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EU Citizenship Discourse as Neoliberal Governmentality

Mark Flear

This paper uses a governmentality approach to highlight the operation of neoliberalism in EU citizenship discourse and its implications for citizen participation. The paper is in two parts. The first part uses the example of citizen participation in the regulation of new technologies to trace how neoliberalism, understood as optimisation through the use and dissemination of market rationality, frames EU discourse. The latter includes law, official EU documents on citizen participation in governance and citizen/science relations, the latter being inflected with the discourse on 'public understanding of science and technology', and all of them being inflected with risk. Some of the side-effects of the neoliberal framing of citizen participation are highlighted: legitimating and extending EU governance, reducing the space for oppositional formations and, because the discourses render a 'deficit model' of citizens in need of education through communication and their participation in governance, limited citizenship. The second part proposes some discourses that can be used to combat neoliberal governmentality and promote citizen participation.

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