Responsible citizens: Individuals, health and policy under neoliberalism
At the time of writing that the individual has never been more important. In politics, education, the workplace, health and social care, leisure and almost every other sphere of public and private life the individual is sovereign. Yet this importance and apparent power assigned to the individual is not all that it seems. It has gone hand in hand with a subtle authoritarianism which has insinuated itself into the government of the population. Whilst it is present throughout the public services, this is most conspicuous in health and social welfare such that a kind of ‘governance through responsibility’ is enforced upon the population. In the 21st century, individualism has come to pervade the body politic, especially where health and social care are concerned. Clients who may be at their most abject and vulnerable are urged to take responsibility for themselves rather than further burden the health and social care services. In some healthcare trusts, prosecutions are mounted against clients who have lost their temper or who act inappropriately as a result of their disorientation under the guise of ‘making them take responsibility for their actions’. Citizens on the street are likely to have responsibility thrust upon them through mechanisms such as electronic surveillance and the burgeoning new cohorts of community enforcement officers, local authority officials with powers to issue fixed penalty notices, as well as the police themselves.
Citation:Brown, B. and Baker, S. (2012) Responsible citizens: Individuals, health and policy under neoliberalism. London: Anthem Press.
Research Group:Health Policy Research Unit