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Neoliberal subjectivity – difference, free choice and individualised responsibility in the life plans of young adults in Switzerland


Schwiter, Karin (2013). Neoliberal subjectivity – difference, free choice and individualised responsibility in the life plans of young adults in Switzerland. Geographica Helvetica, 68(3):153-159.

Abstract

This paper aims at exploring neoliberalism where it has been internalised and normalised as “ne- oliberal subjectivity”. Based on a Foucauldian discourse perspective, it analyses narrative interviews with young Swiss adults focusing on their life plans and their aspirations for the future from a gender perspective. The analysis documents a pronounced discourse of individualisation. The subjectivity of the interviewees is characterised by ideas of di↵erence, free choice and individualised responsibility for biographical decisions and their consequences. The article uses the example of the interviewees’ narratives on reconciling work and family to illustrate how the discourse of individualised responsibility works in detail and in which respects it constitutes “neoliberal subjectivity”. This Swiss study reveals how the neoliberal self-concepts of the young adults absolve the state, municipalities and employers of responsibility, transferring it to the individual. Conse- quently, gendered social inequalities are framed as the sole result of individual preferences and thus privatised.

This paper aims at exploring neoliberalism where it has been internalised and normalised as “ne- oliberal subjectivity”. Based on a Foucauldian discourse perspective, it analyses narrative interviews with young Swiss adults focusing on their life plans and their aspirations for the future from a gender perspective. The analysis documents a pronounced discourse of individualisation. The subjectivity of the interviewees is characterised by ideas of di↵erence, free choice and individualised responsibility for biographical decisions and their consequences. The article uses the example of the interviewees’ narratives on reconciling work and family to illustrate how the discourse of individualised responsibility works in detail and in which respects it constitutes “neoliberal subjectivity”. This Swiss study reveals how the neoliberal self-concepts of the young adults absolve the state, municipalities and employers of responsibility, transferring it to the individual. Conse- quently, gendered social inequalities are framed as the sole result of individual preferences and thus privatised.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography
Dewey Decimal Classification:910 Geography & travel
Language:English
Date:2013
Deposited On:28 Nov 2013 13:52
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 17:11
Publisher:Geographisch-Ethnographische Gesellschaft
ISSN:0016-7312
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.5194/gh-68-153-2013
Permanent URL: https://doi.org/10.5167/uzh-85488

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