Governing welfare reform symbolically: evidence based or iconic policy?
journal contributionposted on 30.08.2013, 09:32 by Pamela Joy Carter
This article reports findings from an ethnographic study of welfare reform in which the discursive negotiation of policy implementation at the local level was key to understanding the phenomenon of unintended consequences. Using policy give-aways or ‘freebies’ as a primary source of data, the article demonstrates how, despite the rhetoric of evidence based policy and practice, the meanings of policy are open to interpretation. The artifacts brand, materialize, reify, and attempt to discursively govern a range of somewhat abstract or paradoxical policy ideas in the course of implementing welfare reform. Whilst at first sight these hyper-visible manifestations of public policy may appear to be ephemeral data, on closer examination they turn out to be highly significant. They symbolize the commodification of public services, the fluid nature of policy, the uneven course of reform and the challenges of policy implementation.