Recovery-as-Policy as a Form of Neoliberal State Making


  • Brigit McWade Lancaster University


recovery, mental health policy, mental health law, neoliberalism, detention


In this paper I provide an analysis of the implementation of “recovery” as a policy object and commitment in the United Kingdom. This can be situated as part of the New Labour government’s (1997–2010) reform of the NHS during the 2000s. Through a textual analysis of policy and legislation from this time I draw out a tension between contemporary ideals of choice and autonomy in health care and the specificities of a mental health care system in which psychiatrists are legislatively empowered to treat patients without their consent. In the United Kingdom, evidence continues to show that the most economically and socially disadvantaged members of British society are most likely to be detained under the Mental Health Act (2007). This paper provides an intersectional analysis of the ways in which policy, legislation and psychiatrization enact particular subjects as “failed” citizens. Following Tyler (2010, 2013), I argue that these practices of exclusion and detainment are constituent elements of neoliberal state making, which are discriminatory and unjust.

Author Biography

Brigit McWade, Lancaster University

Dr. Brigit McWade recently completed her PhD in Sociology at Lancaster University, her thesis is entitled Enacting Recovery in an English NHS "arts for mental health" Service. She is currently working as a Researcher for Dr. Imogen Tyler on her new projects - The Stigma Doctrine - looking at stigma, welfare reform and inequalities.

She runs the Mad Studies Network wordpress site and mailing list and co-convened a Mad Studies stream as part of Lancaster University's Disability Studies conference with Prof. Peter Beresford.