The purpose of this paper is to analyse the justifying arguments of various Birmingham organisations between 1870 and 1914 in classifying and treating the unemployed. Using a capability approach, the paper will examine how employment policies in Birmingham during this period promoted or limited capabilities of work, life and voice. Finally, implications for labour market policies today will be discussed.
The theoretical framework for this paper will draw on the capability approach to a person's well‐being, developed by Amartya Sen and on theoretical and empirical developments of the capability approach by other authors such as Bonvin and Salais. This paper is based on historical archival research and analysis.
Birmingham was an exemplar of municipal social reform in late nineteenth century England, with the development of a range of public services such as education, electricity and public transport. However, the city's vision of civic reform was closely connected to the Liberal market logic of individual responsibility, and moral judgements of the unemployed served to multiply the categories and punitive treatments of the “undeserving”, separating the valid from the invalid citizen.
This case study of municipal employment policies in Birmingham at the turn of the twentieth century demonstrates the implications of moral judgements, classifications and treatments of the unemployed for people's capabilities in work and life, drawing connections to discourses of responsibility and citizenship today.
Mah, A. (2009), "Moral judgements and employment policies in Birmingham (1870‐1914): multiplying the categories and treatments of the “undeserving”", International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, Vol. 29 No. 11/12, pp. 575-586. https://doi.org/10.1108/01443330910999023Download as .RIS
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