Regulating the life course: the role of social policies and social workers

Auteur Anne Perriard
Directeur /trice Dario Spini
Co-directeur(s) /trice(s) Jean-Pierre Tabin
Résumé de la thèse Some scholars have shown that social policies play a role in the structuring and regulation of life course. (Leisering & Leibfried, 1999; Meyer, 2008). Some authors emphasized the fact that what is considered by social policies as the « normal life course », institutionalized and divided in three phases (training-employment-retirement) is based on a normative model of the « male breadwinner», a model that fails to take into account the characteristic of most of the female life courses (Geissler, Oechsle, & Braemer, 1996; Levy, Gauthier, & Widmer, 2006). In a gendered perspective, I would like to, on the one hand, investigate in depth how social policies shape life courses. On the other hand, I would like to understand the role played by the agents carrying out social policies in the implementation of the norms concerning the life course. I am particularly interested in professionals who implement and render gender-specific the social integration measures (MIS) designed as constitutive elements of active social and professional policies. I am also interested in professionals who accompany people during these measures in Canton Vaud. They are social workers, unemployment or professional integration counselors, or professionals working for organizations that provide social and professional insertion measures (MIS). I will attempt to understand to what norms and values, in particular gendered values, these agents refer to when they interpret legal requirements within their working environment. I shall be interested in the way they act and in the basis upon which they justify their intervention with men and women and at different life ages, particularly when evidence of a conflict exist between their own values and the legal norms governing their professional intervention. I will make use of the work of Luc Boltanski to try to understand how legitimacy and criticism are articulated around their professional actions. (Boltanski, 2009; Boltanski & Thévenot, 2008). Do these agents agree with the standards of the life courses they are supposed to promote? Do they criticize them, and if that is in fact the case, to which standards do they refer and according to what values? In short, on what basis do they legitimize their actions? Do these agents have any room for manoeuvre in performing their job?
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