Making Sense of Neoliberal Subjectivity: A Discourse Analysis of Media Language on Self-development

The influence of neoliberalism on culture and subjectivity is well documented.


This paper contributes to understanding of how neoliberal ideology enters into the production of subjectivity. While subject formation takes place in multiple and contradictory ways and across multiple social sites, we focus on the increasingly popular media discourse of self-development, and examine it as a technology of neoliberal subjectification. Drawing on Foucauldian understandings, we analyze data from two different newspapers from two different national contexts, both of which are heavily influenced by neoliberalism. Based on our analysis, we detail four interrelated discourses—rationality, autonomy and responsibility, entrepreneurship, and positivity and self-confidence—demonstrating how these discourses constitute the neoliberal subject in ways consonant with neoliberal governmentality. There is no observable resistance to subject positions offered within these discourses. Self-development discourse instills stronger individualism in society, while constraining collective identity, and thus provides social control and contributes to preserving status quo of neoliberal societies.

Globalizations, 2015, doi:10.1080/14747731.2015.1033247


Published May 18, 2015 7:30 AM - Last modified Oct. 30, 2019 11:38 AM