In liberal welfare systems, social security policy has been increasingly shifting towards conditionality and individualisation (Knotz, 2019). It is within this context that failure to meet the set conditions becomes personal rather than systemic. This has been enabled by policy discourses that construct poverty and unemployment as the result of personal failure and poor social behaviour. While this area of study over emphasises ‘the constraints imposed by discourse’ (Bacchi, 2000: 55), alternative discourses are often developed. This paper draws on ethnographic research investigating the development of self-reliant groups (SRGs) in Scotland. SRGs are small groups of women supporting each other in creating opportunities for personal development. We find that the process of involvement and sharing of experiences between women at the forefront of welfare reform led to the development of a counter public sphere. Yet, the experience doesn’t move fully towards actions for transformative social change.
- counter public sphere
- self-reliant groups