Inversion of the ‘Duty of Care’: Diplomacy and the Protection of Citizens Abroad, from Pastoral Care to Neoliberal Governmentality

In: The Hague Journal of Diplomacy
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  • 1 Department of Political Science, University of Copenhagen, dk-1353 Copenhagen K, Denmark


The concept of ‘duty of care’ for citizens abroad is grounded in a political rationality where the population is seen as an object for protection by the state. In today’s globalised world, however, this rationality is challenged by increased citizen mobility, budget cuts, new information technologies and the proliferation of new security threats. In recent years the state’s duty of care has received fresh political and scholarly attention, but Diplomatic Studies have so far overlooked how the recent waves of neoliberal reforms have introduced a new political rationality into policy-making circles, where the population is not seen only as an object for protection, but also as a resource for mobilisation. Developing insights from studies of governmentality, this article argues that when this neoliberal political rationality becomes predominant in diplomatic circles, it leads to inversion of the duty of care through new citizen-based practices, steered at a distance by the state.

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