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Publication - Dr Samuel Kirwan

    Assembling citizenship in austere times

    Citation

    Kirwan, SF, McDermont, M & Clarke, J, 2017, ‘Assembling citizenship in austere times’. in: Vaughan Higgins, Wendy Larner (eds) Assembling neoliberalism: expertise, practices, subjects. Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 109-129

    Abstract

    Formations of citizenship that were put together in the global North during the 20th century have been dis-assembled through a variety of means. Anti-statist and anti-welfarist projects have undermined the array of legal, social and political rights associated with citizenship while the revival of ethno-nationalist politics has given new impetus to questions of who is eligible to be a member of the ‘political community’. Most recently, austerity politics and policies in the European Union and elsewhere have further eroded the substance of social rights: reducing public spending on social benefits and services and deepening inequality in the process. ‘Austerity’ has provided the discursive resource for the latest revitalization of neo-liberalism, recasting the financial crises of 2007 onwards as crises of public debt and legitimating a variety of economic and political strategies of public spending reduction, privatization and marketization, together with a more disciplinary approach to populations and their reluctance to comply (see, inter alia, Evans and McBride, forthcoming; Peck, 2012) These processes of dismantling or disassembling citizenship have been accompanied by efforts to reassemble new models of the citizen, articulated around commitments to independence, self-direction, and responsibility as new disciplines of the social. But in such times, how is citizenship imagined and practised in everyday settings? In this chapter we draw upon a current study of Citizens Advice (one of the few organizations in the UK which expresses an idea of citizenship in its naming) to explore how people manage and make sense of citizenship. In the second part of the chapter we use data from this study to explore how citizenship is assembled in the context of a citizen-to-citizen network of advice-giving. How are conceptions of citizenship as a horizontal relationship negotiated in the face of the dis-assembling of citizenship in politics and policy? The emerging data suggests a complex field of negotiation, leading us to some conceptual reflections on theory and practice in everyday sites and relationships. But first we explore the tortured relationship between neoliberalism and citizenship first from the perspective of the global North, then focusing down on the UK.

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