- Talking active citizenship: framing welfare state reform in England and the Netherlands
- Social Policy and Society
- Volume | Issue number
- 12 | 3
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences (FMG)
- Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research (AISSR)
This article reviews how activation policies frame citizens as individual welfare agents. The analysis focuses on the framing of feeling rules employed by governments that encourage active citizenship, in this instance in the Netherlands and England. In England, encouraging voluntarism is central to the Big Society agenda; in the Netherlands, it is at the heart of the 2007 Social Support Act and more recent ideas on citizenship. Governments cannot compel their citizens to volunteer their time; they can, however, try to seduce people by playing on their emotions. Based on an analysis of thirty-nine policy documents and political speeches, we find that English politicians employ ‘empowerment talk’ calculated to trigger positive feelings about being active citizens, while Dutch politicians employ ‘responsibility talk’ conveying negative feelings about failure to participate more actively in society. Responsibility talk runs the risk that citizens respond with counter-responsibility claims, whereas empowerment talk can fail to incite sufficient enthousiasm among citizens.
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