Despite their very considerable differences, and the very different kinds of evidence they draw upon, it is clear from these brief exchanges between theoretical frameworks that ‘the personal’ and social policies meet and remake one another in multiple and complex ways. Making welfare directly conditional upon work represents an unusually focused response to particular perceptions of personal lives, and the material circumstances and social conducts associated with them. And as policies become moulded to the contours of these perceptions, their capacities, in turn, to shape those lives become greater.
The groups and their lives that are at the centre of these complex relations between work and welfare are highly variable by place, over time and in different political contexts. How the policies they produce are encountered, conformed to and resisted by the active agents who are their subjects is equally closely inflected by time, place and political priority. But it is through the shifting contingent relations between work and welfare that some of the most powerful connections between personal lives and social policies are made.