Resistance and accommodation in a post-welfare social service organization

Nancy Jurik, Gray Cavender, Julie Cowgill

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


This article explores the complex and contradictory dynamics of client resistance to organizational rules and staff definitions in a nonprofit microenterprise development program. Micro-Enterprise, Inc. offers training and small loans to economically disadvantaged individuals who want to operate very small businesses. Although claiming to avoid the judgmental aspects of past social welfare programs, program staff recruited the "right type" of client. Individuals who did not conform to these classifications were disadvantaged in the program. Yet, clients were far from passive in these matters. They used fluid and convergent strategies to accommodate, reconstruct, and resist the dominant program discourse. Some strategies were individualistic whereas others were more collective; some strategies produced organizational change; others reinforced negative views of the poor. Over time, concerns about client resistance and funders' perceptions led to a series of program changes. These changes reduced the opportunities for collective client resistance to organizational rules and staff control. These findings also reveal the situated nature of resistance strategies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)25-51
Number of pages27
JournalJournal of Contemporary Ethnography
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2009


  • Microenterprise development
  • Resistance
  • Social reproduction
  • Social service programs
  • Welfare reform

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Anthropology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Urban Studies


Dive into the research topics of 'Resistance and accommodation in a post-welfare social service organization'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this