Dueling discourses, power, and the construction of the recovering addict: When social assistance confronts addiction in Toronto, Canada
Refereed Article, 2020
Gazso, A. (2020). Dueling discourses, power, and the construction of the recovering addict: When social assistance confronts addiction in Toronto, Canada. Critical Social Policy, 40(1), 130–150.
In this article, I undertake a critical discourse analysis of policy documents and in-depth interviews with seven caseworkers and 28 benefit recipients to explore how two discourses, ‘work first’ and ‘distance from the labour market,’ inform how persons living with addiction access and then experience social assistance in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Drawing in Foucauldian insights on power, I reveal the conceptualisation of benefit recipients’ eligibility for Ontario Works through these two discourses and how this is replete with ideological assumptions and disciplining power relations, constitutive of a subject position of ‘the recovering addict’, and suggestive of social control implications. I argue that the coercion and regulation of benefit recipients’ lives on Ontario Works has not disappeared but transmuted for Torontonians living with addiction, and conclude by considering the governance of this population as biopower.