Faith-Based Initiatives and Pastoral Power

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The paper offers a critical analysis of the 'Faith-Based and Community Initiatives' established by the Bush administration in 2001 and expanded under the Obama administration. After situating the programme in the context of the welfare reform of 1996 and the 'new paternalism' (Lawrence Mead) built into it, the paper proceeds to introduce and discuss Michel Foucault's concept of 'pastoral power' as it is developed in his lectures on the history of governmentality. Using this concept as a critical heuristic device the paper analyses and problematizes the relations of care and concomitant processes of subjectification prevalent in faith-based organizations and, particularly, their mentoring programmes. In a final step, the paper argues that these relations of care can be interpreted as a departure from or at least a partial transformation of neoliberalism that produces not only new subjectivities but also novel forms of governing that combine the activating rhetoric of neoliberalism with religious (spiritual transformation) and illiberal (supervisory intervention) elements.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEconomy and Society
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)399-420
Number of pages22
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Faith-based initiatives
  • Pastoral power
  • Michel Foucaul
  • Governmentality
  • Neoliberalism
  • Mentoring

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