Benda Hofmeyr - Neoliberal governmentality, knowledge work, and thumos

jpe:8662 - Journal of Philosophical Economics, November 20, 2021, Volume XIV Issue 1-2 -
Neoliberal governmentality, knowledge work, and thumos

Authors: Benda Hofmeyr ORCID-iD1

  • 1 University of Pretoria [South Africa]

Research has shown that the knowledge worker, the decisive driver of the knowledge economy, works increasingly longer hours. In fact, it would appear that instead of working to live, they live to work. There appears to be three reasons for this living-to-work development. First, the knowledge worker ‘has to’ on account of the pressure to become ever more efficient. Such pressure translates into internalized coercion in the case of the self-responsible knowledge worker. Secondly, working is constant, because the Internet and smart technologies and mobile devices have made it ‘possible’. It gives the worker the capacity and management omnipotent control. In the final instance, the neoliberal knowledge worker works all the time because s/he paradoxically ‘wants to’. It is a curious phenomenon, because this compulsive working is concomitant with a rise of a host of physical, emotional, and psychological disorders as well as the erosion of social bonds. The paradox is exacerbated by the fact that the knowledge worker does not derive any of the usual utilities or satisfactions associated with hard work. Elsewhere I have ascribed this apparent contradiction at the heart of the living-to-work phenomenon to the invisible thumotic satisfaction generated by knowledge work. In the present article, I argue that neoliberal governmentality has found a way to tether thumos directly to the profit incentive. I draw on Foucault’s 1978-1979 Collége de France lecture course in which he analysed neoliberal governmentality with specific emphasis on the work of the neoliberal theorist of human capital, Gary Becker.

Volume: Volume XIV Issue 1-2
Section: Articles
Published on: November 20, 2021
Imported on: November 20, 2021
Keywords: Neoliberalism,governmentality,human capital,biopolitics,control,Foucault,Becker,thumos,labour,knowledge worker,[SHS.PHIL]Humanities and Social Sciences/Philosophy,[SHS.ECO]Humanities and Social Sciences/Economics and Finance

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