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Working the Spaces of Neoliberal Subjectivity: Psychotherapeutic Technologies, Professionalisation and Counselling

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Abstract:

An analysis is presented of how a particular psychotherapeutic practice, namely voluntary sector counselling, contributes to and resists neoliberal forms of governance. Neoliberal governmentality invokes a concept of the human subject as an autonomous, individualised, self‐directing, decision‐making agent, attributes fostered in different ways by psychotherapies and processes of professionalisation. In this context I explore accounts of counselling offered by voluntary sector counsellors in Scotland, focusing on practitioners’ use of the idea of empowerment to describe what they do, and on how this idea intersects with the professionalisation of counselling. I argue that empowerment and professionalisation both privilege autonomy in ways that are consonant with neoliberal subjectivity, but I also argue that there are points of resistance to the individualisation associated with technologies of calculation on which neoliberal subject formation depends.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/j.0066-4812.2005.00508.x

Affiliations: Institute of Geography, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK;, Email: liz.bondi@ed.ac.uk

Publication date: 2005-06-01

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