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Kendra Briken

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Suffering in Public? Doing Security in Times of Crisis

Research on neoliberal welfare systems has underlined that “work” nowadays is framed as a “gift” and a “duty” by employers and politicians alike. While “work” should by understood as a “gift” for those in the job market, for those without jobs “work” turns into a “duty.” Studies on labor precarization processes stress that welfare recipients and a growing part of the low-wage workforce are affected by these framing patterns. The emerging workfare state in Germany annually creates around 1 million long-term unemployed forced to work part-time but only being paid an allowance (“Hartz IV” law). Based on empirical material from research in the German private security sector, the author shows how current models relevant to the interpretation of “work,” namely, “actually existing neoliberalism,” affect employee working conditions, workload, and self-perceptions. To illustrate the impact of neoliberalization on security workers, three examples are given: (1) “Hartz IV” as an “external” challenge to the workforce (working conditions); (2) negotiation processes between employers and customers creating “intrapersonal” challenges for private guards (workload); and (3) management’s perception of the workforce as an “internal” challenge to the security workers (self-perception).

neoliberal welfare systems, workfare state in Germany, Hartz IV law, private security sector

Citation: Social Justice Vol. 38, Nos. 1-2 (2011-12): 128-145.

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