Human Capital: Subjectivity and the Culture of Neoliberalism

Course Number: ENGL 236
Prerequisites: Graduate Standing
Catalog Course Entry: ENGL 236
Quarter: Winter 2017
Instructor: Boscagli, Maurizia
Day(s): R
Time: 12:00pm - 2:30pm
Location: SH 2617
Description:

     During the last thirty years neoliberalism has become the global economic model. What new forms of culture has its hegemony engendered?

     The regime of work and life that neoliberalism has put in place, precarization, debt as a form of governance, and “capitalist realism” (the foreclosure of any other possibility from “what is”), all rely on new techniques of power, and newly shaped forms of subjectivity. This seminar examines the cultures of neoliberalism and the narratives (ideological, theoretical, aesthetic) that neoliberalism makes available to the individual to re-imagine itself and reality.  No longer a producer self, and hardly a happy consumer, the subject is now trained to think of itself as human capital, so that its entire affective and psychic being can become another means for the accumulation of value. 

     The immaterial production and circulation of financial capital goes hand in hand with the de-interiorization and disembodied condition of the entrepreneur-self: the “soul” becomes now the target of power. New paradigms are needed: biopolitics and immunity, as theorized respectively by Michel Foucault and Roberto Esposito, are now taken over by psychopolitics, which, no longer disciplinary, speaks instead the language of freedom.

    If affect, desire, play can become means of profit, if we are human capital, exploitable as any other commodity, how can we reclaim distance from neoliberal culture? Can humanism at the time of the posthuman and its philosophies, guarantee, or at least promise us, an alternative? Against the call to self-optimization, and the positivity of self-entrepreneurial energy that is continually demanded of us, in the bland and (blah) panorama of contemporary non-politics, could one raise again the banner of negativity?  What are the figures of deviance capable of challenging the culture of neoliberalism and its forms of subjectivation? The lazy, the exhausted, the autonomist, the queer, the unemployed, the feminist, the migrant, the schizophrenic, the idiot, those who reclaim the commons and a communitarian way of living…..

 

Readings from: Deleuze, Guattari,Foucault, Esposito, Berardi, Virno, Negri, Marazzi, Virilio, Preciado, Han, Edelman, Lazzarato, The Invisible Committee, Rebecca Solnit, Dubrovka Ugresic, Kathleen Stewart, Wendy Brown, et al. Films by the Dardenne brothers, Leila Kilani, Ken Loach, Chantal Ackermann, Laurent Cantet, Gianfranco Rosi.