Poverty is a lifestyle choice and other neo-Liberal discursive tactics




Wolanski, Kari

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This thesis examines how neo-liberal discourse asserts its significant influence over welfare policy. It is premised on a Foucauldian understanding of power as a productive force that operates through discourse. Using the example of British Columbia's 2002 welfare reforms, I analyse discursive conflict between two policy `frames,' one emphasizing personal responsibility and the other social responsibility for addressing poverty. I focus on strategies and tactics employed in this conflict such as the depoliticization of poverty through the language of individual choice. This thesis makes two contributions. First, it presents an argument about how broad public policy discourses shift over time, namely, through a succession of policy conflicts in which policy frames compete in the constantly shifting landscape of public dialogue for discursive influence to shape specific policy outcomes. Second, it offers a framework (discursive conflict analysis) to both analyse and intervene in discursive conflicts, with an emphasis on strategies for resistance to neo-liberalism.



public welfare, dispute resolution, poverty, policy, British Columbia