Neoliberalism, healthism and moral judgements: a psychosocial approach to class

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Iben Charlotte Aamann Roskilde University, Denmark

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This article explores how a psychosocial approach to class can shed light on the ways in which neoliberal governmentality works through moral judgements and how different emotions within a ‘regime of judgements’ are rooted in class relations.

First, I look at sociological arguments about health in terms of the risk logic of healthism and theories about the neoliberal imperative of moral value display in order to build a theoretical framework on a key feature of neoliberalism: the field of moral judgements. Second, I look at psychosocially oriented class theories, which specify morality and respectability as key features of class.

I then illustrate the theoretical points through two empirical cases consisting of two very different mothers, involved in their six-year-old children’s start in the final preschool class. Two theoretical concepts unfold in dialogue with the cases and the psychosocial approach: habitus’ emotional implications and class consciousness understood as a sense of being judged. I show how, for the privileged middle-class mother, judging is associated with a feeling of entitlement and moral superiority, while the less privileged mother seems to feel a judgemental gaze, and is thus uncomfortable and nervous in relation to moral judgements of respectability.

The article concludes that the psychosocial potential lies in exploring both how class morals currently shape subjectivity and how the emotional implications of this are drivers of the ways in which neoliberal governmentality relies on moral judgements related to healthism, risk and responsibilisation.

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Iben Charlotte Aamann Roskilde University, Denmark

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