Title

Legal aid and governmentality: Beyond neo-liberalism

Date of Award

2007

Degree Type

Thesis

Department

Sociology and Anthropology

Rights

CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

Abstract

The evolution of Ontario's legal aid program has followed the trajectory of broader discursive shifts, beginning from charity to rights and towards fiscal responsibility. Such discursive developments have been imagined by governmentality scholars as indicative of specific historical governmental strategies. Within this field, rationalities of welfarism and neo-liberalism have dominated the ways in which government has been analysed. This paper examines how representative the shift from welfarism to neo-liberalism is of actual programs and to what extent these dominant discourses structure the current legal aid program in Ontario, Legal Aid Ontario (LAO). Through discourse analysis, I critically examine programmatic texts such as manuals and policy guidelines to draw out the discourses which operate in these documents. The findings suggest that the governmental rationalities that inform LAO cannot be neatly categorized as neo-liberalism; rather, there is evidence of a multiplicity or complexity of rationalities that have shaped LAO.