The neurotic citizen

Isin, Engin F. (2004). The neurotic citizen. Citizenship Studies, 8(3) pp. 217–235.



Over the last three decades we have witnessed the birth of a subject that has constituted the foundations of a regime change in state societies: the neoliberal subject. As much as neoliberalism came to mean the withdrawal of the state from certain arenas, the decline of social citizenship, privatization, downloading, and so forth, it also meant, if not predicated upon, the production of an image of the subject as sufficient, calculating, responsible, autonomous, and unencumbered. While the latter point has been a topic of debate concerning the rational subject, I wish to argue that the rational subject has itself been predicated upon and accompanied by another subject: the neurotic subject. More recently, it is this neurotic subject that has become the object of various governmental projects whose conduct is based not merely on calculating rationalities but also arises from and responds to fears, anxieties and insecurities, which I consider as ‘governing through neurosis’. The rise of the neurotic citizen signals a new type of politics (neuropolitics) and power (neuropower). I suggest a new concept, neuroliberalism—a rationality of government that takes its subject as the neurotic citizen—as an object of analysis.

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