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Cultures of Unemployment

Cultures of Unemployment: A Comparative Look at Long-Term Unemployment and Urban Poverty

Godfried Engbersen
Kees Schuyt
Jaap Timmer
Frans van Waarden
Copyright Date: 2006
Pages: 292
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  • Book Info
    Cultures of Unemployment
    Book Description:

    In the 1980s a team of Dutch sociologists conducted a study on the daily life of unemployed in the Netherlands. They were inspired by the classical work Marienthal: the Sociology of an Unemployed Community first published in 1933. The authors conducted three neighborhood studies to analyze the social behavior of the unemployed. Based on the work of Robert K. Merton and Mary Douglas they developed a typology of different cultures of unemployment. This typology is still relevant to analyze contemporary reactions to unemployment in European welfare states. The authors also demonstrated that their cultural analysis is fruitful to understand the heterogeneity of urban marginality in the United States. A foreword by U.S. scholar William Julius Wilson emphasizes the universality of the method and the findings presented here. Godfried Engbersen is professor of sociology at the Erasmus University Rotterdam. Kees Schuyt is professor of sociology at the University of Amsterdam and member of the Council of State. Jaap Timmer is associate professor of police and safety studies at the Free University of Amsterdam. Frans van Waarden is professor of policy and organization at the University of Utrecht.

    eISBN: 978-90-485-0402-2
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
    (pp. None)
  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  4. List of Tables and Figures
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Foreword
    (pp. 1-4)
    William Julius Wilson

    Metropolitan areas in the United States feature a much greater decentralization of business and selective suburbanization than those in Europe. In the past several decades, America's central cities have experienced a significant outmigration of more affluent families to the suburbs and, at the same time, a sharp increase in the number and proportion of lower income families. American metropolises have also suffered the growth of highly concentrated poverty areas or ghettos populated by millions of disadvantaged minorities.

    Europe has also experienced the process of selective suburbanization, but unlike America, the city centers remain very desirable places to reside because of...


    • CHAPTER 1 Cultures of the Welfare State
      (pp. 7-42)

      In the 19805, both the United Stales and the Netherlands were confronted with problems that had sizeable consequences for welfare states and the quality of life of vulnerable people. The people most affected were the unemployed, single-parent families, the disabled and other groups who depended on state benefits. Three developments should be cited in tbis connection.

      First, national economies were confronted with a process of economic restructuring. The reduced role of manufacturing, the growing significance of the service industry and the internationalization of capital transfers and control over them were among the repercussions. Deindustrialization had shattering effects for whole regions...

    • CHAPTER 2 The Central Issues of the Study
      (pp. 43-54)

      As the Dutch post-war welfare state took shape in the 1950s and 1960s, three things were taken for granted. First, there were going to be jobs for everyone. Due to temporary friction in the labor market or perhaps seasonal fluctuations, at most a few people would be out of work for short periods of time. Second, the social security system was to be linked to employment. Premiums were based on the wage-sum and benefits-rights were related to length of former employment. Third, wages and benefits were almost automatically equated with family income, that is, the income a working man needed...


    • CHAPTER 3 A Jobless Market
      (pp. 57-70)

      Western society is developing from a manufacturing economic system to a post-industrial, service-centered economic system. In the United States this process has been described by Bluestone and Harrison in their studiesThe Deindustrializanon of America(1982) andThe Great American Job Machine(1986). This process of economic restructuring can partly be recognized in part in the economic developments in the Netherlands in the 1970s and 1980s (Van Zanden and Griffiths 1989). It is characterized by an unprecedented loss of jobs in several traditional industries; an unprecedented growth in other, new industries; and an evenly unprecedented dropout of people from the...

    • CHAPTER 4 Making Ends Meet
      (pp. 71-90)

      As is evident from the strategies they have to employ in order to make ends meet, the long-term unemployed and the poor live under a strict financial regime. In his bookMaking Ends Meet, Caplowitz (1979) distinguished six possible reactions to a lowered income: increase income, restrict expenditures, become more self-sufficient (household production), go bargain hunting, share with others, and apply for consumer credit. Caplowitz noted that self-sufficiency and bargain hunting could be viewed as strategies for the very poorest of the poor; it was so difficult for them to get credit. In the 1980s, the low credit rating of...

    • CHAPTER 5 Dealing with Time
      (pp. 91-108)

      The French sociologist Gurvitch noted the existence of different social times (Gurvitch 1963). He drew a distinction between "macro-social time" and "micro-social time." Macro-social time is linked to the major institutional frameworks of a society, such as the labor market, the school system and the leisure time sector. Micro-social time is linked to the time orientation of specific groups and classes. Social time, which is distinguished from biological and physical time, is a relation between meaningful activities. Social time is also the expression of the social rhythm of social groups (see also Sorokin and Merton 1937).

      These concepts can serve...

    • CHAPTER 6 Looking for a Job
      (pp. 109-130)

      Mark Granovetter stressed in his studyGetting a Job(1974) the importance of "weak social ties." He stated that people with whom one does not have particularly close ties, such as acquaintances or fellow members of clubs, can be especially important in finding a new job. These weak ties can bridge social boundaries and provide the unemployed with more and different information than they get from their own social group. Having weak social ties of this kind is an important form of social capital (Bourdieu 1986). The significance of the network approach, which is an important sociological supplement to economic...

    • CHAPTER 7 The Perception of Rights and Obligations
      (pp. 131-149)

      InBeyond Entitlement, the Social Obligations of Citiunship(1986), Lawrence Mead explained that in the case of welfare recipients, the equilibrium between rights and obligations was off balance. Based on communitarian notions of citizenship (Burke and Tocqueville), Mead argued that parallel to the right to a welfare benefit, the obligation to look for a job had been inadequately developed. Mead's point of view was that citizens have social obligations to the community whose public means they benefit from. There is. or should be, a reciprocal relation between citizens and the slate. Mead used his conception of citizenship to criticize the...


    • CHAPTER 8 Cultures of Unemployment
      (pp. 153-184)

      In the Netherlands, the patterns and configurations of long-term unemployment have been multifarious. A far less homogeneous description could be written of the long-term unemployed in Rotterdam, Amsterdam and Enschede than of the unemployed residents of the Austrian town of Marienthal at the start of the 19305 (Lazarsfeld-Jahoda and Zeisel 1933). Differences have been noted earlier in the ways unemployed individuals cope with work, time, money and welfare dependency. Generally speaking, the main difference is between the "traditional" unemployed, who have a hard time accepting a life without work and maintain a rather passive attitude toward their unemployed condition, and...

    • CHAPTER 9 Homo Calculans and Homo Honoris
      (pp. 185-202)

      In the foreword to the English edition of the Marienthal study, Lazarsfeld cited as one of the most important findings that long-term unemployment "leads to a state of apathy in which the victims do not utilize any longer even the few opportunities left to them" (Lazarsfeld, in Jahoda et al. 1972:vii). Lazarsfeld noted the parallel between the Marienthal study and the poverty studies by Lewis and Harrington published in the United States in the late 19508 and early 19605 (Lewis 1959, 1961 and Harrington 1962). These studies concluded that long-term poverty could lead to a culture of poverty that perpetuated...

    • CHAPTER 10 A Profile of Urban Poverty
      (pp. 203-230)

      In Chapter 8, cultural theory was used to distinguish various types of unemployed people and cultures of unemployment in Dutch inner cities. It was thus demonstrated that behind a seemingly unambiguous policy classification such as "the long-term unemployed," in fact a heterogeneous reality is concealed. The long-term unemployed can be sub-classified not only by ethnic background, age, the length of time they have been out of a job and so forth, but also by the ways they cope with the triad of unemployment problems (work, time and money) and the ways they perceive their position in society and justify their...

  9. Appendixes

      (pp. 233-234)
      (pp. 235-236)
      (pp. 237-241)
      (pp. 242-244)
      (pp. 245-250)
    (pp. 251-252)
    Godfried Engbersen, Kees Schuyt, Jaap Timmer and Frans van Waarden
    (pp. 253-266)
    (pp. 267-268)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 269-277)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 278-278)