New Labour's ‘Paradox of Responsibility’ and the Unravelling of Its Macroeconomic Policy


  • Matthew Watson


New Labour staked much politically on its ability to enact a trouble-free shift in underlying economic subjectivities so as to nurture responsibly self-sufficient welfare citizens. This policy began merely as the requirement for benefit claimants to become active worker subjects in the interests of enhanced employability. More problematically from the perspective of its own macroeconomic policy, it ended as the requirement for as many people as possible to become much more tension-prone active worker-saver-investor subjects in the interests of enhanced private pension insurance. The article charts the collapse of New Labour's reputation for economic governing competence as these latter subjects’ accumulated asset wealth threatened to implode during the recent financial crisis. In its last days the Brown government inadvertently placed itself in the paradoxical position of being able to defend either the financial interests of responsibly self-sufficient welfare citizens or its own reputation for macroeconomic responsibility, but not both.