The therapeutic spirit of neoliberalism
(2016) Political Theory, 44 (1), pp. 82-105.
My essay argues that neoliberal forms of government emerged through the shifting political trajectory of the therapeutic ethos in the postwar period in Anglo-American societies. In the postwar era, the therapeutic ethos attracted the attention of conservative cultural critics who described it as a destructive force on communal obligation. Initially, the therapeutic ethos appeared to align naturally with New Left ideas of democratization in the workplace and private sphere. However, I argue that the New Right was subsequently able to sever the therapeutic ethos from its alignment with social democratization by imbuing it with an alternative set of meanings centered on the ideas of market freedom and the entrepreneur. The result was the construction of the new, neoliberal forms of power, which, I argue, take the form of the management of subjectivity. Finally, I outline the two major social pathologies of the neoliberal era, namely, the consequences of its contractualized notion of citizenship and the explosion of social inequality, both of which are traceable to the influence of therapeutic notions of the self. © 2015 SAGE Publications.
Citizenship; Democracy; Foucault; Neoliberalism; New left; Therapeutic ethos