dikaios Sakellariou
Received: 20 May 2016 / Revised: 26 August 2016 / Accepted: 26 August 2016 / Published: 8 September 2016
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Exploring Human Doing through an Occupational Lens)
View Full-Text   |   Download PDF [1529 KB, uploaded 8 September 2016]   |  

Abstract

Background: Solutions for the problem of long-term unemployment are increasingly shaped by neoliberally-informed logics of activation and austerity. Because the implications of these governing frameworks for everyday life are not well understood, this pilot study applied a critical occupational science perspective to understand how long-term unemployment is negotiated within contemporary North American socio-political contexts. This perspective highlights the implications of policy and employment service re-configurations for the range of activities that constitute everyday life. Methods: Using a collaborative ethnographic community-engaged research approach, we recruited eight people in Canada and the United States who self-identified as experiencing long-term unemployment. We analyzed interviews and observation notes concerning four participants in each context using open coding, critical discourse analysis, and situational analysis. Results: This pilot study revealed a key contradiction in participants’ lives: being “activated, but stuck”. This contradiction resulted from the tension between individualizing, homogenizing frames of unemployment and complex, socio-politically shaped lived experiences. Analysis of this tension revealed how participants saw themselves “doing all the right things” to become re-employed, yet still remained stuck across occupational arenas. Conclusion: This pilot study illustrates the importance of understanding how socio-political solutions to long-term unemployment impact daily life and occupational engagement beyond the realm of job seeking and job acquisition. View Full-Text
Keywords: occupation; unemployment; neoliberalism; austerity; activation; precarious employment occupation; unemployment; neoliberalism; austerity; activation; precarious employment
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Laliberte Rudman, D.; Aldrich, R. “Activated, but Stuck”: Applying a Critical Occupational Lens to Examine the Negotiation of Long-Term Unemployment in Contemporary Socio-Political Contexts. Societies 2016, 6, 28.

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