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Between evasion and activism. A qualitative inquiry into the political behaviour of German and Swedish long-term unemployed
Karlstad University, Faculty of Economic Sciences, Communication and IT, Department of Working Life Science. Karlstad University, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (starting 2013), Karlstad Business School.
University of Siegen, Germany.
2015 (English)In: Partecipazione e Conflitto, Vol. 8, no 3, 788-813 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This comparative article aims to understand the patterns underlying the political behavior of young German and Swedish long-term unemployed individuals. Based on almost 40 qualitative interviews, the analysis follows a grounded theory approach and shows that “unemployment” is not an objective reality that imposes uniform living conditions. Social and political activities diverge considerably, even though our respondents experience similar pressures and sanctions by public opinion, political parties, public administrations, relatives and/or acquaintances. The consequences of unemployment depend on individual mind-sets, support networks and coping strategies. This study identifies informal networks of social relations as one main factor influencing unemployed young peoples’ political behavior. Three types of political involvement are shaped by the routines and norms reproduced within their web of social relations in everyday life: evasion, civic minimalism and reluctant activism. The similarities between the German and the Swedish respondents overshadowed the national differences.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2015. Vol. 8, no 3, 788-813 p.
Keyword [en]
Long-term unemployment; political participation; informal networks; qualitative methods; Germany; Sweden
National Category
Social Sciences Work Sciences
Research subject
URN: urn:nbn:se:kau:diva-40587DOI: 10.1285/i20356609v8i3p788OAI: diva2:905268
Available from: 2016-02-22 Created: 2016-02-22 Last updated: 2016-03-24Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Samhälle, individ och ansvar: En studie om synen på arbetslöshet
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Samhälle, individ och ansvar: En studie om synen på arbetslöshet
2016 (Swedish)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Alternative title[en]
Societal and individual responsibility : A study of perceptions of unemployment
Abstract [en]

The aim of the thesis is to highlight and to problematize conceptions of unemployment in Swedish society. The questions guiding my work have been: Which conceptions of unemployment emerge in society? How are these dealt with by the unemployed? Work on the thesis has been guided by a social constructionist approach. The empirical findings are constituted by four publications which, in various ways, are linked to overarching aim of the thesis. These publications consist of an analysis of the legal regulation surrounding the unemployed, a study of the activities of civil society organisations working with unemployed and two publications based on interviews with long-term unemployed young adults.

The thesis provides increased knowledge of conceptions of unemployment in Swedish society. It shows that there is a widespread societal discourse concerning the individual being responsible for her/his unemployment, and that this conception has historically been well-grounded in Swedish labour market and social policy, as well as in people’s understandings. Among representatives of civil society organisations and unemployed individuals, there is also both a questioning of and a resistance to this understanding, indicating a possible change in the discourse. The thesis further shows that the individualisation of responsibility greatly affects individuals’ approaches in social contexts, as well as in their contacts with government agencies, but also when it comes to relationships with politics and political involvement. These insights are significant, for example during both policy formulation and efforts for the unemployed, bearing in mind that consideration needs to be paid to individual prerequisites in order for the individual’s strengths and abilities to be utilized. This is particulary important when it comes to those in an exposed position.

Abstract [sv]

”Men alltså grejen är ju att i dagens samhälle, i min ålder... Det är så många som är arbetslösa så det är så godkänt nu liksom. Folk tänker bara ’jaha är du också arbetslös’... Liksom antingen är dom arbetslösa själva, eller så har dom i alla fall en kompis eller tre som också är arbetslösa.”

Den bild som framkommer i intervjun med Fredrik skiljer sig betydligt från den bild som ofta återspeglas i medier och politiska debatter, där individens egna ansvar och skyldigheter för att befinna sig i arbetslöshet betonas i allt högre grad. Dessa skilda utgångspunkter kan få olika följder ifråga om exempelvis förväntningar på arbetslösa, arbetslösa människors självbild eller arbetslöshetspolitik. Denna avhandling ger en ökad kunskap om vilka föreställningar om arbetslöshet som finns i det svenska samhället idag. Genom analyser av rättslig reglering, civilsamhälleliga organisationers verksamheter samt intervjuer med arbetslösa människor söker denna avhandling att synliggöra och problematisera förståelser av arbetslöshet samt hur dessa förståelser hanteras av arbetslösa.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Karlstad: Karlstads universitet, 2016. 112 p.
Karlstad University Studies, ISSN 1403-8099 ; 2016:12
Unemployment, unemployment policy, civil society, political particiation, individualisation, individualised responsibility, positioning, qualitative, Arbetslöshet, arbetslöshetspolitik, civilsamhälle, politisk delaktighet, individualisering, individualiserat ansvar, förhållningssätt
National Category
Work Sciences
Research subject
Working Life Science
urn:nbn:se:kau:diva-40589 (URN)978-91-7063-691-2 (ISBN)
Public defence
2016-04-15, Andersalen, 11D121, Karlstads universitet, Karlstad, 13:15 (Swedish)
Available from: 2016-03-24 Created: 2016-02-22 Last updated: 2016-03-24Bibliographically approved

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