Scott, Becky Louise (2020) A Foucauldian and Marxist Analysis of Representations and Service User Narratives of People with Mental Health Difficulties Who Claim Benefits. Doctoral thesis, University of Huddersfield.

Discourse on benefit provision has long been a point of contention within political rhetoric. Although research has demonstrated the damaging impact that welfare cuts have had on people with disabilities (Weston, 2012), there has been a focus on the material impact of the deprivation such cuts have caused. In the context of welfare, mental health has received little attention in the research literature, often contextualised within the wider remit of disability, with little regard for the nuances of distress. There is a need to consider this in the context of discourse, exploring issues of subjectivity, identity, power relationships and economic concerns.

The first empirical study discursively explored how newspapers represent and position mental illness in regard to claiming benefits, neoliberal practices and the capitalist political economy. In ’Shame, Tragedy and the Neoliberal Ideal’. the social and political function of shame as a response to neoliberalism was explored. ‘Class and Classlessness’ explored how discourses of shame were deployed in regard to class and their implications for identity, citizenship and selfhood.

The second empirical study discursively explored how mental health service-users who claim benefits negotiate identities and construct accounts of accessing the benefits system. A discourse of malign surveillance in the benefits system was explored, considering issues of deviance and social control. A discourse of ‘Consumerism and Alienation: A Breakdown in Society’ was also explored, where participants positioned themselves as ‘distanced’ and ‘outside’ of ‘human’. The data from both empirical studies were analysed using an innovative discursive method that was developed to engage with the ideas of both Foucault and Marx.

The legitimisation of taken-for-granted assumptions regarding those with mental health difficulties who claim benefits was interrogated in a critically geared manner, whilst opening up spaces for empowerment, resistance, and social change. The thesis produces new knowledge regarding the interdiscursive relationship between disability and distress in the context of the welfare system, whilst exploring the potential of innovative and nuanced discursive methods.

FINAL THESIS - Scott, Becky.pdf - Accepted Version
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