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Ideological Closure: Drug Prevention in a Post-political Society
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Sociology.ORCID iD: 0000-0001-8923-0870
2016 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The aim of this thesis is to critically examine drug prevention as a field of problematizations  – how drug prevention becomes established as a political technology within this field, how it connects to certain modes of governance, how and under which conditions it constitutes it’s problematic, the questions it asks,  it´s implications in terms of political participation and representation, the various bodies of knowledge through which it constitutes the reality upon which it acts, the limits it places on ways of being, questioning, and talking  in the world.

The main analyses have been conducted in four separate but interrelated articles. Each article addresses a specific dimension of drug prevention in order to get a grasp of how this field is organized. Article 1 examines the shift that has occurred in the Swedish context during the period 1981–2011 in how drugs have been problematized, what knowledge has grounded the specific modes of problematization and which modes of governance this has enabled. In article 2, the currently dominant scientific discipline in the field of drug prevention – prevention science – is critically examined in terms of how it constructs the “drug problem” and the underlying assumptions it carries in regard to reality and political governance. Article 3 addresses the issue of communities’ democratic participation in drug prevention efforts by analyzing the theoretical foundations of the Communities That Care prevention program. The article seeks to uncover how notions of community empowerment and democratic participation are constructed, and how the “community” is established as a political entity in the program. The fourth and final article critically examines the Swedish Social and Emotional Training (SET) program and the political implications of the relationship the program establishes between the subject and emotions.

The argument is made that, within the field of drug prevention, questions of political values and priorities in a problematic way are decoupled from the political field and pose a significant problem in terms of the possibilities to engage in democratic deliberation. Within this field of problematizations it becomes impossible to mobilize a politics against social injustice, poverty and inequality. At the same time, the scientific grounding of this mode of governing the drug “problem” acts to naturalize a specific – highly political – way of engaging with drugs.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Department of Sociology, Stockholm University , 2016. , 55 p.
Series
Stockholm studies in sociology, ISSN 0491-0885 ; 63
Keyword [en]
Drug prevention, politics, knowledge, ideology
National Category
Sociology
Research subject
Sociology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-131156ISBN: 978-91-7649-446-2OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-131156DiVA: diva2:936804
Public defence
2016-09-09, hörsal 2, hus A, Universitetsvägen 10 A, Stockholm, 10:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2016-08-17 Created: 2016-06-14 Last updated: 2016-09-01Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Drug prevention, politics and knowledge: Ideology in the making
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Drug prevention, politics and knowledge: Ideology in the making
2014 (English)In: Addiction Research and Theory, ISSN 1606-6359, E-ISSN 1476-7392, Vol. 22, no 4, 336-347 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The quest for rational and effective methods for political action has long been at the forefront of Swedish drug policy and prevention. This article focuses on the ideological dimension of Swedish drug prevention policy during the years 1981–2011 by examining the knowledge utilisation in the construction of drugs as a political problem. Ten public reports have been analysed in terms of how drugs are constructed as problems in policy proposals, including an analysis of how knowledge is used in proposals for preventive measures. There was a marked shift in the 1990s in how the drug issue was constructed as a problem and what preventive measures should be taken. What used to be an issue of social exclusion that should be managed politically on a structural level now became a behavioural concern and a matter of liberal drug values. Values, then, were to be addressed by methods aimed at modifying individual behaviour. The analysis suggests that drug prevention today has been constructed in a way that precludes reading drugs as a problem of social exclusion. Drugs are constructed as a problem to be handled by experts rather than politics, which helps to circumvent demands for political accountability and the very possibility of constructing drugs as a political problem.

Keyword
Drug prevention, ideology, knowledge, policy, problem representation, Sweden
National Category
Sociology
Research subject
Sociology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-96391 (URN)10.3109/16066359.2013.856886 (DOI)000339139000007 ()
Available from: 2013-11-14 Created: 2013-11-20 Last updated: 2016-06-14Bibliographically approved
2. Politics of Prevention: The Emergence of Prevention Science
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Politics of Prevention: The Emergence of Prevention Science
2015 (English)In: International journal on drug policy, ISSN 0955-3959, E-ISSN 1873-4758, Vol. 26, no 8, 746-754 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Background

This article critically examines the political dimension of prevention science by asking how it constructs the problems for which prevention is seen as the solution and how it enables the monitoring and control of these problems. It also seeks to examine how prevention science has established a sphere for legitimate political deliberation and which kinds of statements are accepted as legitimate within this sphere.

Methods

The material consists of 14 publications describing and discussing the goals, concepts, promises and problems of prevention science. The analysis covers the period from 1993 to 2012.

Results

The analysis shows that prevention science has established a narrow definition of “prevention”, including only interventions aimed at the reduction of risks for clinical disorders. In publications from the U.S. National Institute of Drug Abuse, the principles of prevention science have enabled a commitment to a zero-tolerance policy on drugs. The drug using subject has been constructed as a rational choice actor lacking in skills in exerting self-control in regard to drug use. Prevention science has also enabled the monitoring and control of expertise, risk groups and individuals through specific forms of data gathering. Through the juxtaposition of the concepts of “objectivity” and “morality”, prevention science has constituted a principle of delineation, disqualifying statements not adhering to the principles of prevention science from the political field, rendering ethical and conflictual dimensions of problem representations invisible.

Conclusion

The valorisation of scientific accounts of drugs has acted to naturalise specific political ideals. It simultaneously marginalises the public from the public policy process, giving precedence to experts who are able to provide information that policy-makers are demanding. Alternative accounts, such as those based on marginalisation, poverty or discrimination are silenced within prevention science.

Keyword
Prevention science, Politics, Governmentality, Ideology
National Category
Sociology
Research subject
Sociology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-120276 (URN)10.1016/j.drugpo.2015.03.011 (DOI)
Available from: 2015-09-04 Created: 2015-09-04 Last updated: 2016-06-14Bibliographically approved
3. Empowered Communities: Science, Ideology and the Limits of Political Action
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Empowered Communities: Science, Ideology and the Limits of Political Action
2016 (English)In: Nordic Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, ISSN 1458-6126Article in journal (Refereed) Epub ahead of print
Abstract [en]

AIMS: Against the background of an increased interest in community participation in political processes, the aim of this article is to critically examine how the “community” is constituted as a political entity in the Communities That Care drug prevention program.

METHOD: Through an examination of 13 publications written by the program developers of the program and other collaborators, I have analyzed the program’s theoretical foundation.

RESULTS: The program seeks to constitute the community as an expert community, drawing on the principles of prevention science in its decision making processes and thereby asserting the primacy of scientific reasoning in politics. Disagreement, otherwise regarded as the “essence” of democratic politics, is to be neutralized through the establishment of a common language based on prevention science. The program constitutes needs as existing independently of any culturally and politically informed interpretations and readily met by ready-tested, evidence-based interventions. By combining a consumer subject and an instrumental-rational subject, the program establishes a specific kind of democratic subject, expected to exert its choices on a market offering ready-made solutions to problems formulated outside of the community’s decision making processes.

CONCLUSION: The analysis points to a range of limitations and issues regarding how community empowerment and democratic participation are conceptualized in the program. By asserting the primacy of scientific reasoning in drug policy processes, the program sets limits to what counts as a political problem and which responses are deemed legitimate. This risks exerting significant closure on the ability of communities to speak in properly political terms.

Keyword
Drug prevention, community empowerment, prevention science, democracy, ideology
National Category
Sociology (excluding Social Work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology)
Research subject
Sociology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-131151 (URN)10.1515/nsad-2016-0024 (DOI)
Available from: 2016-06-14 Created: 2016-06-14 Last updated: 2016-09-02
4. Drug use and affective politics: The political implications of social emotional training
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Drug use and affective politics: The political implications of social emotional training
2016 (English)In: Contemporary Drug Problems, ISSN 0091-4509, E-ISSN 2163-1808Article in journal (Refereed) Epub ahead of print
Abstract [en]

This article examines how a Swedish program for social emotional learning establishes a relationship between the subject and emotions, and the political implications of this relationship. This includes an examination of how emotions fit with notions of “evidence-based policy” in the drug field. The key questions are: (1) How are emotions constituted in programs of social emotional training (SET)? (2) How is the subject and its relationship to emotions and social norms constituted in this program? (3) What are the political implications of the relationship between the subject and emotions? The article shows that the SET program seeks to instill in the subject the ability to identify and control emotions in order to become an emotionally mature subject. The program establishes a neurodisciplinary regime where the subject is to “re-wire” its synaptic links through repetition, decoupling emotions from their cultural context. Emotions are thus reified as internal entities arising from the central nervous system. The SET program constructs a social bond which demands adherence to specific social norms governing democratic participation. The subject is expected to control its emotions and engage in cooperation, negotiation, and conflict resolution within a model of democratic communication. Refusal or inability to adhere to the norms implicit in this model of communication risk relegating the subject to the sphere of the irrational, thereby disqualifying certain practices and responses from the sphere of the political. This is what happens to drug users, as drug use is constructed as an expression of irrationality. The SET program also pacifies individuals politically by turning issues such as drug use, unemployment, and education into matters of acquiring skills rather than political action.      

Keyword
Prevention science, social emotional learning, skills enhancement, politics, Carol Bacchi, Sara Ahmed
National Category
Sociology (excluding Social Work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology)
Research subject
Sociology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-131149 (URN)10.1177/0091450916660818 (DOI)
Available from: 2016-06-14 Created: 2016-06-14 Last updated: 2016-09-20

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