Date of Award


Publication Type

Doctoral Thesis

Degree Name



Sociology and Anthropology


Public and Social Welfare.


Adam, Barry (Sociology)




In 1995 the Progressive Conservative (PC) party of Ontario carried out a series of welfare policy changes impacting the operating principles of social assistance. The PC campaign pledged to cut social assistance benefit levels, implement mandatory workfare, and crack down on welfare fraud. Using a qualitative methodology, this dissertation asks, How does Ontario Works, the accompanying discourse and cultural logic of neoliberal welfare reform, impact the subjectivities of OW participants? A governmentality framework informs this research by placing focus on how we are governed and by what practices (Cruikshank, 1999: 120). The investigation follows a theoretical tradition direct[ing] us to attend to the practices of government that form the basis on which problematizations are made and what happens when we govern and are governed? (Dean, 1999: 28). From an analysis of 24 semi-structured interviews with OW participants in Oxford County, I argue that the regimes of practice (Foucault, 1991: 73-86) associated with Ontario Works and the public words of welfare (Schram, 1995) promoted by the "common sense revolution" operate on a discursive field (Foucault, 2006 [1969]: 30) facilitating a form of prejudice (Allport, 1954) called classism. By examining the workings, effects, and the how? of power (Foucault, 2003: 274) I show that classism survives in the dominant public discourses of welfare reform by way of the cultural categories that undergird the social order(Schram, 2000: 1): namely, that of the lazy welfare recipient and the exploited taxpayer. Consistent with Mullaly, I suggest that Culture is not only received by people, it is produced and reproduced by the same people in everyday life (Mullaly, 2002: 72). Paraphrasing Foucault's seminal insights on power, I will demonstrate that classism, via the mainstream discourses of personal responsibility and excessive taxation, passes through the individuals it has constituted (Foucault, 2003: 30).