Agency, structure, morality and norms minus epistemological doubt

This is a bit more of an ambitious phone post. Links and all that jazz will need to be added in later.

Today I made it (a little late) to Sonia Martin’s BSL seminar on ‘Young people and activation policies‘. It was the mention of moralising in the abstract that got me there. Martin provided an overview of ‘activation policies’ – monitoring and work first approaches that treat people as active participants in a welfare market, with the market set up to change people. There was talk about agency, a critique of Bourdieu (via Andrew Sayer) as, amongst other things, too deterministic and missing analysis of judgements, and use of some interview quotes. It was a well written paper, at least I thought.

I asked a question about how is it possible to get at morality in policy research. I am interested in how policy research can (ethically) get behind representations to understand what mobilises people and their judgements. I received two interesting answers. Sonia Martin suggested she used the narratives/ life stories she collected in her research. The chair suggested it is about formulating interview questions, building relationships with interviewees and triangulation. I thought of social learning, but I guess my heart is still in anthropology. Regardless, is knowledge about these things so simple? Have I been making such a large issue in my mind about nothing at all?

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