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Debate : freedom, power and capacity—analysing the fallout from the UK’s ‘Brexit’ referendum.

Ferry, L. and Eckersley, P. (2017) 'Debate : freedom, power and capacity—analysing the fallout from the UK’s ‘Brexit’ referendum.', Public money and management., 37 (1). pp. 2-3.


The sociologist Nikolas Rose (1999 Rose, N. (1999), Powers of Freedom: Reframing Political Thought (Cambridge University Press). [CrossRef] ) in his influential book Powers of Freedom—Reframing Political Thought suggests that today we demand to be governed in the name of ‘freedom’ and that this can take on forms of both power and resistance. Indeed, freedom has become a dominant discourse globally in recent decades, on the basis that states should exert less influence over their citizens both socially and economically. The notion featured in the UK’s recent referendum on European Union membership, where those who advocated leaving the bloc argued that it would enable the UK parliament to regain its sovereign powers and—by extension—allow citizens to ‘take control’ of their own destiny. In addition, the UK government has itself faced calls to grant additional freedoms to the devolved administrations of Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, as well as local government in England. However, such extra freedoms have little instrumental value if actors (such as public institutions or citizens) do not have the capacity to take full advantage of them. Indeed, there is a risk that the referendum has raised public expectations about what governments are able to achieve to levels that cannot be met, which could have serious consequences for politics, governance and society. Such a scenario has wider applicability outside the specific context of the UK and its relationship with the EU.

Item Type:Article
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Publisher statement:This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis Group in Public Money & Management on 24/11/2016, available online at:
Date accepted:30 August 2016
Date deposited:05 September 2016
Date of first online publication:24 November 2016
Date first made open access:24 May 2018

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