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In pursuit of “the welfare trait”: recycling deprivation and reproducing depravation in historical context

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

<mark>Journal publication date</mark>17/11/2016
<mark>Journal</mark>People, Place and Policy Online
Issue number3
Number of pages14
Pages (from-to)225-238
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Adam Perkins’ The Welfare Trait outlines the most recent attempt to provide substance to the existence of an underclass, based on the idea of a shared ‘welfare-induced’, ‘employment-resistant’ personality amongst benefit claimants. Following in the footsteps of historian John Macnicol who went ‘in pursuit’ of the underclass, this article travels ‘in pursuit’ of the welfare trait by situating its claims in historical context through a comparison of the post-war study by William Tonge, Families without Hope, which sought to identify a common psychological maladjustment in ‘problem families.’ The common intention, methods and recommendations of the two studies underline their shared purpose: to transfer the social and policy problems associated with poverty from their socio-economic context and the culpabilities of the state to finding the problem in individual families, identifying their behaviour as problematic and proscribing solutions rooted around cultivating personal responsibility.