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The probation service and the governance of the offender : discourse, power and politics in the probation service in England and Wales.

Oldfield, Mark (2001) The probation service and the governance of the offender : discourse, power and politics in the probation service in England and Wales. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.86250) (KAR id:86250)


The study is informed by Foucault's concept of 'governmentality' - the ways in which agencies and institutions attempt to shape the conduct of individuals in modem democracies. The study links this conception of governance to two major trains of political thought which, it is argued, characterise the ways in which twentieth century society in the United Kingdom has been organised. Given that modem society translates its political problems into 'tecimical' solutions through the use of various agencies such as probation, it is argued that the discourse of probation will reflect certain tenets of the salient political rationality at a particular time. The first such political rationality is identified as 'welfarism', an approach to government through a complex apparatus of expert agencies and practitioners charged with addressing the conduct of citizens across a wide ranging terrain of social and economic life. In contrast to this, a neo-liberal rationality, predicated upon individualism is depicted as having become increasingly influential since the late 1 970s, restructuring practice away from welfarist approaches that sought to provide services aimed at the creation of better citizens. The thesis of this study holds that the shift away from the welfarist rationality of governance will be reflected within the organisation and practice of the present day probation service. To determine the extent of this shift, probation discourse is analysed in tenns of its resonance with the tenets of welfarism and neo-liberalism. The study addresses organisational and epistemological discourse over the twentieth century using the texts and documents through which probation was debated, discussed and practised in order to map out the contours of welfarism and neo-liberalism. To determine the extent of contemporary change, a sample of presentence reports is analysed in terms of their correspondence with the two political rationalities. It is concluded that, whilst organisationally there has been a clear shift toward neo-liberalismn, probation practice still evidences certain approaches that are informed by a more welfarist discourse, suggesting a certain 'hybridity' of practice.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
DOI/Identification number: 10.22024/UniKent/01.02.86250
Additional information: This thesis has been digitised by EThOS, the British Library digitisation service, for purposes of preservation and dissemination. It was uploaded to KAR on 09 February 2021 in order to hold its content and record within University of Kent systems. It is available Open Access using a Creative Commons Attribution, Non-commercial, No Derivatives ( licence so that the thesis and its author, can benefit from opportunities for increased readership and citation. This was done in line with University of Kent policies ( If you feel that your rights are compromised by open access to this thesis, or if you would like more information about its availability, please contact us at and we will seriously consider your claim under the terms of our Take-Down Policy (
Uncontrolled keywords: Government; Foucault; Welfarism; Neo-liberalism
Subjects: K Law > K Law (General)
K Law > KZ Law of Nations
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Divisions: Divisions > Division for the Study of Law, Society and Social Justice > School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research
SWORD Depositor: SWORD Copy
Depositing User: SWORD Copy
Date Deposited: 29 Oct 2019 16:38 UTC
Last Modified: 26 Nov 2021 09:32 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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