Borderline Welfare: Feeling and Fear of Feeling in Modern Welfare

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Which 'forms of feeling' are facilitated and which discouraged within the cultures and structures of modern state welfare? This book illuminates the social and psychic dynamics of these new public cultures of welfare, locating them in relation to our understanding of borderline states of mind in individuals, organizations and society. Drawing upon their idea of a psychoanalytic sensibility rooted in Wilfred Bion's notion of 'learning from experience', the authors aim to access the new structures of feeling now taking shape in marketized and commodified health and social care systems. Integrating their reflections on clinical work with patients, consultancy with public sector organizations, political analysis, and the tradition of Group Relations Training, they offer a wide-ranging perspective on how contemporary social anxieties are managed within modern public welfare. Our collective struggle with fears of dependency and loss, and the demands of living and working in an interdependent 'networked' world give rise to fresh challenges to our ability to maintain depth of emotional engagements in welfare settings.Part of the Tavistock Clinic Series

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CHAPTER THREE. The state of mind we’re in: sincerity anxiety and the audit society

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Introduction

In Chapter One we proposed that relationships within the welfare state, and between the welfare state and other sectors of society, are conducted within a new “structure of feeling” that has replaced the climate of assumptions, values and practices that organized the post-war consensus about social welfare in Britain. The advent of the “audit society” is perhaps the most powerful and pervasive manifestation of this transformation. “Audit” is an instrument for acquiring a certain kind of knowledge and, as we have suggested, it is how society chooses to relate to the evidence for unwelcome and disturbing aspects of social life that underpins the quality of welfare engagements and relationships it promotes. The instruments through which knowledge is gathered and assessed directly affect the depth and scope of what comes to be known, and the minds of those doing the knowing. This chapter explores how our characteristic states of mind have been subject to a process of social transformation that shapes our possibilities for depth knowledge in modern welfare.

 

CHAPTER EIGHT. The vanishing organization: organizational containment in a networked world

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“There are worldwide networks that cut through geographical, political and cultural frontiers: art, science or technological discoveries and, increasingly the internet and communications in general. But there is also trafficking—in drugs, arms, currency, power, women, children, organs— and the malignant implementation of globalisation. It seems that before where there was a border, now there is a network. In its luminous aspect, it is a symbol-generating and containing fabric that modulates, diversifies and expands. In its ominous aspect, it spells dislocation, disintegration and degradation.”

(Abadi, 2003, p. 223).

It is in the changed experience of everyday organizational life in the welfare state over the last decade that the metaphor of the “borderline” may have its most immediate and self-evident appeal. “Change is now the only form of stability” is a common way of encapsulating this transformation, one that impresses itself simultaneously at the psychological and the social level because of our everyday individual transactions with organizational forms, “in role” as both providers and consumers of health and welfare. Just as none of us can escape the impact of the “audit culture” as ordinary citizens (see Chapter Three), each of us in our dealings with schools, health services, local authorities, and so on is aware of having been reconstructed by the transformations discussed in this chapter. We acquire, and continually negotiate, an important part of our sense of social and personal identity through our relat-edness to the organizations via which welfare is made real in our lives. Instability of core identity is a central feature of how we have characterized borderline states of mind, and as organizational formations and identities mutate, so must we; it is the social and psychic consequences of this state of affairs that we address below.

 

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