The Emotional Economy of Unemployment: A Re-Analysis of Testimony From a Sheppey Family, 1978-1983
© The Author(s) 2016. Open access. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License (http://www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/) which permits any use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access page (https://us.sagepub.com/en-us/nam/open-access-at-sage).
Between May 1978 and December 1983, the sociologist Ray Pahl conducted seven extensive interviews with a couple from Sheppey that he called “Linda” and “Jim.” These not only informed a key chapter in Pahl’s classic book Divisions of Labour but also evolved into a uniquely intimate account of how a family used to “getting by” (though never “affluent”) coped with the hardships and indignities of long-term reliance on welfare benefits. Perhaps inevitably, fascinating aspects of Linda and Jim’s testimony were left unused in Divisions of Labour, primarily because they were marginal to Pahl’s principal aim of demonstrating how the state welfare system could trap a family in poverty. We deliberately retain the narrative, case study approach of Pahl’s treatment, but shift our focus to the strategies that Linda and Jim adopted to cope with the emotional and psychological challenges of life at the sharp end of the early 1980s recession. How they retained a strong orientation toward the future, how they resisted internalizing the stigmatization associated with welfare dependency in 1980s Britain, and how their determination to fight “the system” ultimately led them to make choices in harmony with the logic of the New Right’s free market agenda.
The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: Jon Lawrence was supported by a Leverhulme Major Research Fellowship while conducting research for this article.
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Vol. 6 (4)