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Figures of Problematic Dependence Framed by Social Policy: The Influence of Gender and Age

Anne Perriard

Research Framework: This article seeks to capture the categorization and hierarchization processes embedded in specific social policies.
Objectives: Political authorities in the canton of Vaud have been working to develop a number of social policies related to unemployed adults that focus on three key phases of adulthood in particular: youth, founding families, and ageing. This article shows that these social policies rely on a naturalization of ageing that produces “figures of problematic dependence” which ignore the intersecting relations of gender and age.
Methodology: This research, conducted within the NCCR LIVES, draws on discourse analysis of two categories of social agents: elected representatives in charge of establishing laws and social workers applying these laws in their professional practices. Interviewees were asked to describe three situations that they consider to be emblematic of their work. The advantage of this methodology is that it has the capacity to reveal invisible social categories.
Results: Discourse analysis shows that state dependencies are not always perceived as problematic. Some have even become normalized in terms of their conformity with traditional life course norms produced by the triad of education-employment-retirement.
Conclusions: This article shows that the meanings given to notions of autonomy and independence vary according to age and gender.
Contribution: The originality of this article lies in the fact that three categories of age are brought together and were compared in our analysis.