The self as 'mini-corporation'? The fate of neo-liberal models of personhood in the boom (and bust) economies of Central and Eastern Europe

Nicolette Makovicky (University of Oxford )
Dimitris Dalakoglou (Vrije University Amsterdam)
Start time:
27 August, 2010 at 11:30
Session slots:


The economic and political transition to a market capitalist system in Central and Eastern Europe has been described as the greatest neo-liberal experiment in recent history. Liberalisation has not only created profound changes in the areas of social welfare, entrepreneurship, labour, and consumption, but also new ideals of social ethics, citizenship and self-government. In an environment shaped by global capital and labour flows, flexible specialization, low job security and diminishing welfare provisions, individuals are encouraged to become self-reliant and 'flexible' in both in their lifestyle choices and their working lives. People are being asked to re-think themselves, their rights and duties along the lines of a neo-liberal socio-economic philosophy. Anthropologist Emily Martin (2007) has described this neo-liberal subject as a 'mini-corporation'. According to this model, persons are encouraged to see themselves as property-owners and owners of their own labour power (as in the classical liberal tradition), but as "a collection of assets that must be continually invested in, nurtured, managed, and developed" (Martin 2000: 582). This workshop invites scholars to reflect upon the ascent of neo-liberal models of personhood amongst policy makers, corporate individuals, politicians and ordinary citizens in Central and Eastern Europe; and to debate the consequences of the global recession for the viability of such models. How has the economic boom of the last 10 years and the current crises changed people's aspirations? Their perception of the private and public sectors? Their narratives of transition 'success' and 'failure' ?