Unbenanntes Dokument

1 Introduction: New State Spaces, Social Policy and Social Work  [1]

According to Stenson, the former welfare arrangements are in a process of a fundamental re-ordering. Or as this SW&S-Special Issue claims: the spatial scales of the welfare states are under siege. In this analysis, Stenson affirms the prevalent description of a fundamental shift of former welfare arrangements since the last third of the 20th century (see for welfare policy research, research on human services and social work: Castel 2003; Clarke 2004; Gilbert 2004; Lessenich 2008/forthcoming; Marston/McDonald 2006; Webb 2006).

Stenson is interested in one specific aspect of “this shift” in his paper that can be subsumed under the concept of sovereignty. Accordingly, Stenson asks, “how is social order maintained, and how are links maintained between the nation state and populations within its borders (...)?” (3). In terms of the “De- and Re-Territorialization of the Social”, Stenson’s introductory assumption might be reformulated in the following terms of critical geography: Do we live in “new state spaces” (Brenner 2004) – even though Stenson identifies his analysis as taking “non Marxist forms” while critical geography is largely based on an neo-marxist approach: the regulation theory (6).

This distinction is probably motivated by the fact that Stenson is sceptical about a general diagnosis of “such a shift”, or in his words: “There is much agreement on the critical left of social science” that there is a fundamental shift as a neoliberal deformation of “the social”. But “emphasising political culture and agency, there is no mechanical link between the nature of the local economic, demographic, and social patterns and diverse local political cultures” (9). Within local political cultures, Stenson states, “there is discretion and choice, in which political leadership and decision-making are crucial in shaping policy-making and practice” (5).

Instead, for Stenson the dominant analysis of these changes for Stenson can be provided by the governmentality approach, if it will be extended in a way he calls a “realist version of this perspective” (4). While governmentality studies for Stenson “only” focus on discourse, his “realist governmentality approach” emphasises “the role of politics, local culture, and habitus – including shared emotional and cognitive dispositions – in restructuring governance” (5).

In our view, the systematic problem for Stenson seems to arise from the ambivalence between analyzing a general shift at the one side and recognizing the relevance of – local and different – political actors at the other. But does this insight necessarily mean, that the analysis of political rationalities – as the main interest of studies of governmentality – is inadequate?

Here we will argue that Stenson makes a highly relevant argument for current social theory and social policy/social work research in pointing out the need of everyday life studies in the current welfare transformation (what we call a process of post-welfarist transformation) when he talks about the need to analyze the “everyday thinking” and the “shared oral cultures” (5). But from our perspective, Stenson underestimates the potential of studies of governmentality and, in doing so, gives away the possibility of a research programme that could focus on rationalities without reducing them to political programs. Such a research agenda, we believe, would be tremendously helpful for the reconstruction and interpretation of the current political, social and cultural changes and represents an analytical perspective in which Stenson and others – not least Social Work & Society (see the Mission Statement) – are interested.

Stenson begins his paper Governing the local with an evaluation of the “continuum of commentary” on that diagnosis of a general shift – a continuum, “including tensions between a cosmopolitan universalistic ideology (…) and the more communitarian and nationalist ideologies” (1). Looking at the spatial (and scaling) changes the background of (t)his argument can be summarized in four aspects. The space of nation states has, in the last decades of the 20th century, been more and more reshaped as part of the process of “globalization”. Cash flows, financial transactions, and insurances have become international whereas commodities and life styles are increasingly homogenized in a global world: whil;e the growth of capital does not mean any more (real) economic growth. Fashion, furniture or fast food is produced and consumed globally in the same way – relatively independent from the specific local, regional or national culture. Optimized social and spatial mobilities and the option to make human relations ”virtual” change the social structures above and below local and national scales. Spatial divisions – both horizontal and vertical – are increased within nation states and between them. In the last third of the 20th century a spatial manifestation of social division can be noticed. Specific cities and regions as well as single neighbourhoods and districts embrace much higher numbers of poor, jobless or precarious working inhabitants. Not only are the formats of the spatial manifestations of social divisions very distinctive internationally, it has also to be recognized that the majority of the members of society in poverty still do not live in those parts of the cities which politics calls “hot spots”. Political strategies connect the diagnosis of a spatial division with a new call for community building: The place of disintegration should simultaneously be the place of social healing. As a result,, we can identify a growing number of political programs in the last 20 years looking for a spatial alternative to the nation state’s integration space. Focusing on local communities, the social units of the family, neighbourhood or voluntary association promises to open new spaces of inclusion. This new inclusive scale is therefore prioritized on the political agenda; not only in regard to marginalized or poor neighbourhoods, but also in strategies of neighbourhood support or neighbourhood-watch. Finally, these new inclusive spaces promise not only social networks, but (community) safety for the inhabitants, too. If the nation state – either as a strong or a weak welfare state – can no longer provide social integration, then new security spaces seem to be necessary. Alongside these community safety strategies a rise of punitive strategies to “save” neighbourhoods can be observed especially in neighbourhoods of wealthy people, in contrast to political statements. “Others”, identified as not belonging to the community, will be controlled or even blocked before they can move in. The strategies of community policing are now legitimized as being the only way to replace and re-build the missing responsibility of the inhabitants – and thus build again a safety in everyday life. In the long run they can lead to new ‘responsible’ communities.

Following Stenson we would agree to the need for analysis that is not reduced to observations of (political) mentalities. But contrary to Stenson we would argue that such a reduction was always a misunderstanding of Foucault’s interest in governmentality on one side, and a result of Foucault’s own inconsistent use of the governmentality concept on the other, as Michel Sennelart shows in his editing comment on Foucault’s (2004a & b) Governmentality Lectures from 1978/1979. First, the German and English translation of the French term “gouvernementalité” (English: “governmentality”, German: “Gouvernementalität”) as a semantic addition of „gouvernement“ and „mentalité“ (Sennelart 2004. p. 564) is misleading. Semantically “governmentality” denotes the way of governing – like “musicalité” (muscality) denotes the form of music and the way of being able to make music, or “spatialité” (spatiality) denotes the formation of spaces. Second, Foucault’s use of governmentality is at the same time confusing, because he switches from a narrow to a broad conception. When he speaks in his so-called “Governmentality lecture” (the fourth lecture from 1st of February 1978, published in English in Burchell/ Gordon/Miller 1991), about the „occasional and regional characteristic of the term“, governmentality is used a description of the governmental state as a successor of the former sovereign and disciplinarian state. However, the broad concept of governmentality is used later in his lectures as an analytical frame regarding to relations of power in general (see ibid., p. 565). To avoid misunderstandings we use only the conception of governmentality in a broad way in what follows – or we will mark it explicitly where we focus on a specific historical way of governing, for instance in form of welfare arrangements since the 19th century in most of the contemporary OECD-states (the narrow version of governmentality)..

In examining these issues we assume, unlike Stenson,, the necessity to ask on the one hand more general questions, lsuch as: What kind of transformation do we experience since the last third of the 20th century especially in the OECD-states? In what stage of transformation are these former welfare or quasi-welfare states in at the beginning of the 21st century? Connected to this background analysis we would argue, on the other hand, with Stenson for an analytical focus on the transformation of “the state” and political cultures, but with slightly different questions, such as: What formats do the post-welfare arrangements adopt? What kind of – intervening, heterogeneous, and conflicting – political rationalities are (re)produced? How can a continuum or a differential view of practices be analytically reconstructed?

In the following we try to map out a few main lines of such a widened and focused governmentality approach, focussing on political rationalities, but widened on all their and not only on the level of (political) progams (see part 2). In doing so, we react on some main objections against the governmentality approach, which are not articulated by Stenson, but precede his argument. From this clarification, we try to delineate such a governmentality perspective on the German case of a current post-welfarist transformation (see part 3).

2 A “Realist Governmentality”Approach?

Studies on governmentality have been established in recent years internationally, not at least in the fields of social work and social policy (see Fairbanks 2009/forthcoming; Kessl 2005; Marston/McDonald 2007; Peters et al. 2008/forthcoming). At the same time a number of critical objections have been raised against the governmentality approaches (see Kessl 2008/forthcoming). We can identify three main objections: the criticism of assuming a concept of totalistic power (1), an ambiguous analytical point of view (2) and the criticism of an analytic reduction to political programs (3). We will not go into the first two aspects here, but will concentrate on the last one. Stenson argues that his “Realist Governmentality emphasises the role of politics, local culture, and habitus” and “not just discourse”. Pat O'Malley, Lorna Weir & Clifford Shearing (1997) or John Clarke (2004) have suggested the similar in the last years: Their claim is that the material basis of studies on governmentality is too narrow, because political rationalities are almost only reconstructed from political programs. For us these arguments raise some questions, both on a general methodological level and in regard to Stenson’s attempt in recommending an alternative “realist” approach.

Argumemnts about the dangers of reducing the analytical focus to political programs touches a sore spot, because it can illustrate a main analytical weakness of some of the existing governmental work. Studies on governmentality are actually often concentrated on the observation of political programs, which is neither illegitimate nor unproductive. The trouble is that the governmentality authors sometimes forget to point out that they only observe that level, and not more. So of course, that means they can only talk about that level and nothing else. Therefore an “extended” governmentality approach, like Stenson is recommending in his “Realist Governmentality”, would be very helpful indeed. Such an approach should focus on the forms of political rationalities, which are constructed in “governmental institutions and practices”, as Stenson states. For social work the (re)production of political rationalities in committees, management meetings or user organization for instance would offer suitable fields of research for such an extension of the dominant focus on programs in most studies on governmentality. But at the same time we should not misunderstand that advice, because challenging a reduced observation perspective can itself create a danger of underestimating the scope of political programs themselves. Of course studies on governmentality should clearly mark their analytical boundaries and widen their focus on all levels of political rationalities, but at the same time they should not fall into the trap of assuming that the level of social work, social policy or other governance practices are independent from political programs. This is exactly the main analytical advance of a governmentality approach: to focus on the interwoven – and not only interrelated – social practices as political rationalities on the different levels of (social) practices. At that point governmentality studies can be re-connected to ideology critique – although not in the former marxist way, but in the way that Stuart Hall or Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe have conceptualized ideology, moving away from the notion of ideology as “false consciousness”. Hall states that ideology is a set of rules to generate meanings that define situations for social action, Laclau and Mouffe define ideology as discourses which claim to be universalistic and totalisting, in the name of a undifferentiated totality. A Foucauldian governmentality approach in our sense can analytically zoom into these (ideological) practices in reconstructing the “strategic relationships” (Lemke et al 2000, p. 23): the social, cultural, and therefore political conflicts about the form of cultural hegemony. In our view it is also not sensible to accept a binary distinction between “(social) practices versus (political) rationalities”. Political rationalities are – albeit specific – (social) practices and social practices (re)produce permanently political rationalities.

Coming from such a analytical position, we find it remarkable that Stensons’ observations on specific regional developments stay quite general and do not really touch the contradictions of the everyday life social practices as a level of (re)producing political rationalities. This is a critical level to engage, if he wants to realize a “realist governmentality approach”: observations on the “everyday thinking” and the “shared oral cultures”, as Stenson calls them. For instance the co-operation between local authorities and police, which Stenson and his colleagues have investigated, could also be taken as a “great example” of “successful governmentality strategies”: as many institutions as possible besides the police being mobilized to contribute to the objective of crime prevention.

Differentiating between welfarist and post-welfarist aspects would instead lead to an analysis of the kind of “holistic philosophy” of these partnerships: Which protagonists exactly do (re)produce what kind of prevention rationality in this specific case? Are for instance the rationalities of the police (authorities) the ones who set the aims? Is there a common consensus on these aims, which could be understood as shared ideas on the need of “a self-governing program”? To illustrate what we are talking about: What happens when the police offers sports activities at night as criminal prevention programs for the youth in so called urban “hot spots”? The official aim is to “integrate” young people into the urban community, to “keep them away” from any criminal action, to “offer” them an opportunity to get rid of their frustration without violence and to “teach” them “alternative” behaviours. Young people take part in these activities quite regularly and evaluation reports document in general a positive feedback from the participants. But what happens here, looking from a governmentality point of view? Training self-conduct in such a way, teaching people to behave in a specific way, to recognize the “advantage” of making sports with policemen instead of breaking windows. Doing all that without reflecting on the context of this such as “frustrations” of an increasingly economically focussed, culturally inflated and at the same time marked as “unsustainable” and “marginalized” youth (see the next Special Issue of Social Work & Society). It would be extremely interesting what patterns could be identified as “reflected resistance” (Foucault 1992, p. 15) in the empirical material of Stenson and his colleagues. Such a view would make it possible to discuss the “realist” part of the (political) struggles, or the (re)production processes of political rationalities on the local level. In the following part, we illustrate such a widened and focussed governmentality perspective regarding current developments in the German case of the post-welfarist transformation.

These two examples of the current transformations in Germany can highlight the issue of new “spaces of risk” (Castel, 2005, pp. 61ff.), the multidimensional and ambivalent re- and deterritorialization of the social. And by taking these examples, a widened and focussed governmentality perspective can open up possibilities for analyzing the interrelated dimensions of coercion and resistance. Our first example explores the current implementation of so called Early Warning Systems – or Early Support Programs (Frühwarnsysteme) – and the second a specific instrument (Arbeitslosengeld II) of the German workfare programs.

3 Some Observations and Considerations on the Current German Situation.

Currently, economic revival and insecurity of economic participation (e.g. decent jobs) happen at the same time. A symptom of that development can be seen in the fact that middle class people who are relatively well-off feel highly threatened by the insecurity of getting unemployed. This general feeling of insecurity leads to tendencies of demarcation (“new underclass”), but it is also accompanied by a general withdrawal of the state from the idea of (collective) social security and the delivery of social support (see Vogel 2008, p. 293)  [2] . Thus, we can see contradictory developments that lead to a high level of insecurity and pressure among the protagonists in the field that are intensified when citizens are being held responsible for their conduct of life. So-called “irresponsible behaviour” justifies disciplining structures and interventions. Here, strategies of governing others take priority over strategies of self governing as will be shown in the following two examples. Through being governed and experiencing the demand to conduct one’s own life in a certain way (and otherwise getting disciplined) strategies of self-conduct seem to become a necessary solution for the subjects.

3.1 Early Warning Systems

Post-welfarist governmentality is characterized by the utilization of experts’ knowledge to control the behaviour of populations and subjects at the one hand and a focus on small units at the other hand. In Germany this currently happens in the context of a range of different programs which are called Early Support resp. Early Warning Systems  [3] .

These systems mainly focus on parents as the responsible unit with a statistically high risk (defined by experts' knowledge) of mistreating their children, according to risk factors such as drug addiction, psycho-social problems, living on social benefits etc. - in short: marginalized groups. Parents – mainly mothers – are „screened“ according to a list of criteria based on so-called risk factors to „filter“ those, who are categorized as „high risk families“. Those persons selected get the “offer” of special state support from social workers or nurses. The program title “Early Support” aims at promoting its acceptance among the target group and at lowering the mistrust toward the control aspect – although a control approach is currently a core issue in the programs. Parallel to this, a public debate in Germany has recentlymobilized a general distrust against parents who are categorized as being part of a “new underclass” (“Neue Unterschicht”). The results of this stimulated distrust have lead to a massive increase of reports to the communal youth administrations (Jugendamt) from teachers, doctors or neighbours in the last years. Hence small communities, “new territories of governing”, are activated to be alert and watchful.

To suspect families of being incompetent or even incapable in educating their children in an appropriate way, based on statistical factors, is of course a quite different approach compared to other family support systems and other governmental programs, such as the one in Finland. The Finnish public health system, called Neuvola  [4] , works basically without direct sanctions and is officially established as a continuing service for families from all social milieus: a support service accompanying families and children during all phases of their life.

Nevertheless, the Finnish program is not beside post-welfarist transformation processes, because symptomatic patterns like “prevention as early as possible”, “activating small units – not at least families and the community” or the focus on private units (privatization), and especially family units (re-familialization) can be found here as well. But the German and the Finnish case are not the same: they build specific types of post-welfarist rationalities. And of course there is nothing like “a Finnish” or “a German” type either, but there are heterogeneous, ambivalent and contradictory social practices of early warning/prevention. This can be illustrated by the fact that some German communal youth welfare services copy the Finnish instrument of “welcome packages”, an offer to families getting a child. In Finland the families can choose between a financial gift of € 120 or a package containing clothes, diapers, bed and play equipment for the child and a short (!) information pack for mothers and fathers about what it means to become parents. The new packages of the local public youth welfare in Germany often contain a large reader on family, health and parental behaviour and counselling services. In the German case there is no choice between a financial gift and the package. The package is being handed over to all families by the social workers visiting the families in their home short before or after the birth of the child. The social workers are required to assess the living situation of the families and the conditions of upbringing for the child.

Governmentality analyses of the rationalities – for instance of the German Frühwarnsysteme and the Finish Neuvola-projects – are extremely interesting in making viusible how the political rationalities of early warning/prevention are structured. Such analyses would produce an analytical reductionism if they ignored or flattened the differences, but at the same time there is an amalgamation of such early warning/prevention strategies that can be descriobed as a kind of post-welfarist rationalities. The interrelation of both aspects – specificity and amalgamation – is important.

Defining certain groups on the basis of statistical factors as potentially “risky” and setting up structures of “support” and control for them can and should be analyzed in a governmental way: evidence-based experts’ knowledge is used to preventively focus the potential behaviour of subjects. Our argument would be that the high coercion exerted in the context of child protection connected with such programs aiming at special groups, a high vigilance of the public towards parents regarded as incapable and a public debate demonizing parents in disadvantaged situations show a notion of governmentality which probably (this would be interesting to research empirically) leads to different way of coping with it on the side of the targeted parents.

To address the “realist governmental side” in that way can map out the way to work on highly relevant questions – anchored at microanalyses of the policy process in Germany or in Finland. For instance, in Germany there are clear discursive fulcrums: a massive public debate after the death of children in their parents’ custody and about children who have been mistreated and neglected, while their families were known to the communal youth welfare administration. The dilemma of such public and political debates about the parents with “deviant behaviour”, neglecting and hurting their children centres on the categorization of those families who are now visited or screened as target groups by the early support services. They are afraid of being stigmatized as potential neglecters and tend to experience “early support” more likely as “early control” which often leads to their withdrawal from such offers.

In this context of new (child) prevention policies we can observe another governmental trend towards an attribution of children as the future “human capital” of “German society”. The German pilot program Pro Kind (English: pro child), funded by the Federal Ministry for Family, Seniors, Women and Youth (BMFSFJ) is constituted by the potential reduction of costs for the social and judicial system by investing in early intervention (see Maier-Pfeiffer/Pfeiffer 2006, p. 4). Apart from that, several economic institutions have calculated the return on investments in early childhood. Hence, early childhood education turns out to be part of a generalization of the economic form (see Lemke 2000, p. 16). The support or control for parents who are regarded as needing help or not able to raise their children seems to be (economically) rational from such a point of view. It is nopt be mistake that parental training courses focus on educating parents – especially mothers - to “think in a rational way”, make them in that sense “responsible parents” and train their parental behaviour as a set of “competences”.

3.2 Arbeitslosengeld II (Hartz IV)  [5]

Another case of current governmental strategies can be illustrated by a specific instrument in the German model of workfare, called Arbeitslosengeld II (Alg II)  [6] . The new system of unemployment benefits and combined workfare strategies has implemented typical activation strategies, like in other European or North-American cases. Entitlements are combined with an increasing pressure onto the claimants to be “actively engaged in coming back into the job market” - no matter how sustainable these jobs are. For instance, claimants have to prove that they apply regularly for jobs and they are not allowed to do a lot of voluntary unpaid work. They are only allowed to live in flats of a certain size; otherwise they are often called to move to smaller places. If people do not submit to these demands their benefits can be reduced or cut completely. People depending on the AlgII benefits experience daily stigmatization by the official political programs and statements - and also in their everyday social relationships - as people who are passive or even “social parasites”, as the former Minister for Work, Wolfgang Clement, called them in his last report on the German job market in 2005 (see Ames 2007).

These few snapshots on what it means to depend on AlgII in Germany show significant aspects of a post-welfarist governmentality: strengthening the governmental strategies of pressure, obligation and obedience by arguing for making the claimants able to govern themselves. So the basic structure of the current German workfare program is to force self-government by threatening with exclusion and precariousness. The vulnerability of those who are unemployed, threatened by unemployment or just know what happens if they get into the situation of being unemployed (see DIW 2008; see Die ZEIT 2008), relocates structural social problems to the subjective level and transform them into individual risks (see Vogel 2008, p. 295). Social problems are de-territorialized from the collective level and re-territorialized the new community, private and individual levels. These forms of a post-welfarist governmentality combine coercion (threat of sanctions in the case of non-compliance), hope (a promised perspective for a potentially better life, if the claimants behave well and contribute to the measures required) and the need for distinction for all potential claimants, the middle class (distancing oneself from those who are excluded to symbolize the difference between them and the own position which is – so far – still secure).

These examples again demonstrate the deep interrelation of the political programmatic level and the level of everyday life. The analytical reconstruction of current post-welfare transformation processes in social policy and social work have to focus not only on both levels, but on the rationalities, which are (re)produced in the intercorrelation of these levels. As Kevin Stenson makes clear, the (re)production of programs of risk-prevention or workfare-activation in Germany are not just a top-down-process. But the everyday life practices are not just the contrary, a bottom-up resistance.

By discussing political rationalities as political programs and everyday life practices we wanted to point out the constitutive interrelation of technologies of power and technologies of the self. We tried to outline that interrelation regarding the current post-welfarist transformation in German social policy. Analytically, differentiation is extremely necessary between the “rationalities of programs” and the “rationalities of everday life practices”. Stenson’s recommendation of a realist governmentality approach can be understood as addressing that distinction. At the same time this analytical differentiation should not be taken as a “real one”. We cannot really zoom into the everyday life practices without taking them as interrelated to the (political) programs. The interrelation of the different practices – programmatic and everyday life practices – has to be focussed to realize that the programmatic rationalities open up and/or narrow certain options of acting and meaning for the actors and thus (re)produce specific subjectivation spaces.

Re- and deterroritorialization of the social – the focus on small and local units and on private units – has to be taken as a governmental pattern of the current post-welfarist transformation, the transformed spatial scales of the former welfare arrangements. But from the viewpoint of a widened and focussed governmentality approach, the transformation of spatial patterns is important in the transformation of political rationalities.

Basic questions concern how the relation between technologies of power and technologies of self can be characterized, how do struggles between them take place in the above mentioned fields and which aspects of resistance can be found. To clarify how these processes work out, studies on governmentality should be connected to other empirical research approaches, such as ethnography or group discussions.

[1] Our very special thanks to Nadine Kavanagh (Newcastle) and John Clarke (Milton Keynes) for their critical copy editing of a first version of this paper.

[2] Other examples could be the prohibition of entering “certain spaces” for “ deviant youth” (see Schmidt-Semisch 2000, p. 182) or the continuing shift to a responsibilisation of – individual or collective – subjects in terms of “healthy living” programs: e.g. bonus systems in the health insurances for a specific behavior (non-smoking, sports actvities or healthy food).

[3] The term Early warning systems has been widely withdrawn after the responsible institutions have recognized that the acceptance of the target groups was low as soon as they felt suspected to be incapable parents .Therefore the program title was changed into “support” instead of “warning”. But the main issues – focussing “risky behaviour” – remained the same.

[4] “Neuvola” in Finnish means Family and Mothers Health Counselling Centre.

[5] Arbeitslosengeld II is often called “Hartz IV”, because Peter Hartz, the former leading personal manager at VW and now convicted for defalcation and favoritism, was head of the responsible federal program commission.

[6] Unemployment benefits have been fundamentally changed by the red-green coalition in Germany since 2003. Claimants now receive as a full employment benefit (Arbeitslosengeld I) 60 – 67 percent of their previous earnings, if they were in a job for 1-2 years. After one year they are send into a substistence allowance (Arbeitslosengeld II). This allowance is reduced to a monthly rate of currently € 347 per person.


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Author´s Address:
Dr Fabian Kessl / Prof Dr Nadia Kutscher
Bielefeld University / KFH NW University of Applied Sciences
Faculty of Educational Science, Center for Social Service Studies / Department for Social Work
P.O. Box 100131 / Robert-Schuman-Str. 25
D-33501 Bielefeld / D-52066 Aachen
Email: fabian.kessl@uni-bielefeld.de / n.kutscher@kfhnw.de