Recovery-as-Policy as a Form of Neoliberal State Making

Brigit McWade


In this paper I provide an analysis of the implementation of “recovery” as a policy object and commitment in the United Kingdom. This can be situated as part of the New Labour government’s (1997–2010) reform of the NHS during the 2000s. Through a textual analysis of policy and legislation from this time I draw out a tension between contemporary ideals of choice and autonomy in health care and the specificities of a mental health care system in which psychiatrists are legislatively empowered to treat patients without their consent. In the United Kingdom, evidence continues to show that the most economically and socially disadvantaged members of British society are most likely to be detained under the Mental Health Act (2007). This paper provides an intersectional analysis of the ways in which policy, legislation and psychiatrization enact particular subjects as “failed” citizens. Following Tyler (2010, 2013), I argue that these practices of exclusion and detainment are constituent elements of neoliberal state making, which are discriminatory and unjust.


recovery; mental health policy; mental health law; neoliberalism; detention

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