Whistle While You Work (For Nothing): Positive Affect as Coercive Strategy – The Case of Workfare

A detailed and well-sourced analysis of this government’s coercive, bullying treatment of the underprivileged and unemployed.

Centre for Medical Humanities Blog

In this post, Lynne Friedliand Robert Stearnlook at the role of  psychological coercion, notably through the imposition of positive affect,  in UK Government workfare programmes. There has been little or no debate about the recruitment of psychology/psychologists into monitoring,  modifying and/or punishing  people who claim social security benefits. This silence raises important ethical questions, including about the relationship of psychology to the medical humanities.

Whistle while you work (for nothing): positive affect as coercive strategy
– the case of workfare [1]


The growth and influence of discourses of positive affect in systems of governance and ‘technologies of the self’ has been widely observed.[2]  ‘Strengths based discourse’ is a significant policy imperative in health and welfare reform[3] and underpins  ‘the application of  behavioural science and psychology to public policy’ via the UK government’s Behavioural Insights Team (BIT) or ‘nudge unit’.  Positive affect plays an important supporting…

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7 responses to “Whistle While You Work (For Nothing): Positive Affect as Coercive Strategy – The Case of Workfare

  1. Pingback: Whistle While You Work (For Nothing): Positive ...·

    • Thank you! We’re all well, and I’m feeling guilty about not writing. Setting up a business takes even more time and attention than I thought. Think there’s a little light at the end of the tunnel, so hoping to restart soon!


  2. Enforced joy is straight out of the pages of 1984, and one of the clearest hallmarks of an overtly authoritarian society.

    I guess Cameron wasn’t kidding about being a Maoist…


  3. Anyone remember a Doctor Who story, ‘The Happiness Patrol’, from the ’80s, which was intentionally bases on Thatcher and her regime? Seems life really is imitating art.


  4. Nice to see you still have your finger on the pulse, Steve. Merry Christmas to you all, especially your little granddaughter.


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