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Clarissa's Blog

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

Relating to the Self

What interests me in the study of neoliberalism isn’t the economic practices (which have been studied ad nauseam and are not my field anyway) but neoliberalism as a source of subjectivity, of a certain mode of relating to one’s self. 

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9 thoughts on “Relating to the Self

  1. I’ve been thinking about this too! It seems like there’s an isolationism to the neoliberal self.

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    • Absolutely. Without atomization and severing of social bonds, it simply won’t work.

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      • The self cannot exist without others so the neoliberal self is counterfeit – it’s like the active abandonment of consciousness in favor of turning one’s life into an endless sequence of stimulus and response… brrrrrrrr

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        • Yeah, it’s a castrated existence, for sure.

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        • DWeird on said:

          I’m not buying this “the self cannot exist without others” line. Instinctually, because of how similar the complaint is to fairly rote self-help advice you can get off the bestseller shelf in any bookstore. There’s a bit of personal bias of mine about any knowledge truly worth having necessarily being exclusive and rare, but it’s not like either of you, Cliff and Clarissa, have maintained that the problem with neoliberal societies is too much awareness of their problems.

          Philosophically, a conception of true selfhood as separate and distinct from one’s family, friends, peers, wider society, whatever else you may have, isn’t even particularly modern, western, or unique.

          In terms of how ideologies affect societies at a broad level – worries about the breakdown of natural social units, anomie, alienation, etcetera, are a couple hundred years old at least. Whatever is up has been going on for a long time and it seems well weird to treat the very latest bit of ideology as the true cause of a long-running issue.

          (Oh, and, as a little philosophical summersault… Isn’t the study of the self, as an entirely sufficient field, not itself based on the same conceptual roots of neoliberalism as I understand you understanding it – as in, placing the lone individual at the core of our capacity to understand anything else?)

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          • The same couple hundred years that capitalism has existed, eh? 🙂 Capitalism needs alienated loners whose subjectivity is completely individualistic. But hey, the result of this subjectivity is not only consumerism but also feminism. So I ain’t necessarily complaining. 🙂

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            • DWeird on said:

              Sure, that makes sense at least. I do object to talking of a counterfeit self when talking about neoliberalism, though, because, well, when was the counterpoint self around if the last two hundred years are out of the picture?

              My own pet theory regarding increasing individualization and solitude has more to do with the fact that human capacity for connection is not boundless, and the sheer increase in population density means that the typical daily human interaction in modern life is one between strangers – something you need a different set communication and psychological tools to deal with. Genuine social bonds may still exist as they ever have, they’re just not going to be broadly politically relevant.

              And I know your current idea is that religion provided social cohesion before capitalism came around, but did it really? Even under conditions of near universal popular illiteracy and speed of travel & communication being walking pace, the history of European religion is one of splintering into rivers of heresies while occasionally being kicked back into unity with the help of a jumped-up warlord.

              Bit of an ungenerous overgeneralization of thousands of years of history, sure, but close enough to the truth that it makes it hard for me to swallow the idea of religion being sufficient for or equivalent to social bonds.

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  2. DWeird on said:

    Heh. God, I miss this level of energy.

    tldr:

    Good topic, would love to see you tear into detail with it.

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