Social Suffering in the Neoliberal Age : State Power, Logics and Resistance book cover
1st Edition

Social Suffering in the Neoliberal Age
State Power, Logics and Resistance

ISBN 9780367675554
Published May 6, 2022 by Routledge
262 Pages

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Book Description

This book provides a rich synthesis of research and theory of nascent and emergent critically engaged work examining changing welfare structures, regimes and technologies and the social suffering that is generated in everyday lives.

By rigorously examining social security restructuring with the turn to austerity governance and its daily practices of managing, regulating and subordinating individuals, peoples and communities, this collection delineates the machinery of state power and logics designed to manage, contain and control the lives of some of the most poorest and marginalised citizens who are reliant on social welfare income payments. A core strength of the book is, first, its unpacking of austerity governance across diverse communities and, second, the elevation of community resistance and mobilisation against the very measures of austerity. Combined, the work maps out the logics of state power and everyday practices of embedded contestation and confrontation.

Using the case study of Australia to discuss sociolegal recategorisations, automation of welfare governance, technologies of policy design and delivery, conditionality and systems of penalisation, this book will be of interest to all scholars and students of sociology, critical theory, social policy, social work and disability studies, Indigenous studies and settler-colonialism.

Table of Contents

0.Introduction: Social suffering and resistance in the social protection systemPart I: Structure, power and social suffering.  1.‘Problem family’ representations: the construction of intergenerational disadvantage in policy.  2.Corroding motherhood: Australian single mothers’ social suffering and supplication.  3.Violence-induced social suffering and the toxic mix of automated and privatised social security: the case of the Cashless Debit Card in Australia.  4.Public service ethics and the Income Compliance Program.  5.Barriers to recovery: the impact of disability social security reform on the lives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians living with mental health conditions.  6.Neoliberal principles and the perpetuation of ableism in the economic participation stream of the Information, Linkages and Capacity Building program. 7.Whose aged care? My Aged Care representations of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and ageing.  8.Torture in the Meantime: Australia’s mandatory detention regime for asylum seekers.  Part II: Practices of resistance and hope. 9.Subjectification, suffering and emotional resistance: life on the Cashless Debit Card. 10.Universal income and services for people with disability in Australia: lessons from the blind pension. 11.Neoliberalism and suffering in higher education: compassionate pedagogy as an act of resistance.  12.Transforming colonial social suffering: strategies of hope and resistance by LGBTIQ+ Indigenous peoples in settler-colonial Australia.  13. First Nations organisations and strategies of disruption and resistance to settler-colonial governance in Australia. 14. Conclusion: Making suffering legible.

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Karen Soldatic is Professor, School of Social Sciences, and Institute Fellow, Institute for Culture and Society, Western Sydney University. Karen’s research engages with critical questions of inequality, disability, race and ethnicity, and sexuality and gender diversity under settler-colonial regimes of power and within the global South and East. She obtained her PhD (Distinction) in 2010 from the University of Western Australia.

Louise St Guillaume is an Early Career Researcher in the field of disability studies and lecturer and discipline coordinator of sociology at The University of Notre Dame Australia. She was a Summer Scholar at the federal Australian Parliamentary Library in 2014 and the 2019 E.G. Whitlam Fellow at the Whitlam Institute within Western Sydney University. She is currently a Fellow at the Whitlam Institute. Her research often examines how Australian social security policies intersect and operate to govern the lives of people with disability.


Social Suffering in the Neoliberal Age: State Power, Logics and Resistance is a collection of important works that document the ongoing suffering produced by the Australian social security system in the name of welfare. The works also expand our understandings to foster new ways of thinking, rethinking and approaching social security futures – including centring practices of resistance and refusal. A must read for anyone wanting to understand contemporary social security, particularly in a settler colonial context, and the cracks to which efforts could be focused for change.

 Dr Elise Klein, Senior Lecturer Policy and Governance HDR Convenor, Crawford School of Public Policy, College of Asia and the Pacific 

Social Suffering in the Neoliberal Age: State Power, Logics and Resistance provides a powerful and diverse account of how the protective features of Australia’s social security system have been weakened over time and incrementally replaced with technical systems of governance and classification that establish, maintain and intensify social and racial hierarchies. The collection strikes a stimulating balance between the necessary, yet troubling, work of identifying how power is wielded through the social security system and providing illustrative pathways of hope, opportunity and resistance.
Professor Kay Cook, Associate Dean Research, School of Social Sciences, Media, Film and Education, Swinburne University of Technology

A timely and extremely important book that puts social protection, governance and assumptions about these under a much needed critical spotlight to expose the inordinate suffering caused under the neoliberal regime, with a view to finding effective, human sites of resistance. These are theoretical and practical concerns that will echo well beyond the Australian context.
Dr Shaun Grech, The Critical Institute, Malta

Focusing on the specific context of the Australian social security system, Social Suffering in the Neoliberal Age: State Power, Logics and Resistance critically examines the ever-growing structures of social inequalities in neoliberal capitalism. By drawing attention on intersectional forms of disparities and discrimination including, but certainly not limited to, structural violence, economic deprivation and  colonial continuities as well as mechanisms of stigmatisation and exclusion of marginalized groups from participation in economic, social, cultural and political processes within the Australian welfare state, this collection of critical chapters also provides practices of resistance and hope in the postcolonial moment that. 
Dr Robel Afeworki Abay, Humboldt University of Berlin

Soldatic, St. Guillaume, and their collaborators have curated a set of book chapters that powerfully challenge oppressive neoliberal social protection policies in Australia. The authors do so by powerfully centering the perspectives and lived experiences of the historically marginalised people these damaging policies are purported to protect. The personal narratives and alternative approaches presented in this book are a must-read for anyone interested in social reform and the redistribution of power to those who have been traumatised from inhumane governmental policies.
Dr Brent C. Elder, Assistant Professor, Rowan University