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Unemployment as a Dramaturgical Problem: Teaching Impression Management in a Work Incentive Program

Gale Miller
The Sociological Quarterly
Vol. 27, No. 4 (Winter, 1986), pp. 479-493
Published by: Wiley on behalf of the Midwest Sociological Society
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4106340
Page Count: 15
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Unemployment as a Dramaturgical Problem: Teaching Impression Management in a Work Incentive Program
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Abstract

This article is an analysis of aspects of everyday life in a Work Incentive Program (WIN). It is intended to apply and extend Adam's (1978) political phenomenology of domination by analyzing inferiorization as a feature of contemporary human service work. The analysis focuses on dramaturgical instruction of unemployed welfare recipients as a process of inferiorization through which clients are cast as disadvantaged in their dealings with area employers. Clients were taught to strategically manipulate impressions of self in order to positively impress area employers and get jobs. The analysis addresses five primary questions: (1) How is the dramaturgical perspective organized as an ideology of inferiorization in WIN and other human service organizations; (2) What was the context within which dramaturgical instruction was defined by the WIN staff as a legitimate response to their clients' problems; (3) What were the assumptions and claims associated with the staff's dramaturgical framing of unemployment; (4) How was the dramaturgical frame used by the staff to identify concrete rules for proper job-seeking; and (5) How did the staff legitimate the perspective and rules associated with it in their interactions with clients?

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