For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

"Glimpses of resistance: Entrepreneurial subjectivity and freelance journalist work"

by Norbäck, Maria (2019)


New precarious work practices are emerging in the post-industrial labor market together with subjects that are fit to cope with them. The literature on neoliberal governmentality theorizes how individuals are made to embrace a subjectivity that enforces competition, personal responsibility, and autonomy. However, few studies so far have investigated how such subjectivities may be resisted. Building on a study of freelance journalists, this article investigates the question of resistance. Although these professionals are indeed governed by a neoliberal regime, the findings illustrate how they also attempt to resist by enacting alternative subjectivities. The freelance journalists engage in resistance by organizing professional communities and boycotting exploitative copyright contracts, reduce and refuse work, lower the quality on delivered jobs, and quit freelance journalism altogether. By doing so, they refuse personal responsibility for their situation, they spend their time not generating economic value, and they enact a subjectivity of collaborator rather than competitor. This study thus illustrates how individuals who are poised to embrace a subjectivity as ?entrepreneurial subjects par excellence? are, despite everything, still able to engage in practices that constitute subject positions that denaturalize and challenge entrepreneurial subjectivity, even if the immediate outcomes of such resistance may be ambiguous at best. The study adds to the recent literature on resistance, particularly to the discussion about what it is one resists and against whom resistance is aimed, by showing how more traditional notions of resistance may intermingle and interact with more recent ideas related to refusal and exit movements.

Key Passage

The seemingly all-encompassing and totalizing form of biopower put forward by Foucault (2008) has, however, given rise to a scholarly discussion about the limits of such power and control. If this power takes over ‘life itself’, then how can it be resisted? Researchers have started to discuss what practices and forms such a resistance would entail (Fleming, 2014; Moisander et al., 2017; Vallas and Christin, 2018), and argue that even for entrepreneurial subjects ‘par excellence’ (Scharff, 2016), resistance ought to be possible as ‘no form of power is infallible’ (Fleming, 2014: 893). This article presents a study of Swedish freelance journalists and aims to answer the call for more studies that investigate resistance under neoliberal governmentality (Moisander et al., 2017). The starting point is that resistance often entails practices that are ambiguous, multifaceted, and contradictory as ‘resistance and contradiction are frequent bedfellows. That is, resistance can both challenge extant relations of power and reproduce them, even in a single act of resistance’ (Mumby et al., 2017: 1161). This means that many practices of resistance must be understood as contradictory and complex to the extent that a practice of resistance may at the same time reproduce or even reinforce that which it resists. (p.3)


Foucault, Resistance, Responsibility, Entrepreneurial, Journalism, Refusal, Refuse Work, Neoliberalism


On Foucault, Foucault

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