Power Relations in the Welfare State: Mechanisms of Power in Caseworker-Client Interactions
The findings show that in the context of activation policies, it is essential for caseworkers to achieve client compliance. In order to keep control of the work situation and to bring client behaviour in line with requirements, caseworkers regard coercive and disciplinary elements as an important element of their work. However, strategies relying on persuasion play an equally prominent role in frontline interactions. Caseworkers in particular refer to building relationships of trust as a strategic instrument in overcoming possible barriers to information exchange and cooperation in caseworker-client interactions. Motivating the client to become a trust-giver in the caseworker-client relationship may help frontline workers to steer the client and to consolidate the structural power asymmetry between street-level bureaucrats and their clients. We conclude that caseworkers in welfare agencies use power in different ways. Apart from coercion, persuasive strategies such as trust building are mechanisms of power in caseworker-client relations.