eCite Digital Repository

Producing Workfare


Banks, M, Producing Workfare, The Journal of Australian Political Economy, (70) pp. 87-109. ISSN 0156-5826 (2012) [Refereed Article]

Copyright Statement

Copyright of Journal of Australian Political Economy is the property of Journal of Australian Political Economy, and its content may not be copied or emailed to multiple sites or posted to a listserv without the copyright holder's express written permission. However, users may print, download, or email articles for individual use.

Official URL:


For the last two decades most economically developed states have favoured the portmanteau terms workfare, welfare-to-work and Active Labour Market Programs (ALMPs) as their neoliberal baggage of choice to batter down working class expectations for a viable and secure social wage. ALMPs were initially promoted by the OECD in the late 1980s as targeted, stand-alone welfare-to-work programs (such as the Australian Jobs, Education and Training Program for single parents). By 1994, such tactical interventions were gelled into the OECD's Jobs Strategy to 'emphasise' that ALMPs required more 'co-ordinated ... measures' if a 'coherent activation strategy' for the unemployed was to be costeffectively implemented by states.

Provoking this article's analysis of the economic character of contemporary welfare policy is how to respond to Goran Therborn's observation that social theory is precariously strung between two 'ambitious poles' - an explanatory framework for a changing set of social phenomena and, more importantly, a wider philosophical capacity to 'make sense' of such fluid phenomena, to apprehend what constitutes its meaning. Marx's ambitions in Capital, it will be argued, continue to meet Therborn's challenge even in the historically distant field of Australian workfare, where, it is suggested, the extant literature reflects certain theoretical limitations.

A number of controversies confront Marxist critiques of welfare policy. What are the economic relations of the state in the production of value? What is the economic character of state labour? How are the class composition and the divisions of labour in the state to be understood within the broader divisions of labour in capitalism? Do specific relations between a state's social policy, the production of value and other circuits of capital exist? How does a commodity's production and realisation form a unity when that commodity is labour power? The article focuses on two elements in Capital which gain some ground to wrestle with such controversies: the socio-economic character of the state and the material bases of state welfare ideology. These two elements are structured as replies to this question: how is state workfare located in the capital relation without reducing workfare to the capital relation?

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:inequality, wellbeing, financial insecurity, social security payments
Research Division:Economics
Research Group:Applied economics
Research Field:Financial economics
Objective Division:Law, Politics and Community Services
Objective Group:Government and politics
Objective Field:Public services policy advice and analysis
UTAS Author:Banks, M (Dr Marcus Banks)
ID Code:150529
Year Published:2012
Deposited By:Management
Deposited On:2022-06-19
Last Modified:2022-11-10

Repository Staff Only: item control page