Vincent Dubois

Institutional Order, Interaction Order and Social Order: Administering Welfare, Disciplining the Poor

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Interactions between agents and clients at the street-level of welfare bureaucracies have been made more strategic than ever by the shift towards workfare, responsibilization and individualization. Based on this premise, the article addresses the theoretical question of the relationship between the interaction order and the social order as discussed in Goffman’s sociology, and supports the idea that a third order, the institutional order, constitutes the link between interactions and social structures. To do so, it focuses on the bureaucratic organization of people-processing in welfare, and shows how macrosocial characteristics are involved in individual interactions which, in turn, contribute to reproducing the social structure of positions and power relations.


  • Interaction Order
  • Social Structures
  • Institutions
  • People-Processing Encounters
  • Welfare
  • Erving Goffman
  • Street-Level Bureaucracy


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