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From Welfare To Wellbeing: the politics of Finnish, Swedish and UK education policy
Stockholms universitet, Humanistiska fakulteten, Institutionen för de humanistiska och samhällsvetenskapliga ämnenas didaktik. Högskolan Dalarna, Sverige.ORCID-id: 0000-0003-1776-478X
2019 (engelsk)Konferansepaper, Oral presentation with published abstract (Fagfellevurdert)
Abstract [sv]

The amount of public debate and media attention concerning mental health problems, stress and anxiety among young people in education in Western Europe has reached record levels while the therapeutic ethos has prompted considerable changes in educational and cross-sectoral policies.  Psycho-emotional wellbeing of young people has become a central concern, youth support systems have increased, and educational policies have aligned with therapeutic ethos. This trend is marked out by a more general shift of policy agendas where the former stress on welfare regimes is replaced for a stress on individual and psycho-emotional wellbeing and therapeutic regimes. Accordingly, psychologically and therapeutically oriented language has become prevalent in cross-sectoral policies as well as in social and cultural practices in Europe (e.g. Madsen, 2018; Wright, 2011; Ecclestone & Brunila, 2015; Brunila, 2017; Brunila, forthcoming; Gillies et al 2017; Irisdotter Aldenmyr & Olson, 2016; Fejes, 2008).

Earlier research has linked the neoliberalization of the welfare state to the rise of therapeutic ethos (e.g. Brunila & Ylöstalo, forthcoming; Wright, 2011; Isin, 2004). We argue that therapeutic ethos works in accordance to neoliberalization because they aim at producing resilient citizens who provide for their own needs and develop their competitiveness (see also, Brunila & al., forthcoming; Kananen, 2012, Kantola, 2003). As a result of this shift, political claims are today being made on the basis of inherent mental and psycho-emotional vulnerabilities while long established education political demands for recognition among different individuals and groups have resulted in therapeutic implementations (Ecclestone & Hayes, 2005; Brunila & Rossi, 2016). The rise of the so-called psy-discourses (e.g. psychology, psychiatry, psychoanalysis) in education can be seen as closely allied with this shift (Rose, 1998; Petersen & Millei, 2016). What is new is not the policy phenomenon as such, but rather the very mainstreaming of mental-health categories in education policy and in other areas, such as public health and social workers’ (and the police’s) policy and practical programmes. Followed by an altered way in which the very meaning and public/common understanding of mental health has changed in these policy agendas.

Heavy stress on psychology as an ‘explicatory’ discipline to young people’s (ill)health and wellbeing has hitherto, it seems, become more common than before (Brunila & al., forthcoming; Gillies 2016; Honkasilta, 2017). Mental health categories have been inflated to embrace a much wider span of the population. This tendency is in line with the international trend, where the diagnostic categories seem to have tripled in the world, and that the threshold of what counts as a disorder kept falling until it includes embarrassment at meeting people (social phobia), according to different editions of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, XX).

With McLaughlin (2012) this trend might be depicted as an altered conception of ‘respect’. A tendency that has its roots in the current state of the art, where the welfare regimes of Western Europe seem to have substituted psychic goods for material wellbeing. This state of the art can be seen as a part of a general decline of social struggles over wages and incomes, connected with the state’s attempts to reconnect with a more individuated citizenry.

In this paper, the different ways in which this intricate travelling policy (Alexiadou, 2005) – from welfare to wellbeing - is being handled at education policy level in three different national contexts in Western Europe; Finland, Sweden and UK. The aim is, more specifically, to present an analysis at policy level of how the governments in these contexts position the issue of wellbeing, and its related packages of health care stemming from other policy fields, within the(ir) politics of education addressing young people enrolled in education.

Method

For this presentation, we brought our previously collected data from cross-sectoral and educational policies together to build a theory of the travelling policy ‘from welfare to wellbeing’ in the therapeutic ethos. This enabled us to jointly analyse documents related to educational and cross-sectoral policies in order to define their similarities and differences. We adapted a discursive approach to identify educational policies as discursive practices, emphasizing an analysis of the power relations inherent in them (Bacchi & Bonham, 2014).

Expected Outcomes

This presentation deals with the policy shift from welfare to wellbeing, neoliberalization of the welfare state and the rise of the therapeutic ethos. We claim that neoliberal welfare state reform is intensified by therapeutic ethos, as they aim at producing resilient (youth) citizens who provide for their own wellbeing while constantly developing their competitiveness. By treating social problems as questions of individual deficiencies and improvement via the therapeutic ethos, the state is constantly divesting its responsibilities towards its citizens. Analysing recent policy reforms in education in Finland, Sweden and UK, the presentation aims to show how neoliberal welfare state reform is not only intensified by the therapeutic ethos, but that the state also acts as a powerful instrument of this reform.

sted, utgiver, år, opplag, sider
2019.
Emneord [en]
welfare, wellbeing, Sweden, Finland, United Kingdom, psy-discourses, therapeutic education
HSV kategori
Forskningsprogram
pedagogik med inriktning mot utbildningsvetenskap
Identifikatorer
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-178943OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-178943DiVA, id: diva2:1392649
Konferanse
ECER 2019: “Education in an Era of Risk – the Role of Educational Research for the Future?”, Hamburg, Germany, September 2-6, 2019
Tilgjengelig fra: 2020-02-09 Laget: 2020-02-09 Sist oppdatert: 2020-02-17bibliografisk kontrollert

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