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Dialogued‐based activation – a new “dispositif”?

Asmund W. Born (Department of Management, Politics and Philosophy, Copenhagen Business School, Copenhagen, Denmark)
Per H. Jensen (Department for Economics, Politics and Public Administration, Aalborg University, Aalborg, Denmark)

International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy

ISSN: 0144-333X

Article publication date: 22 June 2010




The so‐called individual action plan (IAP) has become a major policy instrument in providing active welfare for social benefit claimants, and as such it has attracted quite a research interest. The purpose of this paper is to maintain that research hitherto has been founded in a too narrow notion of the IAP, arguing instead that IAP represents a new societal rationality, in relation to which the scope of research questions should be broadened.


The paper explores the basic dynamics and internal features of the IAP dialogue theoretically and ideal typically. It is furthermore argued that IAP‐like arrangements have extended far beyond the domain of social policy; IAP‐like dialogues are practiced in all corners of society in the form of HRM conversations, supervision, coaching etc. Relating to Foucault it is therefore argued that IAP represents a new dispositif.


The paper states that the emerging dispositif demands that the individual constitutes herself as a creative and self‐expressive subject in dynamic dialogue. Accordingly the microphysics of the interaction change for the clientele as well as for the case worker. Purpose and procedures turn singular, which undermines collective endeavours and general criteria for success in social policy.


The paper employs a theoretical and sociological perspective on the IAP as a new technology in the organisation of social policy, and its contribution lies in its displacement of the perspective on IAP and its consequences on research questions.



Born, A.W. and Jensen, P.H. (2010), "Dialogued‐based activation – a new “dispositif”?", International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, Vol. 30 No. 5/6, pp. 326-336.



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