In the light of recent official announcements about tougher sanctions and private bounty hunters, it seems that the future role of Jobcentres and the DWP and their business partners will be primarily to deter welfare claimants rather than help them, while also provoking and absorbing hostility from their 'customers' which will then be processed and returned to them in a safely institutionalised form.

Obviously in this atmosphere people must be supported to claim the money to which they are entitled while refusing to accept the stigma that routinely comes with it (is this how the government plan to 'reduce' levels of unemployment - through a campaign of negative publicity and bureaucratic intimidation?). Rather than pointlessly petitioning the state on its own terms, however, the culture of precarious work and 'jobseeking' might be better attacked at those points where it is most flexible, and potentially most vulnerable. When workplace relations have been systematically fragmented while the conditions of unemployment have been intensified and privatised, maybe it is time to consider the possibility of a tactical withdrawal of the labour of jobseeking...?

How feasible, for instance, is the idea of locally organised and targeted actions to boycott individual recruitment agencies for short periods? Focusing on one agency at a time - arbitrarily, on behalf of all agencies, on say a monthly rotation - such action would involve asking people to withhold contact from that particular agency for purposes of registration, job searching etc. and decline any casual work it offers during that period. The aim would be to block that agency's assumed flow of short-term gap-filling candidates.

Some potential problems: in practical terms, how to make enough people aware of such a project to make a noticeable difference in any given area, especially when contact is often so remote and fleeting; and also whether people immersed in the individualistic, competitive jobseeking discourse would trust the idea of any sort of collective action. Even if they are sympathetic, if they are really desperate for money they might see even this small sacrifice as unrealistic...

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