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Senior Research Seminars: Professor Ilana Gershon, Indiana University

When Jun 02, 2017
from 04:15 PM to 06:00 PM
Where Edmund Leach Room Division of Social Anthropology Free School Lane, Cambridge
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Me™: Hiring in a Neoliberal Age

Professor Ilana Gershon, Indiana University

The U.S. neoliberal self is a model of the self peculiar to contemporary capitalism -- one that not only views the self as owned, but owned as though the self was a business -- a bundle of skills, qualities, experiences, assets, and relationships meant to be consciously managed and continually enhanced.  As a model, it encourages people to analyze social interactions as business interactions, as well as inspiring them to put neoliberal principles into practice.  Yet reality always exceeds and thwarts a model.  Because social models are reductive by their very nature, social dilemmas are inevitably going to emerge when people put these models into practice.  In this paper, I discuss how studying hiring in corporate America makes visible the parts of a  U.S. neoliberal model of the self that are challenged by the reality of hiring, including the belief that flexibility is always an ideal, that responsibility always devolves to the individual, and that individuals are equivalent to corporations, indeed that the scale of a social unit is irrelevant.   This paper looks at how hiring puts the neoliberal self into practice, and in the process reveals some of neoliberalism's faultlines.

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