It is no accident that the vocabulary of neoliberalism, terms such as “human capital,” “personal brand,” “network,” etc. all reproduce the idea of an identity of individual and capital. This is a transformation of work as well; work is no longer defined as something endured, as a necessary passivity that is exchanged for money, for the joys of consumption. Work instead becomes the terrain of self-realization and actualization. This transformation is not just a matter of a fundamental different representation of the breakdown of stability, the presentation of insecurity as freedom, itself a variant of the spontaneous philosophy of the sphere of consumption, but also of a breakdown of the boundaries separating work from life. This is in part an effect of the instability of work, as jobs become more precarious, or are even appear to be precarious, work itself becomes a kind of perpetual application for the job.[16] The use of the phrase ‘networking’ reflects this breakdown, it is a social idea not just for times of unemployment, when making new contacts becomes paramount, but it is an ideal that encompasses all social relations. Weak ties, the ties that connect one to co-workers and colleagues, become invested with maximum hope and fear, as any tie, any relation could possible alter ones future. This precarious investment in relations with others is further complicated by the proliferation of technologies of sharing and surveillance that make self-presentation not just an isolated moment, for the workday or job interview, but a constant task. The networking, flexibility, and constant self-surveillance of the job search become a defining characteristic of contemporary labour. All the while this characteristic is purported to be not a repression of one’s fundamental self and identity, but its expression.[17] It is not just that the networking and the labor of appearing motivated, engaged, and enthusiastic has to be a kind of deep acting, demanding a great deal of commitment, but that workplace also encompasses those activities and relations that would seem to be outside of it, increasingly trying to make leisure, play, and creativity part of its structure. 

Unemployed Negativity: Economies of Affect/Affective Economies: Towards A Spinozist Critique of Political Economy


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