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Everyday interaction at the front-line

Everyday interaction at the front-line Purpose– The purpose of this paper is to provide a sociological analysis of everyday interaction on the physical front line of the Norwegian welfare state. Design/methodology/approach– The data are from a short-term ethnographic study in the reception/waiting rooms of three local welfare offices. These are important sites for access to benefits and services. The focus is on the situational and interactional aspects: how do people behave and interact with fellow visitors as well as with front line staff in this institutional context? For the analysis, Goffman’s conceptual framework on behaviour in public places is combined with concepts from a theory of access to welfare benefits. Findings– The analysis shows how people fill these spaces with different activities, and how they are characterized by a particular type of welfare “officialdom”, boundary work and the handling of welfare stigma. Everyday interaction on the front line gives insights into the tensions in an all-in-one welfare bureaucracy and into the implementation of digitalization. The paper concludes that “old” and “new” tensions are expressed and managed at the front line, and suggests that more attention be paid to the new barriers that are developing. Originality/value– The study contributes an ethnographic approach to a seldom studied part of welfare administration. The waiting rooms in the Norwegian welfare organization are actualized as a social arena influenced by new trends in public administration: one-stop shops, a new heterogeneity, activation policies and digitalization processes. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Journal of Organizational Ethnography Emerald Publishing

Everyday interaction at the front-line

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Publisher
Emerald Publishing
Copyright
Copyright © Emerald Group Publishing Limited
ISSN
2046-6749
DOI
10.1108/JOE-12-2015-0026
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

Purpose– The purpose of this paper is to provide a sociological analysis of everyday interaction on the physical front line of the Norwegian welfare state. Design/methodology/approach– The data are from a short-term ethnographic study in the reception/waiting rooms of three local welfare offices. These are important sites for access to benefits and services. The focus is on the situational and interactional aspects: how do people behave and interact with fellow visitors as well as with front line staff in this institutional context? For the analysis, Goffman’s conceptual framework on behaviour in public places is combined with concepts from a theory of access to welfare benefits. Findings– The analysis shows how people fill these spaces with different activities, and how they are characterized by a particular type of welfare “officialdom”, boundary work and the handling of welfare stigma. Everyday interaction on the front line gives insights into the tensions in an all-in-one welfare bureaucracy and into the implementation of digitalization. The paper concludes that “old” and “new” tensions are expressed and managed at the front line, and suggests that more attention be paid to the new barriers that are developing. Originality/value– The study contributes an ethnographic approach to a seldom studied part of welfare administration. The waiting rooms in the Norwegian welfare organization are actualized as a social arena influenced by new trends in public administration: one-stop shops, a new heterogeneity, activation policies and digitalization processes.

Journal

Journal of Organizational EthnographyEmerald Publishing

Published: Jul 11, 2016

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