For Work / Against Work
Debates on the centrality of work

"The psychopolitics of (and psychotherapy required by) neoliberalism"

by Olivier, Bert (2020)


This paper focuses on the currently hegemonic economic system in the world known as “neoliberal capitalism” or “neoliberalism.” It attempts to gauge the neoliberal psychopolitics accompanying the unfolding and reinforcement of neoliberalism—as well as the psychological impact this has on individuals worldwide. The work of several authors, including Naomi Klein, Bernard Stiegler, Paul Verhaeghe, Michel Foucault, Shoshana Zuboff, Byung-Chul Han, Laurent de Sutter, Martin Heidegger, Gilles Deleuze and Fėlix Guattari is enlisted firstly to demonstrate the endemic inequality (and its health consequences) brought about by neoliberalism, and secondly to clarify what is meant by “neoliberal psychopolitics.” Whereas the former has been shown as accompanying the capitalist strategy of “shock,” the latter is characterised by Byung-Chul Han as the quintessential psychic strategy employed by neoliberal capitalism to enhance “positive control” of neoliberal subjects in a quest to optimise productivity and profit. This is a strategy at odds with that of disciplinary societies (as typified by Foucault), which produce “docile bodies.” To be able to gauge the kind of psychotherapy commensurate with neoliberal psychopolitics, Han's analysis of the “entrepreneurial” self, enlisted by neoliberalism to maximise profit and productivity, is scrutinised—which leads to his turn towards “idiocy” and the need to inaugurate a new language or “idiom” as a way to resist neoliberalism. This is amplified by a discussion of Heidegger's notion of “everydayness” (of which neoliberalism is currently an embodiment) as a covering-up of human beings' potential for discovering their (liberating) “singularity” by facing their own death resolutely. To conclude the paper, Deleuze and Guattari's concept of “schizoanalysis” is briefly examined, showing how the threads of the argument culminate in what it entails: namely, the freeing of subjects' desires through the dismantling of constraining forms of identification, such as that demanded by neoliberalism.

Key Passage



Byung-Chul Han, Capitalism, Entrepreneurial Self, Inequality, Psychopolitics, Schizoanalysis


On Han

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