Moral Codes of Mothering and the Introduction of Welfare-to-Work in Ontario

By Gazso, Amber | Canadian Review of Sociology, February 2012 | Go to article overview

Moral Codes of Mothering and the Introduction of Welfare-to-Work in Ontario


Gazso, Amber, Canadian Review of Sociology


CONSIDERABLE RESEARCH EXPLORES the negative outcomes of neoliberal inspired reform of social assistance programs and policies in Canada (1) for lone mothers. The National Council on Welfare (2010) finds that reforms have resulted in monthly social assistance benefits that are not enough to raise a mother and her child above the Low Income Cut Offs (LICOs). Scholars have observed how reforms have paralleled changes in policy conceptualization of lone mothers' social citizenship rights (Bezanson 2006; Breitkreuz 2005) or how lone mothers' lives are morally regulated through social assistance policy (Little 1994, 2006). The critical emphasis on neoliberalism as the driving force behind social assistance reform, however, has resulted in a lack of attention to how neoliberalism is but one discourse of many (Padamsee 2009) that have influenced provincial social assistance reform and impacted low income mothers' experiences of mothering alone.

In this paper, I ask: How does the introduction of welfare-to-work policies and programs and the concurrent enforcement of lone mothers' employability in Ontario social assistance policy parallel cultural shifts in dominant moral codes of mothering? I take up principles of ideational analysis (Beland 2009; Padamsee 2009) to place attention on how policy change must also be understood as reflecting social cultural ideas and discourses about mothering. I reveal a shift in moral codes of mothering within the wider Canadian social milieu from the postwar period onward. I then trace how Ontario social assistance policy has been reformed to regulate lone mothers' conformity to these moral codes through changes in the conditions of lone mothers' entitlement. Finally, I use this case as an entry point to consider the larger implications of public and policy allegiance to these moral codes for all mothers.

My central argument is that the introduction of welfare-to-work programs in Ontario did not occur in a neoliberal state-sanctioned vacuum but also involved the circulation of ideas about moral mothering outside of policy into policy. Practices of and attitudes toward moral mothering that have transformed outside of policy are linked to changing perceptions of lone mothers' citizenship rights and expectations of their behaviors within policy. And social assistance policy change must also be read as revealing changes in discourses about moral mothering in general. With the entrenchment of new moral codes in our wider society, all mothers, regardless of their income, share particular challenges in their efforts to be good mothers today.

IN BRIEF: A NEOLIBERAL ACCOUNT OF SOCIAL ASSISTANCE REFORM

The reform of social assistance programs and policies in each Canadian province tends to be understood as connected to a national neoliberal agenda (see, e.g., Bashevkin 2002; Breitkreuz 2005; Coulter 2009). (2) Materializing in the 1970s as an economic doctrine and ideology (Hartman 2005), neoliberalism "Canadian-style" stressed the need for retrenchment or the "rolling back" of existing social programs rather than redistribution of limited state supports, largely in response to the perceived fiscal crisis associated with spending (e.g., deficits and debts) on social welfare programs (Peck and Tickell 2002). This orientation was shared with other liberal western welfare (3) states, including the United States and Great Britain, which experienced similar crisis discourses about social spending in the midst of economic recessions and unpredictable international trading markets (Bashevkin 2002).

With an emphasis on smaller government, greater free market competition, individualization, and reduced collective security for citizens, neoliberalism has increasingly driven policy reform at national and provincial levels in Canada (Baker and Tippin 1999; Brodie 1996). Throughout the 1990s, reforms once primarily influenced by economic concerns were complemented by the "rolling out" of new forms of government intervention and regulation embedded within social policies (Peck and Tickell 2002).

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Moral Codes of Mothering and the Introduction of Welfare-to-Work in Ontario
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.