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Towards a neoliberal citizenship regime: A post-Marxist discourse analysis

This thesis is empirically grounded in New Zealand's restructuring of unemployment and taxation policy in the 1980s and 1990s. Theoretically it is inspired by a post-Marxist discourse analytical approach that focuses on discourses as political strategies. This approach has made it possible, through an analysis of changing citizenship discourses, to understand how the neoliberalisation of New Zealand's citizenship regime proceeded via debate and struggle over unemployment and taxation policy. Debates over unemployment and taxation in New Zealand during the 1980s and 1990s reconfigured the targets of policy and re-ordered social antagonism, establishing a neoliberal citizenship regime and centring political problematic. This construction of a neoliberal citizenship regime involved re-specifying the targets of public policy as consumers and taxpayers. In exploring the hegemonic discourse strategies of the Fourth Labour Government and the subsequent National-led governments of the 1990s, this thesis traces the process of reconfiguring citizen subjectivity initially as 'social consumers' and participants in a coalition of minorities, and subsequently as universal taxpayers in antagonistic relation to unemployed beneficiaries. These changes are related back to key discursive events in New Zealand's recent social policy history as well as to shifts in the discourses of politicians that address the nature of the public interest and the targets of social policy. I argue that this neoliberalisation of New Zealand's citizenship regime was the outcome of the hegemonic articulatory discourse strategies of governing parties in the 1980s and 1990s. Struggles between government administrations and citizen-based social movement groups were articulated to the neoliberal project. I also argue that in the late 1990s, discursive struggle between the dominant parties to define themselves in difference from each other reveals both the 'de'contestation of a set of neoliberal policy prescriptions, underscoring the neoliberal political problematic, and the privileging of a contributing taxpayer identity as the source of political legitimacy. This study shows that the dynamics of discursive struggle matter and demonstrates how the outcomes of discursive struggle direct policy change. In particular, it establishes how neoliberal discourse strategies evolved from political discourses in competition with other discourses to become the hegemonic political problematic underscoring institutional practice and policy development.
Type of thesis
Hackell, M. (2007). Towards a neoliberal citizenship regime: A post-Marxist discourse analysis (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)). The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/2530
The University of Waikato
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