1 Department of Political Science, Aarhus BSS, Aarhus University2 Department of Political Science, Aarhus BSS, Aarhus University
Studies on social construction of target populations show how stereotypes and social categories transfer with experts, politicians and lawmakers from everyday life to the political system as ‘common sense knowledge’ about social problems and preferences for political categories. Here such categories are used as a way to frame policy problems and as reasons to promote specific policy solutions. In this paper, we explore three Danish policy areas: health policies towards children and families, policies towards small children (day care for children aged 0-‐5 years) and policies of education at the level of primary schools (age 6-‐16 years). The intention is to understand what criteria define ‘risk behavior’ and furthermore what makes the state worry more about certain individuals and less about others. We argue that political categories, such as “vulnerable children” or “children in need of support”, work together with social categories as stereotypes, representations of risk and taken for granted conceptions of normal life. As already demonstrated by e.g. Ingram et al (1993) and Soss et al (forthcoming) such social categories constitute an important discretionary tool as a discursive frame for caseworkers’ implementation and interpretation of policies. We expect that this use of common sense conceptions is especially salient in preventive policies, where the object of policy regulation is to determine when citizens are displaying so much “risk behavior” that it calls for state intervention.