Lucas_whole_thesis.pdf (1.1 MB)
The rhetoric of partnerships involving people who use illicit drugs and the reality of 'partners' experience
thesisposted on 2023-05-26, 04:53 authored by Lucas, PV
This research examines the concept of partnerships as it applies to illicit drug policy development and service delivery planning processes in Australia. It poses the question: 'How does the rhetoric of partnerships involving people who use illicit drugs match the experience of partners?' The research concludes that, with a few exceptions, the concept of partnerships involving people who use illicit drugs is little more than a rhetorical tool used by neoliberal forms of government. The research adopts a theoretical framework of 'governmentality' initially developed by Michel Foucault. A governmentality approach identifies the rationalities behind strategies adopted to enhance the productivity of populations, as well as the various 'technologies' employed to achieve desired outcomes. Suggestions for augmenting a governmentality approach for better understanding partnerships involving people who use illicit drugs are proposed as part of this research. The methodology comprises two components. The first involves analysis of a range of policy documents relating to illicit drug use to trace the evolution of the concept of partnerships with people who use illicit drugs. The second component involves indepth interviews with members of the 'drug policy community', including policy makers, service providers and members of peer-based user advocacy organisations. The perception of those working in these 'partnerships' was that this neoliberal concept fell well short of aspirations and expectations. The key factors identified by 'partners' that limit the success of this approach are discussed in detail. These include: the impact of a morally conservative dominant discourse of prohibition; the political nature of what counts as 'evidence' in policy development and service delivery planning processes; and a lack of institutional support for genuine partnerships with people who use illicit drugs from governments, policy makers and service providers. The research also finds that the theoretical framework of governmentality is a useful analytical tool for understanding the concept of partnerships involving people who use illicit drugs. I argue that in order to better understand these partnerships, and the reasons why this enterprise has had only limited success, it is important to incorporate other theoretical perspectives alongside that of governmentality. These include: the 'political economy of drug user scapegoating' (Friedman, S. 1998); the medicalisation of substance use (Freund and McGuire 1991; Szasz 1974; White 2002); and the concept of 'authoritarian liberalism' (Dean 2002; Hindess 2001).
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