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What are the Major Features of Advanced Liberal Modes of Rule? 

Categories: Government

Advanced Liberalism is an all-encompassing rationale for government, which combines the various rationalities, technologies and agencies that are the cornerstone of governing modern liberal societies. Advanced liberalism combines historically specific neo-liberal rationales for government, to form a new rationale which is marked by firstly, it’s reliance on the idea of financial accountability, market dominance, and economic logic, as central in the relationship between the state and the use of expertise. Expertise is seen as crucial in increasing the agency of citizens, and accountability of the state.

Secondly, Advanced Liberalism fosters the concept of freedom as that of the individual, as self reliant, and self-determining, and responsible for his or her welfare. The citizen is seen as a ‘free agent’, as a consumer in this accountable state. The paternalistic state of the past, changes, under Advanced Liberalism to an ‘enabling state’; one which will allow the individual to achieve their economic potential, and subsequently, their freedom. Finally, it is under this idea of the enabling state, and the autonomous individual, that old conceptions of society falter.

Instead of seeing society as a group of individuals joined together by some collective sense of community, participating in group activity for the betterment of the society as a whole; the focus shifts under this rationale of government to the concept of the self-determining ‘free subject’, the citizen is seen as a consumer with free choice. This rationale for government, therefore, undermines traditional conceptions of a society, instead fostering the idea of economic freedom, and self-reliance.

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A critique of neo-liberalism is that it can be seen as set of historically specific formulae for liberal government – rationalities for government based on the political, economic and social conjectures current to the time that they were devised. (O’Malley, 1999) Advanced Liberalism, on the other hand, reflects a broader political rationality, which is inclusive of these historically specific neo-liberal rationales. Rose suggests that Advanced Liberalism offers a “much more significant” and “more modest, yet more durable” rhetoric for governance than neo-liberalism (Rose, 1996). Advanced Liberalism through its broader and more inclusive style of liberalism, cannot be distinguished as in use in particular political parties or regimes, but instead is 1 rationale espoused by Advanced Liberal societies, which are governed by a set of advanced liberal principles. These principles include new methodologies for the state’s use of technologies and expertise, a new concept of freedom as the result of an economic process, and finally, a move away from traditional conceptions of society.

Firstly, then Advanced Liberalism is marked by the new relationship that is formed between expertise and the state. Past welfarist rationalizations for government, saw that “governmental ends were to be achieved and mediated through the positive knowledges of human conduct,” namely, in areas such as sociology, psychology, psychiatry and medicine (O’Malley, 2002). These technologies through achieving the knowledge and technical basis for social governance provided a medium through which social integration and social responsibilities, as well as rights and obligations could be discharged to the public, to society (Dean, 1999). This resulted in a whole array of social technologies and practices: social engineering, social work, social security, social wages, social insurances, all devised, practiced and managed by a range of technical experts in the human sciences field (O’Malley 2002). The paternalistic and socially aware welfarist political rationale saw the emergence of a new field of expertise, through the fostering of knowledges and technologies, the application of which, aimed to better social governance.

Advanced liberalism, on the other hand, signals a change from this paternalistic attitude towards expertise, towards a more economic relationship between technologies and the state. Technologies supported and funded by the state have a two-fold aim; firstly to increase accountability of the human technologies embraced by past rationales, through the creation of a new language of economic analysis. Secondly, technologies aim to increase agency, by providing cost and benefit analysis to the citizen-consumer, as well as helping create an economic environment, when self-reliance is necessary (Dean, 1999).

Firstly then, advanced liberalism formed a new relationship between the human science technologies espoused by past government rationales and the new economic technologies supported by neo-liberal rationales. Therefore, areas of human sciences expertise such as psychology, psychiatry, medicine and sociology are subject to criticism through the new economic expertise and the new array of calculative technologies available to the state. These calculative technologies include budget disciplines, audit, cost benefit analysis, evaluation and accountancy (O’Malley, 2002). This in turn calls for professionals and experts trained in these areas, to translate their data, to a language of costs and benefits that can be made available to the consumer- citizen. It is through this language of cost and benefit, that accounting value, consumer need and approval values and finally the openness to scrutiny are made available (Miller & Rose, 1999).

This economic language of cost and benefit analysis, accountability and audit disciplines is as much in application to the experts providing the economic data, as it is to experts in the field of human science. This means, experts are responsible to their customers through market-based arrangements such as contracts for service delivery, evaluation and cost benefit analyses, and quasi-contractual charters, standards and codes (Gamble, 1988). The very systems and technologies the experts provide access to, are ultimately the same technologies, which measure the value of their expertise, in the free labor, laissez faire, ungoverned and un-state regulated market economy.

These same accounting, consumer need and approval values are also responsible for the level of authority experts are given. Expertise, under the neo-liberalism inspired, economic rationale of advanced liberalism is not judged by qualifications, or by experience, but rather by supply and demand, and the play of the free labour market. Private individuals, state administration and other consumers of authority and economic and human sciences expertise determine the authority and the influence of experts, through makes a choice in purchasing the services available. This autonomy of choice, leads to the next feature, which distinguishes advanced liberalism as distinct from other rationales for government.

Advanced Liberalism as a political rationale signals a shift in ideas of freedom, and a new kind of autonomy of subjects under state governance. Neo-liberal rationales for government firstly, criticized the welfare state as paternalistic and over-regulating, restricting the autonomy of individuals by the constraints on the welfare state. Secondly, the welfare state was seen to encourage dependency and feelings of impotency in the welfare recipient, instead of using its power in providing economic support to encourage welfare recipients to become self-dependant (Rose 1993).

The change in the use of expertise under Advanced Liberal rationales, however, results in the emergence of the citizen as a consumer or customer, making a choice amongst the varied providers of service, and resultantly; maximizing benefit and mininimising cost through informed choice making, rather than state intervention. This form of thinking, O’Malley suggests is so prevalent in Australian society that ” even ‘drug addicts’ are reinvented in such a light as ‘drug users’ or ‘consumers’, and prisoners emerge as ‘customers’ (O’Malley 1999). This thinking results in the individual changing from being state controlled to a free subject in the sense of responsible autonomy. Their success or failure is a result of their own exercise of autonomy, not the state’s paternalistic intervention.

Advanced Liberalism also imagines citizens as the providers of services to others, and subsequently constantly working towards maximizing their saleability and market value (Levitas, 1986). This results in the individual actively seeking to innovate and enterprise themselves as marketable and sellable entities, maximizing their financial capability and simultaneously personal capability, by exploring their means for self-fulfillment. This is how neo-liberal rationales as well as the inclusive Advanced Liberal rationale, view empowerment. Empowerment is no less than being free of the need to depend on the state, being capable of firstly, making an informed and responsible choice, knowing and prepared for the fact that the result of the choice is a direct consequence of choice the made. Secondly, empowerment is found in the subjects’ capability to innovate and enterprise themselves to achieve financial autonomy and personal fulfillment, by exploring the options available on the free market (Hoggett).

This suggests a new form of freedom under the Advanced Liberal rationale for government. By this definition of freedom, individuals are encouraged into enterprise and risk, formerly the arena of adventurers and entrepreneurs. Instead, risk and enterprise become a universal requirement, replacing concepts of obedience and dutiful diligence. “Risk bearing investment displaces the 19th century subjects’ morally approved, frugal and thrifty little acts of sacrifice and risk avoidance. Even gambling – anathema to Victorian imaginaries of the good subject – becomes an acceptable activity if governed ‘responsibly’.” (O’Malley, 2002) Such responsibility of course, inherently carries with it the concept that the results of the choice made, and the responsibility and business of the individual.

Therefore this process increases both the autonomy of the individual and the responsibility of the individual. The subject is expected to take the steps necessary to ensure that the risk taken or venture entered into will be a positive one, and to calculate and plan for the vicissitudes of life. Individuals therefore are expected to acquire skills and knowledges, which will equip them to be marketable within the free labor market. Further, individuals are expected to avail themselves of the opportunities, information and resources available in the market to maximize their security, health and well being, build self esteem and to take care of themselves, their physically and psychological health. (Greco, 1993) They are also expected to calculate and insure against risk, by avoiding dangerous situations and buying private insurance, for their health and property. It is through this process of privatizing social insurance, and individual responsibility that the state retreats from the lives on private citizens (Rose 1996).

The result of the individual’s choice to be entrepreneurial is reward or punishment, depending on the outcome of the investment in the market place. Self-denial, frugality and ‘character’, the values espoused by conservative Victorian and Welfarist states are replaced by an attitude of economic greed and hedonism through the process of a free market based, legitimized consumerism. (Gamble 1988) Individuals then, depending on the success of the risk or venture taken, are free in how they expend the reward of the investment. The ability to achieve a lifestyle according to individual taste through the free market, as opposed to formation of ‘character’ through subservience to consistent and universal moral standards, marks the difference in conceptions of freedom under Advanced Liberal rationales for government.

This concept of freedom, however, necessarily impacts on the idea of society, and the role of the state. Past conceptions of society, as communities, bound together in the act of communion, through the process of working together towards mutual goals, for the betterment of all, is necessarily displaced, under the new economic rationale for government (Tonnies 1957) The welfarist rationale for government preserved old ideas of community and society through highly institutionalized means. Social Welfare was seen to be a public and inclusive technology of government, seeking to protect the citizen, both physically and financially, from the ravages of an uncertain and capricious market place. It was under a sense of shared solidarity that the paternalistic and protective social system of insurance was formed (Rose 1993). This system of social insurance institutionalized welfare and access to human technologies; and in the process, legitimized the intervention of the state in life of private citizens. Society under the welfarist rationale, then, was governed and managed firmly by the state.

Advanced Liberal societies however, reject the idea of society, and societal obligation, through comments such as “there is no such thing as society”. (Margaret Thatcher, quoted by Dean, 1996) Instead, the state encourages the idea of the empowered citizen as a self-reliant and autonomous individual; responsible for meeting the economic risks and obligations they have, through selling their skills and expertise on the open market. The 20th Century has seen a shift the arena of social welfare, especially with the advent of Neo-liberalism, and the growing popularity of political ideologies espousing individual autonomy and self-reliance. Human beings are seen under this rationale less as members of any collective society, with social welfare to depend upon; and more as ‘rational utility maximisers’, individuals willing to co-operate in a collective fashion in order to achieve their best interest. (Yeatman, 2001)

People on welfare without obvious disability are stigmatized, being seen as calculating free riders, an ‘underclass’ with a low work ethic, low social expectation, and a heightened awareness of their own rights and entitlements, exploiting the collectivism of the state, to the cost of individual taxpayers. (Murray 1984) The result in this shift of political rationale has seen has seen the very idea of welfare or dependency stigmatized. Neo-liberalism has seen a transformation in the welfare state, changing from a broad based, and inclusive assistance, under welfarism; to a minimal safety net for the poor, with active checks in place to insure against ‘free riders’ choosing elective dependency, over work. This political rationale also encourages active checks to show that the welfare recipient is actively seeking employment or training.

The new welfare state directed by Advanced Liberal governments is based on this idea of individual autonomy taking precedence over any conception of ‘society’. Consequently, social welfare no longer equates social insurance for all citizens, but rather a privilege based on justification, aimed at the ‘deserving’ poor. Individuals are forced into self-reliance through increasingly stringent criteria for eligibility, budgetary measures to keep support to a minimum, and growing public stigmatization, of individuals reliant on the state rather than their own individuality. The state, driven by an economic rationale for governance, transforms social welfare from support of society, to a deterrent to society, using this concept to further the idea of individual freedom through the market (Hoggett).

The result of Advanced Liberal governance is a growing dichotomy between those capable of achieving freedom as seen under this ideology, and those who are not. Individuals, who are not capable of participating in the free labour market, and achieving this form of economic freedom, are many and varied, including children, the elderly and the disabled. Lowered state intervention and growing stigma and hatred of dependency, result in an inequitable and problematical situation for those unlucky enough to not be able to participate in the labour market (Hoggett). For those who cannot participate in the market place, there is none of the autonomy or dignity of freedom, nor is there the support offered by traditional societal units. Instead, the individual unable to participate in the marketplace becomes nothing more than a liability, to the state and individual tax-paying citizens, and as such are subject to the stigma and ostracism encouraged by this economic system of governance.

Advanced Liberalism then, can be seen as a rationale of government, which is inclusive of the neo-liberal logics of the independent free labour market, accountability, economic freedom of individuals, and lack of state intervention. Through espousing accounting, consumer need and approval values as central to the use of technologies and expertise, and subjecting the both these economic technologies and human technologies to this expertise for customer approval values, the autonomy of the individual to make a choice in labour purchase, grows. This same autonomy is furthered by the individual’s participation in the market, and informed and educated risk taking. Finally, the lack of state intervention creates a certain type of freedom for the individual, but does so at the price of traditional concepts of society, community and communion. Further, lack of state intervention results in the decay of the welfare state, and active stigma of welfare dependency creates a sub-society of shame. While it can be seen that the Advanced Liberal mode of rule offers opportunities for individuals for freedom, this is done at the cost of sacrificing the safety and support of a traditional community or society. Ultimately, this rationale of government and the ideas of freedom it espouses as well as the lack in traditional support this form of freedom results in, impacts most on those unable to achieve freedom as realized by Advanced Liberal modes of rule.

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What are the Major Features of Advanced Liberal Modes of Rule? . (2020, Jun 02). Retrieved from

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