making a self for the labour market
Shifts in the 21st century welfare state have rendered ‘unemployed’ a residual category, and now all claimants are re-categorised as ‘job-seekers’. This chapter investigates how ‘job-seeking’ is constructed through an analysis of job-seeking advice books since the 1990s and contemporary websites, and begins with a close reading of Intreo documentation. These ‘conduct books’ are analysed as ‘productive power’ in Foucault’s terms, providing ‘techniques of self’ which alter readers conduct and re-shape their identity as good, enterprising job-seekers. In particular, the contemporary advice positions job-seeking as a job in itself, the self as a resource to be cultivated to ensure success and unemployment as a challenge to be overcome by positive thinking. Furthermore, contemporary values of work permeates these advice books, so that job-seeking appears to require flexibility, networking, creativity and artful self-presentation, effectively positioning job-seeking as an individualistic and entrepreneurial activity.
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