The grip of personalization in adult social care: between managerial domination and fantasy

Karen West*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper examines the 'ideological grip' of personalization. It does so empirically, tracking the trajectory of personalization through austerity budgeting in one English local authority. In this case, personalization continued to signify hope and liberation even though the most draconian cuts in the Council's history effectively rendered personalization a practical impossibility. This requires critical theorization. Two bodies of theory are interrogated. First Boltanski's sociology of critique, and, in particular, his notion of managerial domination illuminate the way in which change imperatives and crises come to cement ideological formations. Here it is argued that the articulation of personalization with transformation lends itself to managerial domination. It is further argued, though, that while institutional actors may be able to manipulate the symbolic to evade, what Boltanski terms, deconstructionist critique, this cannot entirely explain the hold of this particular discourse. Here, the Lacanian concept of enjoyment is deployed to interrogate its extra-symbolic function and fantasmatic form. Finally, the paper explores the political implications of such affective attachment and, in particular, the guarantee that personalization offers in a period of welfare state decline.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)638-657
Number of pages20
JournalCritical Social Policy
Issue number4
Early online date4 Jun 2013
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2013


  • austerity
  • Boltanski
  • enjoyment
  • Lacan
  • managerial domination
  • sociology of critique
  • welfare state decline


Dive into the research topics of 'The grip of personalization in adult social care: between managerial domination and fantasy'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this