DSA2018: Global inequalities
- Elise Klein (University of Melbourne) email
- China Mills (University of Sheffield) email
- Sally Brooks (University of York) email
The individual's psychology, behaviour, subjectivity has become a targeted domain to address growing inequalities. This panel calls for papers that critically examine how psy-expertise, behavioural approaches and therapeutic cultures exacerbate or mitigate global inequalities.
Minds, behaviour and psychologies are fast becoming key sites to tackle and understand growing inequalities. While development and psy-expertise share intersecting and co-constitutive histories, there has been, of late, a shift to the more explicit mobilisation of psy-expertise, behavioural approaches and therapeutic cultures within development interventions.
This is evident in diverse arenas, from the 2015 World Development Report "Mind, Society and Behaviour'; the inclusion of mental health in the Sustainable Development Goals (target 3.4); and the burgeoning of measurement and policy focusing on subjective wellbeing and happiness. Inclusion has also increased with the growth of technologies and processes of digitisation and data capture, for example in the diagnosis and clinical management of mental health problems, and application of 'nudge' techniques, the shaping of subjectivities to aid financial inclusion, and positive psychology to produce specific behaviours and mentalities such as positive thinking and wellbeing.
To some, the use of psy-expertise, behavioural approaches and therapeutic cultures in development policy is a new way to tackle and understand inequality, increase economic efficiency and promote wellbeing. Others are concerned with its re-inscription of universal, individualist constructions of personhood, its objective of 'correcting' individuals' decision-making, the abstraction of subjective data from their specific context, and the possibility of appropriation by political and economic actors, with neo-colonial implications.
This panel calls for papers that critically examine how psy-expertise, behavioural approaches and therapeutic cultures exacerbate or mitigate global inequalities.
The panel is proposed by the study group on Wellbeing, Psychology and Therapeutic Culture in International Development
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.
'Who is really behaving badly?: The Cashless Debit Card and welfare policy in settler-colonial Australia'
I draw on a thirteen-month study of an income management program in Australia. I find that through restricting consumption, the card aims to instil 'responsible behaviour' such as getting a job in the capitalist economy, accumulating private property and succeeding in English education.
By targeting First Nations subjectivities with behavioural conditions, state benefits are a contemporary technology of settler colonisation and assimilation in Australia. In this paper, I draw on a thirteen-month study examining an income management program; the Cashless Debit Card trial in the East Kimberley region, to examine contemporary assimilation in welfare policy. Through restricting cash and purchases to curb alcohol consumption, illegal drug use and gambling, the card aims to instil 'responsible behaviour' such as getting a job in the capitalist economy, accumulating private property and succeeding in English education. Whilst assimilation attempts are made, there is resistance and pushback in the trial site. Attempts of assimilation, not actual assimilation can only be observed. Still, whilst there have been ongoing efforts by governments to use welfare towards assimilation, contemporary welfare policy exposes the intersection between the process of settler colonialism and the empowerment of Australian capitalism. The trial also exposes how assimilation is legitimised by the State in contemporary Australia. Legitimisation includes the promulgation of narratives of First Nations dysfunction, alcoholism, drug use and gambling, constructing evidence of program success through a flawed evaluation process, depoliticising settler colonialism and relational poverty, and propelling narratives of community and consultation to infer a locally led program.
Changing minds for development : the will to compete in global development agendas
This paper shows how sciences of the mind are mobilised by traditional development actors but also emerging donors to rectify weaknesses of the irrational human being and to promote competitive behaviour as a principle of social organisation and a solution to material inequalities.
Psychological qualities and human emotions are central to the politics of capitalist reproduction. This paper analyses the rise of development agendas that seek to enrol the mind into the global reproduction and expansion of capitalism. It looks into several programmatic ways in which sciences of the mind are mobilised by traditional developmental governance institutions, but also by emerging donors such as the Republic of Korea (ROK), to rectify weaknesses of the irrational human being and to promote competitive behaviour as a solution to material inequalities. Techniques for the reproduction of a capitalist ethos have become imbued with the therapeutic language of healing and empathy, as the rise of nudging governance exemplifies. Development models that bank upon individual psychology and subjectivity seek to govern irrational deficiencies while nurturing a certain, circumscribed, form of creative irrationality, necessary for competition-nurturing Schumpeterian entrepreneurs to emerge and spur growth. Developmental subjects are to be re-educated to adopt development-oriented behaviours and accept the principle of competition as a fundamental principle of social organisation. This instills what I call the will to compete in developmental projects, building upon Tania Murray-Li (2007): the will of development practitioners and planners to make developing communities competitive both locally and globally; and the will to make developmental subjects compete in order to render them fit for capitalism. The paper is based on an analysis of recent World Bank publications, as well as findings from field research on Korea's rural development programs in the Philippines from 2015 to 2016.
Manifestations of Treatment Seeking in Rural Thailand and Lao PDR and Their Social, Economic, and Technological Determinants: A Comparative Analysis
We challenge global health discourse and speak to the theme of global inequalities through a study of the manifestations and determinants of treatment-seeking behaviour. Our comparative study draws on survey data from 2,400 Thai and Lao villagers and 60 supplementary cognitive interviews.
Inequality enters the global health discourse typically through considerations of "diseases of poverty" and through "social determinants of health"-both of which portray poverty as a risk factor for morbidity and mortality. Much of the language surrounding the underlying mechanisms revolves around information deficits, economic rationality, and psychological arguments, but complementary anthropological and sociological perspectives of structural factors that deprive people of choice, or that ascribe meaning to different healthcare choices, continue to remain peripheral in the global health discourse. By focusing on the constraints of marginalised groups, and the solutions at their disposal to overcome them, this paper contributes to the global health discourse against the thematic backdrop of global health inequalities.
We study the case of treatment seeking in rural Thailand and Lao PDR and investigate the question "What are the manifestations and determinants of treatment seeking in rural Thailand and Lao PDR?" Our analytical framework considers psychological as well as structural factors underlying "problematic behaviour," from which we derive two hypotheses:
H1. Marginalised groups have fewer means to access formal treatment, which increases their likelihood to rely on over-the-counter medicines as an alternative solution.
H2. Technology use increases formal healthcare access but is directed towards for-profit providers.
We test these hypotheses with primary data from a district-level representative health behaviour survey among 2,400 villagers, supplemented with qualitative data from 60 cognitive interviews. The comparative analysis of two neighbouring countries at different stages of economic and health system development thereby offers lessons for development policy.
Towards a Happy and Unequal Society?
In China, there is a gap between the claim of commitment to well-being and equality by policy makers and their practice in political reality. This article discusses the challenges concerning the introduction of "well-being" to development policy to mitigate the problem of income inequality in China.
Despite its economic growth, China maintains a high degree of income inequality. According to a report released by Beijing University in 2016, about one-third of the nation's wealth is possessed by merely one percent of households. By contrast, only one percent of the wealth is owned by the poorest 25 percent of grassroots households. The Gini coefficient has already increased to 0.465 in 2016, according to data provided by the National Bureau of Statistics.
On the other hand, since 2006, the happiness index, subjective well-being, mental health issues and positive psychological language has gained its popularity and become a hot topic in Chinese academia of public policy and development studies, gaining attention of policy makers at all levels. For instance, the "Happiness Index" has been introduced by certain provinces to measure the well-being of the people regarding their subjective experience and objective living conditions.
Based on the literature review of the relation between well-being and inequality in Chinese context, it has been argued that there is a gap between the claim of commitment to well-being and equality by policy makers and their actual practice of those policies due to various public administrative reasons. Thus, this article seeks to explore the contextual challenges regarding the introduction of "well-being" in order to mitigate the problem of income inequality in China. It is hoped that this research can contribute to the interdisciplinary dialogue between public administration and positive psychology in the discussion of public policy to address income inequality in China.
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.