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Clarissa's Blog

An academic's opinions on feminism, politics, literature, philosophy, teaching, academia, and a lot more.

Neoliberal Structures of Feeling

If you want to avoid disappointment, never attach emotionally to or identify with anybody who is rich. 

Rich people – politicians, movie stars, famous musicians – are not capable of caring about you and your interests. They care about one thing: how to get even richer. (And asking why they need more money if they already have billions is like asking you why you have to eat today if you already ate yesterday).

They will get richer either in ways that will hurt you a lot or in ways that will hurt you a bit less. That’s it, there’s nothing else to it. 

The very structure of emotional life in neoliberal societies fosters emotional attachment to the very rich. The wealth gap is growing, the inequality soars but people don’t notice because, in their imaginary, the wealthy are as close as a bunch of  loving and caring relatives.

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6 thoughts on “Neoliberal Structures of Feeling

  1. “They care about one thing: how to get even richer”

    Many years ago reading a book (I want to say “Human Ethology” but I could be wrong, it could be something similar) it raised the idea that some variations in behavior among people is related to drives, that is there are more or less closed drives (breating oxygen – those able to breathe aren’t anxious to provide themselves with more and more oxygen) while other drives are more or less open (or can become opened) so that more is never enough.

    The modern world is essentially ruled psychological defectives who have convinced everybody that their pathology is perfectly normal…. Seeming Trump and Zuckerberg and Gates et al as dangerously mentally ill (which they demonstrably are) is a good first step in disengaging emotionally from them.

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    • “Seeming Trump and Zuckerberg and Gates et al as dangerously mentally ill (which they demonstrably are) is a good first step in disengaging emotionally from them.”

      • It’s absolutely true that these are pathological characters. The problem is, though, that part of neoliberal ideology involves the idea that mentally ill = victim = let’s feel sorry for them. So many people hide – consciously or not – behind erratic behavior to conceal their true motivations.

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      • “part of neoliberal ideology involves the idea that mentally ill = victim ”

        Even “dangerously mentally ill” as in “a menace to themselves and others”?

        I’d say they’re all blood sucking parasites but the neoliberal world view can’t see any form of personal enrichment as unethical…

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  2. And asking why they need more money if they already have billions is like asking you why you have to eat today if you already ate yesterday

    No, seriously, do you understand why they feel that they need more money? With food, there is an actual physiological need — if I don’t eat I will eventually die; obviously they face no physical need for more money. And most of them can hire someone to manage their money so they never really run out. So how does greed actually work?

    I seem unable to comprehend the mentality of greed. I really only ever think in terms of things that I need and some moderate and very specific things that I want, but other than that I completely lack the imagination to put myself in a billionaire’s shoes. Perhaps you have to be born into extreme opulence to inhabit this sphere in which all your whim become a reality and most people are like ants, not really human and just there to serve you.

    I see a smaller-scale version with peers who work in industry or even many other colleagues. For instance, I don’t want to file for patents on principle — I receive federal grants to do research, so I think people should benefit from what I find. So many of my colleagues file patents on everything they do (it’s legal to do that even though federal funds supported the research that led to the patent); they hope to hit it big and make a lot of money — I wonder if they’re in the wrong line of work. Also, I think I am paid okay, but many colleagues in industry consider me foolish for underselling myself (industry pays much more), even though I get to be my own boss and have job security while they can be fired at a whim and do what others tell them to do.

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    • “No, seriously, do you understand why they feel that they need more money?”

      A psychoanalyst would talk of severe anal stage traumas. This cannot be understood other than on this kind of level, I believe. There is no logic behind it other than the logic of trauma. Not that it’s an excuse, of course, because we always have a choice whether to deal with our traumas or not and the rich people have endless resources to do that.

      The problem is that it is culturally acceptable and even considered cute to say “All I care about is money and making more money and making my money grow, MONEY,” like Kevin O’Leary does on TV 5 times a week.

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    • “Also, I think I am paid okay, but many colleagues in industry consider me foolish for underselling myself (industry pays much more), even though I get to be my own boss and have job security while they can be fired at a whim and do what others tell them to do.”

      I’m like you: I don’t teach in summer and avoid soliciting most grants because I value my freedom more.

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