Sociologists and feminist scholars have, over many decades, characterised attachment as a social construction that functions to support political and gender conservatism. We accept that attachment theory has seen use to these ends and consider recent deployments of attachment theory as justification for a minimal State within conservative political discourse in the UK since 2009. However, we contest that attachment is reducible to its discursive construction. We consider Judith Butler’s depiction of the infant attached to an abusive caregiver as a foundation and parallel to the position of the adult citizen subjected to punitive cultural norms and political institutions. We develop and qualify Butler’s account, drawing on the insights offered by the work of Lauren Berlant. We also return to Foucault’s Psychiatric Power lectures, in which familial relations are situated as an island of sovereign power within the sea of modern disciplinary institutions. These reflections help advance analysis of three important issues: the social and political implications of attachment research; the relationship between disciplinary and sovereign power in the affective dynamic of subjection; and the political and ethical status of professional activity within the psy disciplines.
|International Journal of Politics, Culture, and Society
|Published - Sept 2015