Neoliberalism, healthism and moral judgements: a psychosocial approach to class

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This article explores how a psychosocial approach to class can shed light on the ways in which neoliberal governmentality works through moral judgements and how different emotions within a ‘regime of judgements’ are rooted in class relations. First, I look at sociological arguments about health in terms of the risk logic of healthism and theories about the neoliberal imperative of moral value display in order to build a theoretical framework on a key feature of neoliberalism: the field of moral judgements. Second, I look at psychosocially oriented class theories, which specify morality and respectability as key features of class. I then illustrate the theoretical points through two empirical cases consisting of two very different mothers, involved in their six-year-old children’s start in the final preschool class. Two theoretical concepts unfold in dialogue with the cases and the psychosocial approach: habitus’ emotional implications and class consciousness understood as a sense of being judged. I show how, for the privileged middle-class mother, judging is associated with a feeling of entitlement and moral superiority, while the less privileged mother seems to feel a judgemental gaze, and is thus uncomfortable and nervous in relation to moral judgements of respectability. The article concludes that the psychosocial potential lies in exploring both how class morals currently shape subjectivity and how the emotional implications of this are drivers of the ways in which neoliberal governmentality relies on moral judgements related to healthism, risk and responsibilisation.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Psycho-Social Studies
Issue number3 Special Issue
Pages (from-to)319-332
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - 28 Oct 2020

Bibliographical note

Important note from the Publisher regarding the attached version of the article: "This is a post-peer-review, pre-copy edited version of an article published in Journal of Psycho-Social Studies. The definitive publisher-authenticated version 'Neoliberalism, healthism and moral judgements: a psychosocial approach to class
Aamann, I. C., 28 okt. 2020, I : Journal of Psycho-Social Studies. 13, 3, s. 319-332' is available online at:"


  • Neoliberalism
  • moral judgments
  • mothering
  • respectability
  • risk
  • Class

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