Perhaps I better go look up what ‘working families’ actually means?

“A strong economy is important – it generates jobs for working families and helps us build a fairer society.” by ALP LaborHQ at Tuesday, 13 July 2010 at

If you are working, wouldn’t you already have a job?



4 Responses to “Perhaps I better go look up what ‘working families’ actually means?”

  1. attilathenun Says:

    This is A Beautiful Thing, truly!
    “Working families” aren’t, of course, defined by having jobs … this is defining them by ideas about their willingness, or, from another angle, this is defining them in opposition to “dole bludgers”. I would say that this then makes “working families” the “deserving poor”, although usually this sort of political discourse is aimed at the lower middle class (who are usually extremely borderline, but are always compelled to differentiate themselves from the really poor by mouthing off about them. David Hoyle does a beautiful rant about the LMC; “they’d cut a ha’penny in two”) because the working class are always already Wrong. This is particularly so in Australia/New Zealand where a founding national discourse is the classless society. The working class by definition are not allowed to exist; that they do, and that they struggle, therefore has to be portrayed as fundamentally their own fault. Which might be another reason why this is directed at/talking to the LMC.

    (sorry, that was a bit of an incoherent mumble; there’s a reason why I don’t write blog posts!)

  2. Tracey Says:

    Clearly you’d write awesome posts!

    Although I’ve yet to get around to any serious digging on the matter, I agree that in Australia it is about defining ‘working families’ in opposition to ‘dole bludgers’ (or maybe Bauman’s redundant class). I think it communicates a particular theory about the cause of poverty and harship that justifies interfering in some families and not others, and has the handy way of managing underfunded resources such as public housing through reducing society’s obligations to those without children.

    I certainly see what you are saying about it being directed at the lower middle class, but I would be interested to find out what families feel like they are not being spoken to when such a term is used.

  3. attilathenun Says:

    My pet theory is that elections are usually decided by the LMC; the middle class proper are usually pretty entrenched in their political position (your classic Guardian or Times reader division), and the working class tend to get the worst shafting under Tory policy so unless they’re really really fed up they’ll go red. The LMC will be far more swayed by this year’s crop of fibbing carrots. But this is something that exists in my head so it might be baseless stereotyping and I may have to scorn myself for it.

    I was talking to someone else about this (because it tickled me) and the other thing that I missed, and that you pick up in your reply, was the emphasis on families. It doesn’t saying “working people” does it.

    We had this is-sue in NZ with a vanity party around a chap called Peter Dunne (amazing Ken doll hair that hasn’t moved for the past 25 years) called United Future. This was a couple of elections ago; they start talking about families and this starts getting picked up in the media and they end up taking quite a wodge of seats with this “helping out families” line. Of course after the election people (who never did their homework on who this party was in the first place) find out that they were formed out of the remnants of one of the Xian parties (of the US type, really, since something like Xian socialism is a whole different kettle of fish). So what they mean by supporting families of course emerges as meaning nuclear, heterosexual, etc.

    The moral of the story is that ‘families’ is this brilliant nebulous word that everyone can think applies to them because you have to try really, really hard to not be in a family of some sort (even ‘family’ in the gay community can just refer to other gay people e.g. “oh, she’s family”) … but of course when its mobilised politically it usually does mean something very specific, but you’ll never really be told what.

  4. Tracey Says:

    Yes, those words do mean something specific, but they are reluctant to disclose what that is.

    In Australia we had quite a big, ‘THIS is what we mean by families’ moment in the Howard years when Play School had to pull a segment that had a child with two mums in it. The role of children in defining a family is something I find interesting (i.e. It is pretty clear who gets ‘family tax’ benefits.).

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