Chapter

The Production of Compassion

Andrea Muehlebach

in The Moral Neoliberal

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print June 2012 | ISBN: 9780226545394
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226545417 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226545417.003.0004
The Production of Compassion

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This chapter reflects on the state—how it has inscribed compassion into its own rationalities through a legal regime surrounding voluntarism, and how it has hyperinvested in the production and standardization of an empathetic figure and sector while at the same time withdrawing its welfarist functions. The production of a sympathetic citizenry is, in short, accompanied by a corollary process whereby the state (embodied not only by the law but also, for example, by the social workers among whom the author conducted research) makes itself appear as dispassionate. This is not to say that the state has withdrawn altogether, but that its public moral authoritarianism around voluntarism is matched by a concomitant relativization of its own commitment to care. Put differently, state absence must be actively produced by the state itself. The effect is a humanitarianized public sphere that makes individual compassion and private empathy primary public virtues.

Keywords: compassion; legal regime; state; welfarist functions; sympathetic citizenry; public virtues

Chapter.  14210 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Population and Demography

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