Pre-crime, 'Prevent' and practices of exceptionalism. Psychotherapy and the new norm in the NHS

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Section 26 of the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015 places a duty on local authorities and public sector institutions to have ‘due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism’. Accordingly, NHS staff are now required to attend a Workshop to Raise Awareness of Prevent (WRAP), ensuring they are trained to spot the ideological symptoms and psychosocial vulnerabilities thought to predict extremist activity. In this paper, I suggest that the insertion of counter-radicalisation duties into the work of psychotherapists and other mental health professionals is not simply to be understood as an attempt to forestall and avert extremist activity. Rather, drawing on the work of Georgio Agamben and Judith Butler, I argue it can be viewed as an innovative tactic of governmentality whose technologies of surveillance ensure a culture ofconformity in the NHS through which a ‘state of exception’ can be established and normalised. I illuminate this by examining two interrelated aspects of the Prevent duty: one, the decision by the government to embed Prevent within the existing rhetoric and practice of ‘safeguarding vulnerable children and adults’; and two, its discursive representation of the consulting room as ‘pre-criminalspace’. I conclude by suggesting that the government’s determination to allow ‘no ungoverned space in which extremism is allowed to flourish’ (HM Government 2011, p. 9) targets the limits of acceptable speech and so the very conditions for radical thought and critique on which psychotherapy depends. 

© 2017, Taylor & Francis. The attached document (embargoed until 18/08/2018) is an author produced version of a paper published in Psychodynamic Practice, uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self- archiving policy. The final published version (version of record) is available online at Some minor differences between this version and the final published version may remain. We suggest you refer to the final published version should you wish to cite from it.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)336-356
Number of pages20
JournalPsychodynamic Practice
Issue number4
Early online date18 Aug 2017
Publication statusPublished - 20 Aug 2017

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