“Am I that bad?”: Neoliberal conduct through moral class anxiety in health interventions targeting parents of fat children

Iben Charlotte Aamann, Mikala Erlik

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This article presents a theoretical contribution to critical fat studies. I suggest that the concept of class is fruit full when exploring and explaining the morality embedded in preventive interventions targeting parents of fat children.
I discuss how fat phobia and the moral panic associated with the obesity epidemic discourse testify to a symbolic class struggle as they express how neoliberal conduct works through class anxiety. Although neoliberalism has marginalized class as a political category and a sociological tool, I argue that neoliberal governmentality reinforces class as matters of moral value, especially visible in policy on how to prevent child “obesity” in a universalistic welfare country, Denmark.
By analysing representations in two “cases” in guidelines to inform health professionals on how to intervene in family lifestyles, I show how the moral judgments implied in the representations of mothers of fat children are matters of neoliberal conduct. As displaying one´s moral value has become a central feature of the neoliberal subject and constitutive of the middle classes, especially with regards to health behavior, the mothers of fat children are represented in two ways according to their class position:
As passive and irresponsible or as morally worthwhile and responsible because of the shame and fear of falling, of being judged as a lower class mother.
The conclusion suggests that the moral panic is not only about the regulation of the lower classes; it also function as a legitimating force in the phasing out of universal welfare entitlements in Denmark.
Translated title of the contribution"Er jeg så slem?": Neoliberal styring via moralsk klasseangst i sundhedsinterventioner rettet mod forældre til tykke børn
Original languageEnglish
JournalNordisk Välfärdsforskning
Publication statusSubmitted - 2021

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