For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

"Unemployment and learning: the depoliticisation and taboos of work(lessness)"

by Morgen, Mikkel (2020)


This article analyses how the learning understood as an aspect of individuals life-historical experiential processes of long-term vulnerable unemployed individuals in a Danish context is affected by the neoliberal organisation of the employment system and back-to-work policies and practices. In doing so, a psychosocietal approach to the study of adults learning in which learning processes are explored from the standpoint of the subject is applied: an approach that is analytically sensitive to the dialectic interconnectedness of subjective and objective conditions of learning during unemployment, that is, of embodied and life-historical experience, conscious as well as unconscious, and the cultural and sociopolitical embeddedness of work(lessness). In seeking to understand the ambiguities related to learning during long-term unemployment, the article argues for the usefulness of applying a broader concept of adults learning in addition to a recognition of negative experience. Through the life history of Richard, the article demonstrates how the neoliberal organisation of back-to-work practices emphasising the standardisation of methods, the maximisation of efficiency, self-reliance, social discipline, externally determined learning goals and the self-transparent subject conditions the learning processes of vulnerable unemployed individuals in ways that lead to blockages of experience, differentiated forms of self-alienation and defensive, self-preserving psychodynamics: hence, constituting challenges to learning, solidarity and self-realisation while acting as a catalyst for a reproducing subjective embodiment of societal processes relating to the depoliticisation of work.


Subjectivity, Psychosocietal, Learning, Unemployment, Work



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