Neoliberalism is an ideological mechanism that emphasizes the lessened role of the state in governing its citizens and placing more responsibility on the individual. This concept has become widely used in politics over the last 20 years or so. In fact, Harvey (2005) outlined the fall of communism in Eastern Europe as an essential factor in the emergence of neoliberalism where there was a significant change in the role of the states in terms of governing the economic sector and thus the public with increasing privatisation, financial deregulation and tax cuts. For example, Conservative Britain adopted this neoliberal practice, whereby following the election of Margaret Thatcher, the state implemented economic policies that emphasized deregulation of financial matters, development of flexible labour markets and increasing privatisation of previously state-owned institutions (Peters, 2001) such as the British railway links which was transferred to the private sector in the early 1990s and became subject of the public’s fury (Thomson and MacIntyre, 1993).
Neoliberalism is therefore in essence a political economic theory that proposes individual economic freedom and liberation of markets from state intervention. This form of governance was believed to be the most efficient way in helping the nation’s economy to flourish. By developing a ‘good business climate’ through free markets and free trading, where individual entrepreneurs are given free rein to develop their own rules and regulations, this can help to maintain the power and ideological values that capitalist elites endorse, whilst the well-being of all in society are ignored (Harvey, 2005). This is because they are free to make profits through any means possible.
However, by transferring state responsibility to individuals and by diminishing their role in welfare provision, healthcare and education, it leaves certain social groups especially the disadvantaged, at risk of further exploitation and destitution (Harvey, 2005), in fact, in his literature, he stated that neoliberalism is “a system that emphasizes personal responsibility, personal failure attributed to personal failings and the victim is all too often blamed”.
On the other hand, neoliberalism can also apply on a micro and more personal level. For instance, Peters (2001) proposed that neoliberal practices promote the idea of individuality and rational choice in guiding human behaviour. This is further affirmed by Martinez and Garcia (2000) who claimed that because of placing more emphasis on individual responsibility, the concept of public good and community is forgotten. This again puts pressure on disadvantaged groups to find own solutions to the social problems they face namely, unemployment and issues such as domestic violence. Langan, Hannem & Stewart (2014) also identified that neoliberal practices influenced the way in which women perceived their victimization experiences and hence, the way they regulate themselves. In their research, most women initially expressed that they often refrained from asking for financial help from the state in face of financial difficulties but voiced their expectations for the state to protect them and their children, whom they claimed have so far failed to provide meaningful support nor have adequately responded to their needs with regard to safety. In other words, this shows that neoliberal practices and policies has impeded and restricted the efforts of social institutions in supporting women and their children.
Extract of Domestic Violence case:
“Poppy jointly owned her home with her abusive husband who was living with his family of origin in another city until his probation order expired. Poppy wanted to divorce her husband and secure an independent living arrangement with her children but because she was a homeowner and earned an income, Poppy was disqualified from state-supported resources that would provide the means for her and her children to move. Although, she was willing to sign over her share of the home to her husband, she knew that doing so would anger him and increase the threat that he already posed. Because she had also declared bankruptcy previously as result of his drinking, she had a bad credit rating and was unable to rent another dwelling.” (Langton et al, 2014)
In this particular interview that they conducted they concluded that due to the state’s neoliberal form of governance and policies, it led to particular outcomes which largely disadvantaged women. The fact that she was financially independent from the state and being a home-owner has restricted her from receiving state-funded resources and therefore the means to leave her abusive relationship. Hence, they add that she remains at risk of further physical harm particularly if she choose to cut all financial ties with her husband. In conclusion, this shows that neoliberal governance has in a way, legitimized the victimization of women- the lack of state and institutional support led to women seeing their victimization as more of a personal and individualized problem that they need to cope and find solutions to, rather than an issue which requires the intervention of the state.
Psy-complex and Domestic Violence
Psy-complex is typically referred to as a mechanism which helps to construct new subjectivities and identities through the regulation of the “psychological self” that usually involves a set of psy -disciplines or psy-professions such as psychotherapy, psychoanalysis, counselling and developmental psychology ( Parker & Revelli, 2008) which all play an important in the development of professional practices and policies in line with both the social norms but more importantly with the political objectives of a neoliberal government I.e. the regulation of the self in order to maintain a well-ordered and healthy society. In terms of domestic violence, psy- disciplines along with experts aim to construct a number of approaches which best deals with such a sensitive and often personal issue, especially considering that there is a tendency for a gender discourse in this topic whereby men are often stereotyped as the abuser or perpetrator and women as the victims (Lawrence, 2012) Hence, this may require more than a therapeutic or a punitive approach.
State agencies and institutions have different strategies in dealing with intimate partner violence. On one hand, medical institutions and mental health services often take a therapeutic and rehabilitative approach through provision of counselling practice and various forms of psychological therapy. This is prevalent in the UK where there is a range of established organisations such as Women’s Aid, and professionals whom are specifically trained to deal with domestic violence (Lawrence, 2012).
For example, psychotherapy is considered as a discursive practice which allows the regulation of the psychological self. Psychotherapy consists of a variety of techniques which often involves discussing the account of the event including the individuals’ thoughts and feelings with a trained therapist (NHS, 2015) which in this case is domestic violence and women’s victimisation. According to, psychotherapy is accessible and offered to both the perpetrator and the victim, in which it is implemented as a preventive measure for future abuse or offence (Branney, 2006) and more specifically, as a mode of self-regulation for the victims especially since women have a tendency to engage in a cycle of self-blame for their victimisation. Hence, the purpose of psychotherapy is to help change the way they think and feel about their experiences and turn maladaptive thoughts into adaptive ones (MNT, 2009)
However, therapeutic approaches can also be restrictive.
1) In terms of psychotherapy, its practice is governed by ethical and professional codes that is often used in treating mental health illnesses such as depression, therefore there is an underlying danger of producing undesirable outcomes for the victim because they are at risk of being pathologised (i.e. implying that there is an underlying psychological problem in the victim which predisposed them to threats and acts of domestic abuse) and since their victimisation has been redefined as a medical problem (Lawrence, 2012). Furthermore, by redefining domestic violence as a healthcare issue, it also affects those who are responsible for dealing with it, for example it can affect the way in which healthcare professionals enquire and document domestic violence cases and at the same time, compete for priority with other health and social issues (Lavis et al).
2) Therapeutic interventions such as psychoanalysis are based on subjective interpretations of the psychoanalyst who often “read between the lines” depending on what is reported by the client. This therefore can interfere with the recovery and regulatory aims of the practice because rather than uncovering the ‘real’ experiences of domestic abuse and finding solutions for it, we rely on an ‘expert’ who could project established stereotypes in their interpretations of the event e.g. the perception of victims as powerless (Lawrence, 2012).
3) Additionally, psy-complex often works within the parameters set by the authoritative state. As policies and practices within social institutions reflect the dominant groups in society, in terms of the problem of intimate partner violence, this limits what can and cannot be defined as intimate partner violence but also who is and is not criminalised (Lawrence, 2012).
On the contrary, domestic abuse cases are also dealt with by the police and criminal justice systems whom are well- known for taking a more punitive approach. For example, there were policies introduced requiring the police to respond to reports of domestic violence through mandatory arrests (Buzawa& Buzawa, cited in Messing, 2011) and heightened protection and social security of such victims. like therapeutic interventions, this form of social control is criticised because perpetrators are at risk of discrimination by police institutions which then leads to their stigmatisation.