INTRODUCTION: CHALLENGING NORMALIZATION PROCESSES IN A NEOLIBERAL WELFARE STATE
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Siv Fahlgren, Anders Johansson and Diana Mulinari
This introductory chapter provides the conceptual framework for the book, focusing in particular
on normalization processes within the contemporary neoliberal welfare state. In the first part we give the
historical background to the ways in which “the normal” has functioned within the discursive field of the
modern welfare state. The normal was double-sidedness: it was integral to the ideological formations of race
biology and other disciplining and discriminating practices within what was later to be called social work, and
it was also that which made possible the formulation of political demands for many underprivileged groups of
people. This inclusive aspect of modern welfare policy has been toned down in the current individualized and
market-oriented neoliberal welfare state. We argue in the second part of the chapter that the modern emphasis
on inclusion as a citizen’s right has been replaced by a focus on the problem of those who are excluded, those
outside, as individuals with difficulties in belonging. As we show, this shift leaves its imprint on many social
and political areas, not least the ones concerned with gender equality and immigrant policy. After the
historical overview, we briefly present some theoretical standpoints for the project, positioning ourselves in
relation to our dependence above all on Foucault, Butler and Hacking. The chapter ends in a description of
how our research relates to previous research within the areas of postcolonial theory, social policy theory,
national identities and political oppositional activism.
neoliberal transformations, the Swedish welfare state, welfare institutions, normalization processes, challenging
normalization, outsiderhood, inclusion, the normalization principal, individualization, the normal, gender, ethnicity.
Department of Social Sciences, Mid Sweden University, 851 70 Sundsvall, Sweden.