Accepted paper:

Citizen-consumer in the quasi-commercial state

Authors:

Simone Abram (Durham University)

Paper short abstract:

The experiences of people involved in an urban regeneration process illustrate how notions of the relation of citizen to state have developed in Britain in recent years, with the development of a discourse on user-participation.

Paper long abstract:

There are many words which can be used to describe a citizen in new welfare states, but one of the most common has become the customer or service-user. In investigating these new terms, we find a shift in the relationship between state and citizenry at both central and local levels. Intervening in this relationship are a range of institutional 'partners' such as private companies and corporations, charitable organisations and voluntary groups, and semi-commercial agencies. In this paper, I examine the experiences of people involved in an urban regeneration process in order to examine where the notion of citizen appears (if at all) in the new constellations of government. I discuss the notion of the individual citizen as object of state activities in relation to the construction of a stratified and peculiarly-differentiated 'public', and demonstrate how abstract notions of the relation of citizen to state have developed in Britain in recent years, with the development of a discourse on user-participation. I then show how this discourse runs counter to political ambitions to diversify the engagement of commercial organizations in public projects.

panel W029
Anthropology of citizenship(s): comparing conceptions and analysing changes from Europe