Normalization And “Outsiderhood”

Feminist Readings of a Neoliberal Welfare State

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This volume presents an illuminating analysis of the ways in which normalization processes and practices operate in a welfare state in an age of neoliberalism. This informative book problematizes the ...
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Siv Fahlgren


This chapter analyzes the normalization processes that take place in a Swedish social welfare institution for children/families, as processes in which social life is regulated by sociotemporal patterns. Agendas for change in social work institutions are often tied to linear clock time and are continuously repeated in institutional practice. The empirical material consists of ten narrative interviews conducted with the personnel and is here analyzed in relation to the meaning of time in the narratives. The aim is to show how certain concepts of time become normalized as the supposedly neutral foundation for social life, and how the values and power relations inherent in them in terms of gender, race/ethnicity and class become invisible. This normalization makes time into part of institutional disciplining, thus legitimizing certain social practices while others are discredited. The very construction of normalcy itself seems to depend on a linear time structure (the right time, on time etc.). Ironically, these normalization processes may reproduce the very social power orders that create social marginalization, stigmatization and social problems that social work has to challenge. Normalization processes linked to linear time may discredit social practices related to process time, and it is the practices within process time that challenge those social power orders through which the privileged are made to appear normal and the underprivileged abnormal. By understanding and conceptualizing time as complex and various and as interpenetrating and permeating our daily lives, we open up the possibility of discussing and challenging these normalization processes through which outsiderhood is created and maintained.


normalization processes, social work, time, linear time, process time, time of the mindful body, gender, family home, social services, institutional practices, power relations, welfare state, neoliberal.


Department of Social Sciences, Mid Sweden University, 851 70 Sundsvall, Sweden.