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Responsibilisation on Government's Terms: New Welfare and the Governance of Responsibility and Solidarity

  • Rik Peeters (a1)

The notion of ‘governance’ is often studied from a public management perspective and is associated with the image of a modest or even retreating state. However, ‘governance’ can also be studied from a political perspective, which focuses on issues of power and interests in governance practices. This shifts attention from a modest state to the techniques governments use to step into society and influence citizen behaviour. Whether in crime policy, youth policy or public health policy, traditional government techniques such as penalising behaviour or compensating harm are complemented by governance techniques to manage citizen responsibility and solidarity in the face of social risks.

This article deals with the question of how politicians and governments publicly frame and legitimise a new realm of state intervention dedicated to enticing, persuading and nudging citizens to ‘take responsibility’ in producing public value. An analysis of Dutch political discourse in the first decade of the twenty-first century reveals the mechanisms by which government justifies its new approach to social issues. The traditional connotations of the notions ‘responsibility’ and ‘solidarity’ are transformed in order to mobilise citizens and approach them as both part of the problem and part of the solution to various social issues. An analysis of Dutch youth policy shows how this brings about a politicisation of citizen behaviour and implicates citizens as co-operators of political will formation.

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Social Policy and Society
  • ISSN: 1474-7464
  • EISSN: 1475-3073
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