Hollowing out ascriptive person categories

Hollowing out ascriptive person categories: the concept of employability, its usage by public employment services and its effect on client’s categorization

Christine Weinbach


Employability is a powerful instrument passed on by politics to public employment services (PES) as ‘people processing organisations’ (Hasenfeld 1972) seen as enablers dealing with expectations of the labour market. By enabling their clients to become employable individuals these enablers impose expectations on their clients and thus hollow out expectations linked to ascriptive person categories like gender and ethnicity. The present project focuses on the pertaining re-categorisation work of PES-staff in German jobcentres. The empirical basis is qualitative data – expert interviews and transcribed mediation talks between staff and clients – which were collected within a DFG-funded research project at the University of Potsdam.