Psychoanalysis, Culture & Society

, Volume 22, Issue 4, pp 364–382 | Cite as

Shame and performativity: Thoughts on the psychology of neoliberalism

Original Article


Organisational theorists use the term ‘performativity’ when examining how management maximises the efficiency of educated labour under neoliberalism. This essay will argue that performativity exploits the employee’s desire to achieve the ideal, yoking this to target setting and performance monitoring. Everything becomes quantified, including the self. Insecurity and failure lurk in the shadow of performativity and feelings of shame become pervasive, replacing guilt as an internal control mechanism. The paper will describe how the abject position of the self in the world of production finds some relief and compensation in the world of consumption where the self feels entitled to have what it wants and to have it now. The paper concludes by wondering whether, in countries like the US and the UK, neoliberalism’s new educated social classes have maintained their distinction from and dumped their shame upon the left-behind white working class, thereby reproducing the class divisions which currently fuel reactionary forms of populism.


performativity quantification the ideal shame populism 


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Copyright information

© Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.BristolUK

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