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Care of the self and subjectivity in neoliberal precarious societies

Brunella Casalini

This paper aims at analyzing precarity as an existential condition that is structural and that permeates one’s affective environment. The uncaring rules of contemporary public management and their competitive spirit produce a sense of widespread precarity. This paper explores the effects of this sense of precarity on subjectivities, specifically in relation to those operating in domains with a caring mission, such as social work or university education and research, where burnout, depression and exhaustion, due to trying to comply with new rules, often occurs. However, it is also possible to find other reactions, such as cynicism, which, when directed not towards those who expect care but towards the organization itself, may be a form of resistance that signals an alternative approach to care of the self in the face of systemic neoliberal imperatives. These alternative tendencies in relation to care of the self suggest not only the relevance, from a care ethics perspective, of referring to Michel Foucault’s interpretation of neoliberalism, but also of his reflections on the link between the classical tradition of care of the self and care of others. Given the deleterious effects of neoliberalism on care of the self and of others, care ethicists in particular need to be aware of options emerging to express care of the self and of others more appropriately.

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