Neoliberal subjectivity – difference, free choice and individualised responsibility in the life plans of young adults in Switzerland
- Department of Geography, University of Zurich, Winterthurerstr. 190, 8057 Zurich, Switzerland
Abstract. This paper aims at exploring neoliberalism where it has been internalised and normalised as "neoliberal subjectivity''. Based on a Foucauldian discourse perspective, it analyses narrative interviews with young Swiss adults focusing on their life plans and their aspirations for the future from a gender perspective. The analysis documents a pronounced discourse of individualisation. The subjectivity of the interviewees is characterised by ideas of difference, free choice and individualised responsibility for biographical decisions and their consequences. The article uses the example of the interviewees' narratives on reconciling work and family to illustrate how the discourse of individualised responsibility works in detail and in which respects it constitutes "neoliberal subjectivity''. This Swiss study reveals how the neoliberal self-concepts of the young adults absolve the state, municipalities and employers of responsibility, transferring it to the individual. Consequently, gendered social inequalities are framed as the sole result of individual preferences and thus privatised.