The Gentle Neoliberalism of Modern Anti-bullying Texts: Surveillance, Intervention, and Bystanders in Contemporary Bullying Discourse

Abstract

The author argues for the concept of "gentle" neoliberalism to account for how discourse in anti-bullying texts has increasingly presented itself as gentle and kind, while simultaneously reinforcing systems of surveillance and control. Results, based on a grounded theory analysis of 22 anti-bullying books, reveal that the texts generally decoupled bullying from power relations based on sexuality, overlooking homophobia and heteronormativity and marginalizing the experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth. Further, findings demonstrate a shift over time in the texts from an explicitly harsh description of the bullies to a seemingly kinder emphasis on reporting and intervening on behalf of the individual being bullied. This shift to interventionist discourse potentially expands mechanisms of control and reinforces inequalities based on race and social class, as bystanders are increasingly held accountable and students are encouraged to report their peers to authority figures. In response to neoliberal anti-bullying discourse, the author argues for scholarship and policy solutions that undermine unequal power structures and yet also oppose surveillance strategies of monitoring, reporting, and intervening.

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Correspondence to Doug Meyer.

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Meyer, D. The Gentle Neoliberalism of Modern Anti-bullying Texts: Surveillance, Intervention, and Bystanders in Contemporary Bullying Discourse. Sex Res Soc Policy 13, 356–370 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13178-016-0238-9

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Keywords

  • Bullying
  • Neoliberalism
  • LGBT studies
  • Lesbian
  • Gay
  • Queer
  • Surveillance