Engagement and Alienation among Manchester’s Unemployed


  • John Foster University of Manchester




work, unemployment, engagement


In this paper, I explore some potential ramifications of what I see as an emergent notion of engagement, which is being utilised across spheres of work and non-work in the UK today. I do this through an analysis of the experiences of the contemporary unemployed in Manchester. I shall argue that, though new discourses champion engaged attitudes towards work and life as preferable to a cynicism and disinterestedness fostered during foregoing modes of work, urges to prompt such an outlook have unexpected consequences. For Manchester’s unemployed population, institutions that aim at promoting their fuller engagement in work and its acquisition have led to unforeseen difficulties and now inform an intrusive disciplinary regime of jobseeking. As these state exhortations to seek work meet the current job market however, the will to engage in work is stunted. Ironically, then, where employability discourse aims to create engaged new working subjects, it contributes to an antithetical condition: that of a new yet familiar mode of alienation.




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