Foucault News

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

Mark Davis, Niamh Stephenson, Paul Flowers, Compliant, complacent or panicked? Investigating the problematisation of the Australian general public in pandemic influenza control,
Social Science & Medicine, Volume 72, Issue 6, 2011,
Pages 912-918

DOI: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2011.01.016

This article examines how pandemic influenza control policies interpellate the public. We analyse Australian pandemic control documents and key informant interviews, with reference to the H1N1 virus in 2009. Our analysis suggests that the episodic and uncertain features of pandemic influenza give control measures a pronounced tactical character. The general public is seen as passive and, in some cases, vulnerable to pandemic influenza. Communication focuses on promoting public compliance with prescribed guidelines, but without inspiring complacency, panic or other unruly responses. These assumptions depend, however, on a limited social imaginary of publics responding to pandemics. Drawing on Foucault, we consider how it is that these assumptions regarding the public responses to pandemics have taken their present form. We show that the virological modelling used in planning and health securitisation both separate pandemic control from its publics. Further, these approaches to planning rely on a restricted view of human agency and therefore preclude alternatives to compliance–complacency–panic and, as we suggest, compromise pandemic control. On this basis we argue that effective pandemic control requires a systematic dialogue with the publics it seeks to prepare in anticipation of the event of pandemic influenza.

► Analysis of pandemic influenza control policy. ► Reference to the H1N1 2009 outbreak. ► Examination of policy assumptions regarding the action of the general public.

Pandemic influenza, Policy, Public Communication Australia Panic H1N1

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