Foucault News

News and resources on French thinker Michel Foucault (1926-1984)

Crawshaw, P. Governing at a distance: Social marketing and the (bio) politics of responsibility, Social Science and Medicine, Volume 75, Issue 1, July 2012, Pages 200-207

In the recently published lectures from the College de France series, The Birth of Biopolitics, Foucault (2009) offers his most explicit analysis of neo-liberal governmentality and its impact upon states and societies in the late twentieth century. Framed in terms of the bio-political as a mode of governance of populations and its relationship to neo-liberalism, these lectures offer a rich seam of theoretical resources with which to interrogate contemporary forms of governmentality. This paper seeks to apply these and some recent critical analysis by Foucauldian scholars, to the study of health governance, with particular reference to the use of social marketing as a strategy to improve the health of populations ‘at a distance’. Reflecting a broader decollectivisation of welfare, such strategies are identified as exemplars of neo-liberal methods of governance through inculcating self management and individualisation of responsibility for health and wellbeing. Drawing on original empirical data collected with a sample of fifty long term unemployed men in 2009, this paper critically examines social marketing as a newer feature of health governance and reflects upon participants’ responses to it as a strategy in the context of their wider understandings of health, choice and responsibility.

Author keywords
Biopolitics; Foucault; Governmentality; Men; Neoliberalism; UK

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