Lacking social skills: A social investment state’s concern for marginalized citizens’ ways of being

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Abstract

The Danish state is preoccupied with its citizens’ social skills, which are seen as important for the nations’ competitiveness. Such skills regard self-presentation, communication, emotional control etc. This article relies primarily on interviews with Danish social workers who are involved either in assessing young marginalized welfare clients’ personal readiness for schooling or employment or in preparing them for this through social skills training. Secondarily, it relies on fieldwork data from young Danes at the margins of the educational system and/or the labour market, who are frequently confronted with a devaluation of their personal ways of being. As personal resources related to ways of being, communicating, handling emotions etc. are ascribed social value, especially at the labour market they may work as a form of capital, while the lack of them may be a source of marginalization. These findings are discussed as signs of more general social normative demands, theoretically grasped in the meeting point of Bourdieu’s understanding of embodied cultural capital, of Skeggs’ analysis of how subjects are attributed value or not, and of Illouz’s investigation of the emotional demands contemporary capitalism puts on employees. Understanding the experiences of those who fail to comply with implicit social requirements for personal resources thus shed light on contemporary requirements regarding how to behave and communicate with other people as well as on the state’s investments in the most personal spheres of its citizens.
Original languageEnglish
JournalCritical Social Policy
Volume40
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)608-626
Number of pages19
ISSN0261-0183
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2 Nov 2020

Keywords

  • cultural capital
  • emotional capital
  • investment state
  • social skills

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