Dreaming the impossible dream: Ordering risks in Australian maternity care policies


Explaining the trajectory of Australian health policies over the last century requires an analysis of different political regimes and their dreams of order for managing risk. Crook reverses the Beckian axiom that risk is the unintended outcome of the failure of industrial societies, arguing for an understanding of risk within a Foucauldian and Actor Network Theory of governmentality.

Risk becomes a mechanism for the realisation of different dreams of order. The welfare state was the risk management mechanism of organised capitalism. Individual aspirations of reflexive individuals form the risk management mechanism of neo-liberal regimes.

As competing risk discourses destabilise the field of maternity care, key actors (including doctors, midwives, women and policymakers) form themselves into neo-traditional communities in ongoing struggles to have their risk claims institutionalised within policies and protocols that further legitimise their interests. These struggles around risk and power are evident in recent debates over maternity policy in the context of the 2009 Maternity Services Review and the policy aftermath.


Karen Lane
School of History, Heritage and Society, Faculty of Arts and Education, Deakin University, Burwood VIC


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maternity; risk; governmentality; sociology; orderings; neo-liberalism


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