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Governing single mothers through personalized planning programs Open Access


Other title
Australian single mothers
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Brady, Michelle Anne
Supervisor and department
Dorow, Sara (Sociology)
Examining committee member and department
Brodie, Janine (Political Science)
Larner, Wendy (University of Bristol, UK)
Harder, Lois (Political Science)
Dorow, Sara (Sociology)
Pavlich, George (Sociology/Law)
Department of Sociology

Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
This thesis examines three major personalized planning programs directed at Australian single parents receiving income support. Personalized planning programs are to contemporary welfare systems in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada and Australia what subsidized training and public employment programs were to the post-war welfare state. They came into being around 25 years ago and are increasingly the central policy tool governments use to administer access to income supports and additional services. Personalized planning programs involve income support recipients participating in one-on-one meetings with individual advisers in order to develop plans for their futures. Despite their prevalence there are no studies directed at systematically examining personalized planning technologies across time. This thesis provides a genealogy of personalized planning programs targeted at single mothers and focuses on three programs that operated in the period 1989 to 2009. The study has three closely related aims. The first is to understand the different ways in which the relationship between Australian single parents/mothers and income support has been problematized since the emergence of the post-war welfare state. Second, it seeks to understand why personalized planning programs are now the dominant solution to the problematic of single parents on income support. The third aim is to understand the spaces of freedom and constraint that these personalized planning programs and associated work requirements opened up and closed down. This thesis takes theoretical inspiration from Michel Foucault and Amartya Sen, and methodological inspiration from Foucault’s genealogical methods and the governmentality literature. It combines textual analysis with ethnographic methods in order to simultaneously examine official government rationalities and the ‘witches’ brew’ of actual practices. A key finding is that the spaces of freedom and constraint these programs produced were not established in advance within official program rationalities. Instead, they were actively interpreted, taken up, used and sometimes resisted by single mothers and those responsible for delivering the programs. Drawing on Michel Foucault’s and Amartya Sen’s works, I illustrate that single mothers’ abilities to undertake activities they valued were dependent upon the assistance they received from personalized planning programs. At the same time all three programs, at least in some instances, restricted individual freedoms and autonomy through normalizing practices that relied upon clients playing a passive role within the program.
Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of these terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis and, except as herein before provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
Citation for previous publication
Researching governmentalities through ethnography: the case of Australian welfare reforms and programs for single parents Critical Policy Studies, Vol 5. No. 3, October, pp.265-283Brady, M. ‘Understanding single mother`s choices around paid work and education: preference theory versus a practices of mothering framework’ Public Policy, Vol. 5, No. 1, pp. 23-39
‘ Institutionalized individualism and the care of the self: single mothers and the state', in Howard, C. (ed.) Contested Individualization: Debates about Contemporary Personhood , New York : Palgrave Macmillan

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