The elusive subjects of neo-liberalism

Barnett, Clive; Clarke, Nick; Cloke, Paul and Malpass, Alice (2008). The elusive subjects of neo-liberalism. Cultural Studies, 22(5) pp. 624–653.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/09502380802245902

Abstract

This paper assesses the degree to which conceptualizations of neo-liberal governance and advanced liberal governmentality can throw light on contemporary transformations in the practices and politics of consumption. It detours through theories of governmentality, stories about consumption and shopping, and different variations on what we can learn from Foucault. We explore the degree to which aspects of Foucault's discussions of government and ethics can be put to work methodologically without necessarily buying into fully systematized theories of governmentality that have been built around them. The idea that organizations and networks might share rationalities through which they problematize and seek to intervene in specified areas of social life seems worth pursuing. So too does the notion of various modes of ethical problematization through which people come to take their own activities as requiring moral reflection. In neither case, however, can the analytics of governmentality provide a coherent theoretical account of how political processes of rule and administration work, or indeed of how they connect up with cultural processes of self-formation and subjectivity.

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