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The emergence of a discourse of class disgust and neoliberal citizenship Analytical Essay

Neoliberal citizenship, political and social abjection

The artistic control and manipulation of media have contributed immensely to continued discrimination of the undervalued in society (Hindess, 2010). Throughout the considered neoliberal states, resistances at all times emerge at the levels of social abjections.

Considering the radical potentials of the abject together with limitations, there should be re-introduction of class struggle within the public discourse.

States such as Britain should stop discriminating against citizens and noncitizens in pretext of the neoliberal ideologies (Davies, 2007).

In other words, the discriminative manner in which some citizens are treated portrays the persistent irony of the ideologies imposed on others without practical basis.

Moreover, the constant revolts and revolutions particularly from the discounted group reveal the gap existing between the practicability and the theoretical approaches to some of the ideologies. In fact, most of the countries perceive such ideologies as imperialistic dogmas from the west.

Taking different scenarios and cases, various scholars have dissected the imperialistic philosophies of the west.

For instance, Tyler 2013 considered variety of issues in presenting comprehensive analytical views of modern neoliberal governments particularly in UK. Tyler 2013 vividly brings out the complexities and clarities of conventional workings undertaken by neoliberal governments.

The main argument is that neoliberal governments of Britain continuously pacify the revolts of the social abjection sites. In this context, social abjections are the societal rejects or underclass citizens.

Vital in the argument is the protest from political and social rejects commonly referred to as ‘abject’ (Tyler, 2013). The abject of society have been used for political and social reasons to bring out shared communal disgust and resentment.

The communal consensus results from continued neo-liberalization of state as well as public through the media depiction of the abject class.

Social abjection, in this context, is the situation where some group within the state or republic is considered insignificant and dependent on the country or mainstream society. According to Tyler (2013), social abjections are human waste or leech-like bodies that entirely depend on the state.

Further, Tyler 2013 portrays the abject class as those who drain the state provisions and infect the mainstream politics. Essentially, according to Tyler 2013, the abject classes are the immigrants in Britain whether black, Arabs, Asians or white non-citizens.

In addition to the immigrants, the abject class includes gypsies, traveler populations, asylum seekers, the workless ‘chavs’ and the riotous youths (Tyler, 2013). Looking at it critically, the social abjections are those considered less important in society.

In fact, the media portray the social abjections as underclass, undeserving, failed, nonparticipants, workless and non-citizens (Jones, 2011).

The media have been used to put into practice the negative communal configurations to attain general disgust consensus enabling continued discrimination by the neoliberal governments.

Moreover, Machin and Thornborrow 2003 argue that the continued media representation justifies the punitive measures taken by the neoliberal governments against the revolting class of the society. The abject class continuously revolts due to negative effects of the neoliberal governance.

The media representation of the youth as social abjection

The conventional portrayal of youths as the social abject is universal though pronounced in minority groups. Youths are seldom portrayed as straightforward citizens that contribute to the development of state (Wayne & Henderson, 2008).

For instance, in Ireland, the media often portrays youths as underclass citizens who constantly indulge in violent related crimes. Even though the negative portrayal is universal, the situation becomes worse when the youth belongs to the minority groups (Spencer, 2005).

In societies considered advanced and neoliberal, class differentiation is pronounced. Youths in these countries particularly the minority, are portrayed as dangerous prohibited from state freedom as well as basic amenities provided by state (Haque, 2008).

In UK particularly in Ireland, the media portrays black youths as violent and associated with criminal activities.

The portrayals of the black youths as radical citizens indicate how the governments have utilized the media to stigmatize, radicalize and discriminate the minority classes within society (Hook, 2005). Rarely do neoliberal governments show the positive perspectives of the social abject.

In most cases, “neoliberal citizenship is normatively delineated and forced through securitization, racialization, medicalization, and cultural depolitization of the social abject” (Tyler 2013, p.186).

Using such methods, distinctions between the mainstream classes and abject groups are made while portraying the particular abject sites. For instance, youths are portrayed as workless violent citizens.

On the contrary, the achievements of the youth in education, innovation and health are reported infrequently. As such, the general perception is that the youths are minority ethnic group that has no place in the mainstream society (Cushion et al., 2011).

According to Mooney 2010, the possession of abject status in neoliberal societies is highly insecure.

The reason is that “eccentricity with the neoliberal customs of nationality in the framework of public accord of repugnance, the abject are susceptible to the bursting remedial might of state power” (Tyler 2013, p.188).

On this note, the overall dominant discourses adjoining the youths in the mainstream media have direct links to violent crimes. The linkages leave the youths vulnerable to the full force of state power.

In Britain, violent crimes such as murders, gang rape and robbery are associated with the youths especially blacks. In addition, the mainstream media have portrayed youths as lazy dullards preoccupied by binge drinking.

Similarly, youths have also been associated with pornography and sexist attitudes. In essence, the mainstream media associate young boys and girls with negative societal values thereby becoming more vulnerable to the forces of state securities (Mooney, 2010).

The manner in which youths are portrayed in the mainstream media indicates indeterminate state of destitution, discrimination as well as continuous danger of indistinct incarceration experienced by youths (Peck, 2005). Most stories about youth in the mainstream media are related to crime.

The negative image portrayed by the media is exacerbated when youths are from the minority groups such as blacks or migrants.

In Ireland, media coverage featuring violent crimes such as gun or knife murders associated with minority youths accounts for comparatively high figures in relation to the general news coverage. In most cases, little or no explanations are provided for the cause of such violent crimes.

Further, the incentives and state welfare provisions are taken away to force jobless and violent youths into manipulative services of the state and workfare systems (Law & Mooney, 2006).

More often, media associate social ills with the youths. Youths are seen as the cause of social problems of the neoliberal society.

In fact, media coverage emphasizes contemporary social problems involving violent crimes, sexual immorality, alcoholism as well as other social ills (Duits & Van Zoonen, 2006).

Indeed, most media contents portray youths in diverse contexts associated with negative morals of society (Law & Mooney, 2006). For instance, in Britain, violent crimes involving gun or knife murders are associated with black minority youths.

Alcoholism and related crimes are connected to white immigrant minorities while acts of terrorism are linked to the Muslim minorities. Even in the minority class, differentiation in terms of race and economic affiliation persists (Hindess, 2010).

Featuring youths as immoral by the mainstream media draws sympathy from the minority class.

In most cases, sympathy appears conditional on the view of social respectability as well as legitimacy particularly under the circumstances where connection with the purported immoral acts does not exist (Webster et al., 2010).

In most newspaper articles, the minority youths and their families are portrayed as if symbolically represent the immoral values of the mainstream society. Assumptions are all the times made that the minority youths are involved in criminal activities particularly by the authorities.

However, peaceful protest constantly exists among the abject group.

The individual peaceful internal protests are in accordance with Tyler’s observations that “forms of resistance normally emerge at the abjection sites, which challenge the ideology of the neoliberal governments” (Tyler 2013, p.288)

The manner in which media have fundamentally constructed the youths as a public discourse for purposes of neoliberal governance ideologies is clear. In the current affairs, documentaries, films, blogs as well as other forms of media coverage, young people are featured as victims of crimes or behaviors considered immoral by the conventional society (Wood & Skeggs, 2004).

Moreover, youths are classified according to race, political and economic affiliation, ethnic identities as well as religious background. For instance, the Muslims youths are portrayed as perpetrators of terrorist activities.

Essentially, the continuous portrayal of the youth as associated with criminal activities and threat to the wider society systematically shape the experiences, behaviors and attitudes of the youths as being less important class in society (Guano, 2008).

The media becomes vocal in portraying the youth as immoral yet issues that affect and shape their behaviors are not addressed.

In other words, the discussions of the immoral acts of the youth in the media are given prominence as opposed to relevant issues that shape their behaviors and attitudes (Van Houdt et al., 2011).

Just like any other minority group and less important class in society such as the migrant women, the youth will always protest against the ills and negative portrayals by the neoliberal society (Probyn, 2008).

The manner in which youths can protest against state may differ from other minority groups such as the traveler communities. In reality, the youths particularly from the minority are protesting against the discrimination and the manner in which the state handles issues of class differences.

Essentially, violent activities are tactics of protest to the state (Gill, 2003). The immoral views as portrayed by the media have reduced the youths into unwanted lot and lesser groups in the society. The status exposes the youth to the prejudice and dangers of state agencies.

In reality, neo-liberalism ideologies only benefit the state and the correct citizens. In this context, the correct citizens are individuals considered to be contributing to the welfare of the state.

In other words, correct citizens are the neoliberal populace benefiting from the state welfare provisions. The irony portrayed by neo-liberalism will persist so long as the minority groups continue to exist particularly in the developed nations.


Cushion, S, Moore, K & Jewell, J 2011, “Media representations of black young men and boys,” Media and Cultural Studies, vol.16 no.4, pp.163-171.

Davies, A 2007, “Investigating journalist influences on political issue agendas at Westminster,” Political Communication, vol.24 no.2, pp.181-99.

Duits, L & Van Zoonen, L 2006, “Headscarves and porno-chic,” European Journal of Women’s Studies, Vol.13 no.1, pp.103–117.

Gill, R 2003, “From sexual objectification to sexual subjectification: the resexualisation of women’s bodies in the media,” Feminist Media Studies, vol.3 no.1, pp.99–106.

Guano, E 2008, “Color for the modern nation: the discourse on class, race, and education in the Porteño middle class,” Journal of Latin American Anthropology, vol.8, no.1, pp.148–171.

Haque, MS 2008, “Global rise of neoliberal state and its impact on citizenship: experiences in developing nations,” Asian Journal of Social Science, vol.36 no.1, pp.11–34.

Hindess, B 2010, “Neo-liberal citizenship,” Citizenship Studies, vol.6 no.2, pp.127-143

Hook, D 2005, Affecting whiteness: racism as technology of affect,” International Journal of Critical Psychology, vol.16 no.2, pp.74–99.

Jones, O 2011, Chavs: The Demonizaton of the Working Class, Verso, London.

Law, A & Mooney, G 2006, ‘“We’ve never had it so good”: the “problem” of the working class in devolved Scotland,” Critical Social Policy, vol26 no.3, pp.523-542.

Machin, D & Thornborrow, J 2003, “Branding and discourse: the case of cosmopolitan,” Discourse and Society, vol.14 no.3, pp.453–471.

Mooney, G 2010, “The ‘Broken society’ election: class hatred and the politics of poverty and place in Glasgow East,” Social Policy and Society, vol.3 no.4, pp.1-14.

Peck, J 2005, “TV talk shows as therapeutic discourse: the ideological labour of the televised talk cure,” Communication Theory, vol.5 no.1, pp.58–81.

Probyn, E 2008, “Silences behind the mantra: critiquing feminist fat,” Feminism & Psychology, vol.18 no.3, pp.401–404.

Spencer, JW, 2005, “It’s not as simple as it seems: ambiguous culpability and ambivalent affect in news representations of violent youth,” Symbolic Interaction, vol.28 no.1, pp.47-65.

Tyler, I 2013, Revolting subjects: social abjection and resistance in neoliberal Britain, Zed Books, London.

Van Houdt, F Suvarierol, S & Schinkel, W 2011, “Neoliberal communitarian citizenship: current trends towards ‘earned citizenship’ in the United Kingdom, France and the Netherlands,” International Sociology, vol.26 no.3, pp.408-432.

Wayne, M & Henderson, L 2008, “Television news and the symbolic criminalisation of young people,” Journalism Studies, vol.9 no.1, pp.75-90.

Webster, D, Arnott, J, Brown, J, Turok, I, Mitchell, R & Macdonald, EB 2010, “Falling incapacity benefit claims in a former industrial city: policy impacts or labour market improvement?” Policy Studies, vol.31 no.2, pp.163-185.

Wood, H & Skeggs, B 2004, “Notes on ethical scenarios of self on British reality TV,” Feminist Media Studies, vol.4 no.2, pp.205–208.

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IvyPanda. 2019. "The emergence of a discourse of class disgust and neoliberal citizenship." July 8, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-emergence-of-a-discourse-of-class-disgust-and-neoliberal-citizenship/.


IvyPanda. (2019) 'The emergence of a discourse of class disgust and neoliberal citizenship'. 8 July.

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