The purpose of this paper is to present a conceptual and empirical analysis of the rationale and enactment of consumer discourses in reformed British welfare administration, through a focus on consumption and the service interaction. The paper aims to explore how administrators use these discourses to manage consumption in particular ways in order to promote individual enterprise and employability, and analyse the pivotal role of front‐line workers in these efforts.
The paper draws from range of data sources collected in a case study of Jobcentre Plus, including analysis of public and internal documents, observation of six public offices and interviews with 13 front‐line staff.
Images of customer sovereignty are used alongside heightened control to try to shape claimants' motivation and capacity for work. Front‐line staff, mainly endorse reformed structures, but their view of claimants is complex, departing from the images fostered by administrators.
The paper highlights the importance of context‐specific understanding of deployment of consumer discourses in public sector, but interview data are exploratory and further research is needed.
The paper highlights complexities inherent in customer orientation in welfare administration and the pivotal role of front‐line in reforms.
The paper provides a distinctive approach to analysis of customer concept in public sector reform, through focus on consumption and the service interaction.
Rosenthal, P. and Peccei, R. (2006), "Consuming work: front‐line workers and their customers in Jobcentre Plus", International Journal of Public Sector Management, Vol. 19 No. 7, pp. 659-672. https://doi.org/10.1108/09513550610704680
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