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The production of subjects and everyday life in neoliberal capitalism

Summerton, Ciaran (2017) The production of subjects and everyday life in neoliberal capitalism. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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Among scholars of neoliberal capitalism, it is commonly noted that neoliberalism shapes human subjectivity. In this thesis, I address this relationship between neoliberal capitalism and subjectivity. I argue that the neoliberalisation of subjectivity and everyday life is central to neoliberalism’s embeddedness. I offer a critical account of what Wendy Brown describes as the neoliberal production of subjects. As I will claim, the production of neoliberal subjects is in part the consequence of applying economic categories and market-like principles and practices to all aspects of human life. To clarify the relationship between neoliberalism and subjectivity, I examine the notion of human capital, which has been pivotal to articulations of neoliberal selfhood. I also critically assess a range of management literature and practices that promote the optimisation of the neoliberal subject’s human capital. Additionally, I contend that neoliberal discourse and practices shape our working lives, both in and outside of formal work settings. My aim is to elucidate the economic and social conditions and the ideological field that have brought about the imperfect yet extensive neoliberalisation of selfhood.

Publication Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Arts
Supervisor: Ucnik, Lubica
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