"Responsibilizing" a healthy Britain: personal debt, employment, and welfare

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Growing evidence suggests that experiences of financial strain and overindebtedness can contribute to problems of physical and mental health. This article contends that there is a need to carefully examine recent neoliberally informed symbolic and material transformations in the practices and experiences of employment, welfare, and subjectivity in order to provide an appropriately sophisticated analysis of experiences of debt and mental health. An illusion of economic growth has been based on increasing levels of often traumatic personal debt and a low-wage labor force compelled into increasingly problematic practices of employment. In recent years, a concerted neoliberal assault on subjectivity, modes of employment, minimum incomes, and practices of welfare governance has effectively constituted new forms of poverty and personal sustenance through deregulated sub-prime credit markets. The variable and multifunctional nature of personal debt has provided a substrate for neoliberal public policy by systematically reinforcing the development of a low-wage labor market and by representing a means through which to transfer collective risk into private responsibility. This article suggests that traditional ways of knowing and acting upon the mental and physical health difficulties associated with problems of debt and material deprivation fail to adequately acknowledge the political and economic role of personal debt growth.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)525-538
Number of pages14
JournalInternational Journal of Health Services
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2011


  • Neoliberalism
  • Health


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