Governing single mothers through personalized planning programs

  • Author / Creator
    Brady, Michelle Anne
  • 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.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2011
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.
  • Language
  • Institution
    University of Alberta
  • Degree level
  • Department
  • Supervisor / co-supervisor and their department(s)
  • Examining committee members and their departments
    • Harder, Lois (Political Science)
    • Brodie, Janine (Political Science)
    • Dorow, Sara (Sociology)
    • Pavlich, George (Sociology/Law)
    • Larner, Wendy (University of Bristol, UK)