Psychoanalysis, Culture & Society

, Volume 19, Issue 2, pp 161–178 | Cite as

Some psychic effects of neoliberalism: Narcissism, disavowal, perversion

  • Lynne Layton
Original Article
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Special Section: Psychosocial Effects of Neoliberalism, Part II


Neoliberalisms promote the development of certain versions of subjectivity, certain character structures, defenses, transferences, and countertransferences. Foucauldian theories go only so far in being able to account for the way neoliberal versions of subjectivity are lived. The paper elaborates on the individual, group, and relational effects of social repudiations of vulnerability and dependency needs and describes the perverse effects of the widespread disavowal of the interdependence of privileged and marginalized populations.


neoliberalism narcissism perversion disavowal trauma social narcissism 


  1. Adams, C.J. (2014) The impact of neoliberalism on the psychological development of low-income black youth. Psychoanalysis, Culture and Society 19 (1): 39–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Alexander, M. (2010) The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. New York: The New Press.Google Scholar
  3. Alford, C.F. (2013) Winnicott and trauma. Psychoanalysis, Culture and Society 18 (3): 259–276.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Alford, C.F. (2014) Voting against one’s interests: The hatred of big government. Psychoanalysis, Culture and Society 19 (2): 203–208.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Archangelo, A. (2010) Social exclusion, difficulties with learning and symbol formation: A Bionian approach. Psychoanalysis, Culture and Society 15 (4): 315–327.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Archangelo, A. (2014) A psychosocial approach to neoliberalism, social exclusion and education. Psychoanalysis, Culture and Society 19 (1): 29–38.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bass, A (2000) Difference and Disavowal: The Trauma of Eros. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Benjamin, J. (1988) The Bonds of Love. New York: Pantheon.Google Scholar
  9. Binkley, S. (2009) The work of neoliberal governmentality: Temporality and ethical substance in the Tale of Two Dads. Foucault Studies 6: 60–78.Google Scholar
  10. Binkley, S. (2011a) Psychological life as enterprise: Social practice and the government of neo-liberal interiority. History of the Human Sciences 24 (3): 83–102.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Binkley, S. (2011b) Happiness, positive psychology and the program of neoliberal governmentality. Subjectivity 4 (4): 371–394.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Binkley, S. (2014) Happiness as Enterprise: An Essay on Neoliberal Life. Albany, New York: SUNY Press.Google Scholar
  13. Bion, W.R. (1962a) Learning from Experience. Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson.Google Scholar
  14. Bion, W.R. (1962b) The psycho-analytic study of thinking. International Journal of Psychoanalysis 43: 306–310.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. Bion, W.R. (1970) Attention and Interpretation. London: Karnac.Google Scholar
  16. Brah, A. and Phoenix, A. (2004) Ain’t I a woman? Revisiting intersectionality. Journal of International Women’s Studies 5 (3): 75–86.Google Scholar
  17. Brown, W. (2006) American nightmare: Neoliberalism, neoconservatism, and de-democratization. Political Theory 34 (6): 690–714.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Burack, C. (2014) Keeping government out of my medicare and in her uterus: The paradox of small government conservatism. Psychoanalysis, Culture and Society 19 (2): 190–195.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Centeno, M.A. and Cohen, J.N. (2012) The arc of neoliberalism. Annual Review of Sociology 38: 317–340.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Chang, W.-Y. and Glynos, J. (2011) Ideology and politics in the popular press: The case of the 2009 UK MPs’ expenses scandal. In: L. Dahlberg and S. Phelan (eds.) Discourse Theory and Critical Media Politics. London: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 106–127.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Cushman, P. (1995) Constructing the Self, Constructing America. Reading, MA: Addison Wesley.Google Scholar
  22. Cushman, P. (2013) ‘Your cheatin’ heart’: From scientism to medicalization to an unethical psychotherapy. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association, Honolulu.Google Scholar
  23. Debieux Rosa, M. and Mountian, I. (2013) Psychoanalytic listening to socially excluded young people. Psychoanalysis, Culture and Society 18 (1): 1–16.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. du Gay, P. (2004) Against ‘Enterprise’ (but not against ‘enterprise’, for that would make no sense). Organization 11 (1): 37–57.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Ehrenreich, B. (2001) Nickel and Dimed. New York: Henry Holt.Google Scholar
  26. Fairbairn, W.R.D. (1954) An Object-Relations Theory of the Personality. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  27. Fisher, M. and Gilbert, J. (2013) Capitalist realism and neoliberal hegemony: A dialogue. New Formations 80/81: 89–101.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Foucault, M. (2008) The Birth of Biopolitics. Lectures at the Collège de France 1978–1979. M. Senellart (ed.), Translated by G. Burchell, New York: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  29. Franken, A. (2003) Lies (And the Lying Liars Who Tell Them). New York: Dutton.Google Scholar
  30. Freud, S. (1927, 1961) Fetishism. Standard Edition 21. London: Hogarth Press, pp. 147–158.Google Scholar
  31. Freud, S. (1937, 1964) Analysis terminable and interminable. Standard Edition 23. London: Hogarth Press, pp. 209–253.Google Scholar
  32. Gilbert, J. (2013) What kind of thing is ‘neoliberalism’? New Formations 80/81: 7–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Glynos, J. (2014a) Neoliberalism, markets, fantasy: The case of health and social care. Psychoanalysis, Culture and Society 19 (1): 5–12.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Glynos, J. (2014b) Hating government and voting against one’s interests. Self-transgression, enjoyment, critique. Psychoanalysis, Culture and Society 19 (2): 179–189.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Guntrip, H. (1971) Psychoanalytic Theory, Therapy, and the Self. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  36. Hage, G. (2003) Against Paranoid Nationalism: Searching for Hope in a Shrinking Society. Annandale, NSW, Australia: Pluto Press Australia.Google Scholar
  37. Hall, S. (2011) The neoliberal revolution. Soundings 48 (Summer): 9–27.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Hall, S., Massey, D. and Rustin, M. (eds.) (2013) After Neoliberalism: The Kilburn Manifesto. Online, accessed 1 January 2014.
  39. Hamman, T. (2009) Neoliberalism, governmentality, and ethics. Foucault Studies 6: 37–59.Google Scholar
  40. Harvey, D. (2005) A Brief History of Neoliberalism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  41. Hoggett, P. (2013) Governance and social anxieties. Organisational & Social Dynamics 13 (1): 69–78.Google Scholar
  42. Hollander, N.C. and Gutwill, S. (2006) Despair and hope in a culture of denial. In: L. Layton, N.C. Hollander and S. Gutwill (eds.) Psychoanalysis, Class and Politics: Encounters in the Clinical Setting. New York: Routledge, pp. 81–91.Google Scholar
  43. Jimenez, L. and Walkerdine, V. (2012) Shameful work: A psychosocial study of father-son relations, young male unemployment, and femininity in an ex-steel community. Psychoanalysis, Culture & Society 17 (3): 278–295.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Klein, M. (1946) Notes on some schizoid mechanisms. International Journal of Psycho-Analysis 27: 99–110.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  45. Klein, N. (2007) The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. New York: Metropolitan Books.Google Scholar
  46. Kohut, H. (1971) The Analysis of the Self: A Systematic Approach to the Psychoanalytic Treatment of Narcissistic Personality Disorder. New York: International Universities Press.Google Scholar
  47. Kohut, H. (1977) The Restoration of the Self. New York: International Universities Press.Google Scholar
  48. Kovel, J. (1980) Narcissism and the family. Telos 44 (Summer): 88–100.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Krugman, P. (2002) For Richer. New York Times Magazine. October 20. [WWW document], accessed 8 September 2007.
  50. Kubie, L. (1974) The drive to become both sexes. Psychoanalytic Quarterly 43 (3): 349–426.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  51. Lamont, M. (2000) The Dignity of Working Men. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  52. Lasch, C. (1979) The Culture of Narcissism. New York: W.W. Norton, pp. 170–191.Google Scholar
  53. Layton, L. (1998) repr. 2004 Who’s That Girl? Who’s That Boy? Clinical Practice Meets Postmodern Gender Theory. New York: Routledge, 2004.Google Scholar
  54. Layton, L. (2006a) Retaliatory discourse: The politics of attack and withdrawal. International Journal of Applied Psychoanalytic Studies 3 (2): 143–155.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Layton, L. (2006b) Racial identities, racial enactments, and normative unconscious processes. Psychoanalytic Quarterly 75 (1): 237–269.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  56. Layton, L. (2006c) Attacks on linking: The unconscious pull to dissociate individuals from their social context. In: L. Layton, N.C. Hollander and S. Gutwill (eds.) Psychoanalysis, Class and Politics. Encounters in the Clinical Setting. New York, NY: Routledge, pp. 107–117.Google Scholar
  57. Layton, L. (2009) Who’s responsible? Our mutual implication in each other’s suffering. Psychoanalytic Dialogues 19 (2): 105–120.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Layton, L. (2010) Irrational exuberance: Neoliberalism and the perversion of truth. Subjectivity 3 (3): 303–322.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Layton, L. (2011a) Something to do with a girl named Marla Singer: Capitalism, narcissism, and therapeutic discourse in David Fincher’s Fight Club. Free Associations 62: 112–134.Google Scholar
  60. Layton, L. (2011b) On the irreconcilable in psychic life: The role of culture in the drive to become both sexes. Psychoanalytic Quarterly LXXX (2): 461–474.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Layton, L. (2013a) Normative unconscious processes. In: T. Teo (ed.) Encyclopedia of Critical Psychology. Online
  62. Layton, L. (2013b) Psychoanalysis and politics: Historicising subjectivity. Mens Sana Monographs 11 (1): 68–81.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  63. Layton, L. (2014) Grandiosity, neoliberalism, and neoconservatism. Psychoanalytic Inquiry 34 (5).Google Scholar
  64. Layton, L., Hollander, N.C. and Gutwill, S. (eds.) (2006) Psychoanalysis, Class and Politics. Encounters in the Clinical Setting. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  65. Lesser, R. (2014) Notes on neoliberalisms and psychoanalysis. Psychoanalysis, Culture and Society 19 (1): 13–18.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Littler, J. (2013) Meritocracy as plutocracy: The marketising of ‘equality’ under neoliberalism. New Formations 80/81: 52–72.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Livesay, J. (1985) Habermas, narcissism, and status. Telos 64: 75–90.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Miyazaki, H. (2010) The temporality of no hope. In: C.J. Greenhouse (ed.) Ethnographies of Neoliberalism. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, pp. 238–250.Google Scholar
  69. Peltz, R. (2006) The manic society. In: L. Layton, N.C. Hollander and S. Gutwill (eds.) Psychoanalysis, Class and Politics. Encounters in the Clinical Setting. New York: Routledge, pp. 65–80.Google Scholar
  70. Read, J. (2009) A genealogy of homo-economicus: Neoliberalism and the production of subjectivity. Foucault Studies 6: 25–36.Google Scholar
  71. Rodger, J. (2003) Social solidarity, welfare and post-emotionalism. Journal of Social Policy 32 (3): 403–421.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Rose, N. (1989) Governing the Soul: The Shaping of the Private Self. London, England: Free Association Books.Google Scholar
  73. Rose, N. (1999) Inventiveness in politics. Economy and Society 28 (3): 467–493.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Roseneil, S. (2014) On meeting Linda: An intimate encounter with (not-)belonging in the current conjuncture. Psychoanalysis, Culture and Society 19 (1): 19–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Rustin, M. (2011) The crisis of a social system. Soundings 48: 40–53.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Rustin, M. (2014) Belonging to oneself alone: The spirit of neoliberalism. Psychoanalysis, Culture & Society 19 (2): 145–160.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. Rustin, M.E. and Rustin, M.J. (2010) States of narcissism. In: E. McGinley and A. Varchevker (eds.) Mourning, Depression and Narcissism throughout the Life Cycle. London: Karnac, pp. 209–234.Google Scholar
  78. Samuels, R. (2009) New Media, Cultural Studies, and Critical Theory after Postmodernity. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. Samuels, R. (2014) Neoliberalism and higher ed. Psychoanalysis, Culture & Society 19 (1): 47–51.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. Scanlon, C. and Adlam, J. (2013) Reflexive violence. Psychoanalysis, Culture & Society 18 (3): 223–241.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  81. Shaw, D. (2013) Traumatic Narcissism. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  82. Skeggs, B. (2005) The making of class and gender through visualizing moral subject formation. Sociology 39 (5): 965–982.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  83. Sullivan, H.S. (1953) The Interpersonal Theory of Psychiatry. New York: Norton.Google Scholar
  84. Wacquant, L. (2001a) Deadly symbiosis. When ghetto and prison meet and mesh. Punishment and Society 3 (1): 95–134.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  85. Wacquant, L. (2001b) The penalization of poverty and the rise of neo-liberalism. European Journal on Criminal Policy and Research 9 (4): 401–412.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  86. Winnicott, D.W. (1965) The Maturational Processes and the Facilitating Environment. Madison, CT: International Universities Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lynne Layton
    • 1
  1. 1.Massachusetts Institute for Psychoanalysis and Editor, BrooklineUSA

Personalised recommendations