Mutual obligation: why reciprocity is an inadequate principle for unemployment programmes

Hammer, Sara (2003) Mutual obligation: why reciprocity is an inadequate principle for unemployment programmes. Australian Journal of Professional and Applied Ethics, 5 (1). pp. 14-24. ISSN 1328-4576


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Individualised reciprocity is the moral bedrock of recent Australian unemployment policies including the Howard Government’s principle of Mutual Obligation. In this paper I explore the function of reciprocity within unemployment policy and the politics of redistribution. This exploration allows me to extend existing discussions about Mutual Obligation and include a broader analysis of the civic obligations are framed within it. I argue that temporal and conceptual inconsistencies within Mutual Obligation frame unemployed citizens as perpetual recipients with no past and no future. This artificially static representation justifies the enforced obligations found in current unemployed policy. Other citizens are represented as eternal contributors who are already fulfilling their obligations, a conceptualisation that offers little guidance on general civic responsibilities. Consequently, I argue that reciprocity so-conceived is at best only a partial indicator of whether citizens are fulfilling their obligations to the community. I conclude that individualised reciprocity is an unethical basis on which to administer income support policy in Australia.

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Item Type: Article (Commonwealth Reporting Category C)
Refereed: Yes
Item Status: Live Archive
Additional Information: Awaiting Publ. versions and copyright advice.
Faculty / Department / School: Historic - Faculty of Business - Department of Economics and Resource Management
Date Deposited: 11 Oct 2007 01:14
Last Modified: 01 Jun 2017 04:48
Uncontrolled Keywords: mutual obligation; reciprocity; unemployment policy
Fields of Research : 16 Studies in Human Society > 1605 Policy and Administration > 160512 Social Policy
22 Philosophy and Religious Studies > 2201 Applied Ethics > 220104 Human Rights and Justice Issues

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