Neoliberalism and the Return of the Guardian State: Micromanaging Indigenous Peoples in a New Chapter of Colonial Governance

in Will Sanders (ed), Engaging Indigenous Economy: Debating Diverse Approaches (Australian National University Press, 2016) 155-169

16 Pages Posted: 21 Aug 2016

See all articles by Shelley Bielefeld

Shelley Bielefeld

Griffith University - Griffith Law School; School of Regulation and Global Governance (RegNet)

Date Written: April 2, 2016

Abstract

Neoliberalism promotes policies that continue to reproduce structural inequality for Indigenous peoples. This is particularly apparent in the area of income management. Although neoliberalism endorses the ideal of a minimal state, it is also committed to the ideal of self-reliant individuals functioning as part of capitalist machinery. Indigenous welfare recipients who do not conform to this neoliberal ideal have been portrayed as deviants who fail to take responsibility for their behaviour. Thus the stigmatizing and intrusive tools of new paternalism are now being employed to remake deviant subjects into good neoliberal citizens. New paternalism requires an amply resourced guardian state in order to bring this moralistic crusade into fruition. Yet the government’s dream remains of a more minimalist state in the future, one in which all the idealised neoliberal citizens go to work each day, eventually reducing welfare expenditure. New paternalists claim to implement their coercive policies for the good of those subject to them, which is familiar rhetoric to Indigenous peoples. New paternalism therefore provides colonial governments with a convenient cover, a new label for their old racism. The heavy influence of new paternalism is seen in the income management discourse which has portrayed Indigenous welfare recipients as drug addled irresponsible parents, and Indigenous communities as places where abnormal behaviours flourish due to Indigenous cultural deficiencies.

However, as a technique of paternalistic governance, income management cannot eradicate the poverty experienced by Indigenous welfare recipients, because micromanaging the paltry sums they receive will never redress the structural disadvantage Indigenous people experience. Nor can income management effectively address generations of impoverishing government policies. Neoliberalism and new paternalism simply serve the objectives of the colonial state by reinforcing the same patterns of oppression and domination that have plagued Indigenous people since the commencement of colonisation.

Keywords: Indigenous Peoples, Income Management, Neoliberalism, New Paternalism, Colonialism

JEL Classification: K39

Suggested Citation

Bielefeld, Shelley, Neoliberalism and the Return of the Guardian State: Micromanaging Indigenous Peoples in a New Chapter of Colonial Governance (April 2, 2016). in Will Sanders (ed), Engaging Indigenous Economy: Debating Diverse Approaches (Australian National University Press, 2016) 155-169, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2824292

Shelley Bielefeld (Contact Author)

Griffith University - Griffith Law School ( email )

Nathan Campus, GU
Nathan 4111
Australia

School of Regulation and Global Governance (RegNet) ( email )

Canberra, Australian Capital Territory 2601
Australia

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