Constructing spaces of discourse and ‘regroupment’: the case of women’s self-reliant groups in Scotland

Clementine Hill O'Connor, Micaela Mazzei*, Thomas Montgomery

*Corresponding author for this work

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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.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)218-235
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Social Policy
Issue number1
Early online date8 Jul 2022
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2024


  • individualisation
  • conditionality
  • regroupment
  • counter public sphere
  • self-reliant groups

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Public Administration


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