Activation through marketisation as a process of ignorancing

Zach Roche, Ray Griffin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


This article explores the rationalities and mechanisms of outsourcing public employment service activation casework. We draw on textual and documentary data from minutes of meetings and inspection reports between the Irish Government and two market providers, over 7 years, to better understand how activation through marketisation unfolds in practice. We identify how the outsourcing contract unleashing a process of ignorancing (agnotology), where the Government wilfully and strategically seeks to overwrite existing forms of street-level bureaucratic knowledge and practice. Our analysis reveals how activation through marketisation unfolds, first as strategic ignorance, then as involuntary ignorance as Government officials and contractors become bound by the contract until finally, the contract generates naturalised ignorance–new caseworkers without the basic knowledge, education, and training to support unemployed people. In this way, we offer a deeper understanding of the administration of activation through marketisation policies.

Original languageEnglish (Ireland)
JournalSocial Policy and Administration
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2023


  • activation
  • agnotology
  • ignorance
  • marketization
  • unemployment


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