Architecture as an Apparatus of Governance: (British) Architecture from the Welfare State to the State of Neoliberal Workfare

Axioti, Eleni (2021). Architecture as an Apparatus of Governance: (British) Architecture from the Welfare State to the State of Neoliberal Workfare. PhD thesis The Open University.



This thesis puts forward the hypothesis that architecture can act as an apparatus of governance and explores the theoretical, spatial, and material implications of this. It examines a specific milieu that of the British welfare state, which it positions as part of the liberal post-war reforms within capitalism and the modern institutional architecture produced by it. The thesis unravels the operations of this architectural apparatus by scrutinizing two specific moments in the mid1960s when the welfare state was fully formed. Initially, it analyzes the Whitehall plan of 1965 for a new national and government centre, as indicative of the extensive bureaucratic mechanisms of the welfare state and a result of its calculative and scientific practices. The thesis demonstrates how the plan operates as an apparatus partaking in the formation of subjectivities and social citizenship of the people, while it manages to desubjectify its users within its design calculus. This way, it becomes evident that calculations are actions at a distance that manage to direct behaviours.

The thesis demonstrates the development of these scientific rationalities and rhetoric within the welfare state that created a technocratic ideology. It traces these in the architectural research produced at L.U.B.F.S. centre in Cambridge with the support of the state within the expanding higher education, showing how architecture attempted in this context to constitute itself as a science. The analysis draws a parallel between the calculative and scientific practices in government and architecture and exposes how calculations can connect these two fields, activating architecture as an apparatus. It demonstrates that these practices within the welfare state facilitated a transition towards a neoliberal technocracy in architecture. They transformed the architectural design into a rational economic action and public architecture was reclaimed as a commodity defined by exchange value and was resubmitted to the operations of the market. Moreover, they implemented in the architectural production technologies of government in the form of performance criteria, entrepreneurship, and risk management, which affected the ways public architecture implicates issues of value and addresses its subjects.

The thesis concludes with the dismantling of the welfare state from the late 1970s onwards. It presents the changes that took place, which denote a transfer of responsibility from the institutions of the state to the individual. These changes realized the transition from the welfare state to a state of workfare, where social rights are remodeled into personal responsibilities and objects of private enterprises. The thesis presents the transformations in the production of the built environment and its re-commodification. It argues that it was through the proliferation of the examined operations, among others, that these changes became possible and the deployment of neoliberal forms of governance was facilitated. In conclusion, a critique of the role of architecture in forming apparatuses of government becomes possible.

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