This thesis presents a narrative that connects discussion of a number of my papers submitted for consideration of the award of PhD by published work with reflections on methods and theory within a critical sociological context. This analysis of my publications is extended by a critical engagement with communicative action theory to consider its relevance for thinking about service user involvement activity in university settings.
The thesis explores methodological and theoretical ideas by first narrating the thematic consistency of the portfolio of published work presented for consideration and, second, considering analytic connections with wider critical social theory and emancipatory goals. In part this is accomplished by exploring a scholarly interest in the subjective: tracing in my own papers a development of thought from an affinity for critical post-structuralist concepts of a de-centred subject, as illustrated in my use of Q-methodology as a particular means of accessing forms of subjective expression, through to a current interest in forms of critical social theory, aligned to the Frankfurt School. Despite some acknowledged philosophical tensions, it is argued that there is a consistency of theoretical exposition whereby a line of reasoning via Habermas’s theory of communicative action, focuses on a radical subjectivity which is not antithetical to the aforementioned post-structural accounts. A contribution to original knowledge is demonstrated with respect to theorising social constructions of difference and identity in a mental health context and critical analyses and commentary on the mental health service user/survivor movement. Themes of radicalism and emancipation in research methods and praxis, and their critique, connect with a concluding focus on academic alliances with user movement activists including an analytic reflection on the university as a particular social space which may be amenable to forging effective solidarity.
Thesis is based on published work and relevant publications are listed within the thesis. Arguments developed in the thesis have been drawn on for two articles published subsequently:
McKeown, M. (2012) Alliances and communicative action: one possibility for reframing theory and praxis. Anderson, J., Sapey, B. & Spandler, H. (eds) Distress or disability?: proceedings of a symposium held at Lancaster University, 15-16 November. Centre for Disability Research/mhhe/UCLan.
McKeown, M. & Jones, F. (2012) Can universities be radical places? Asylum, 19, 1, 2022.
Uncontrolled Keywords (separate with ;):
Service user involvement; survivor activism; movement politics; mental health; communicative action; critically engaged academics; social space.