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Conversations Between Sociologists: The Discourse of Neoliberalism as a Form of Power – Lacan’s Theory of Social Bond and Neoliberal Governmentality

15. April 16:00 - 18:00

The Discourse of Neoliberalism as a Form of Power – Lacan’s Theory of Social Bond and Neoliberal Governmentality

Krzysztof Świrek i Milan Urošević

Institute of Philosophy and Social Theory, University of Belgrade and Faculty of Sociology, University of Warsaw, are jointly organizing and kindly inviting to participate in the series of online seminars. “Conversations between sociologists” will aim at comparative research of social phenomena characteristic for post-socialist societies and an exchange of research experience.

Seminar Coordinators: Adriana Zaharijević and Barbara Bossak-Herbst.

Krzysztof Świrek: Neoliberalism can be interestingly understood in the light of Jacques Lacan’s theory of discourses. Among four types of discourses (and four types of social bond), specified by Lacan in his seminar of 1969/70, Discourse of the University is interestingly close to a form of power that disguises itself as pure rationality. In my presentation I will argue that neoliberalism as a form of power has specific traits that connects it to the Discourse of University. I will also reflect on the effects this form of power has on contemporary subjectivity. Neoliberal regime doesn’t operate by traditional mechanisms of coercion and therefore moulds the subject in a specific way – projecting ‘independent’, economically rational agent that governs itself in the context of precarious social space. In my presentation I will refer to Jacques Lacan’s theory of social bond and to Michel Foucault’s notion of governmentality to reflect on the paradoxical effects of neoliberal power on the subjective level.


Milan Urošević: The presentation seeks to explore effects neoliberalism has on the realm of subjectivity by combining Foucault’s governmentality theory with some concepts from the psychoanalytic theory of Jacques Lacan, like the concept of the “Big Other”. After presenting the basic concepts of our theoretical framework we will go on to explore the influence neoliberal reforms had on the realm of work. Next we will move onto the sphere of culture and show how neoliberalism created a completely new cultural paradigm. Finally we will explore the effects neoliberalism had on the level of subjectivity. We will show how just like in the sphere of culture neoliberal mode of regulation created a new model of subjectivity and that therefore we can outline two basic forms of subjectivity in the twentieth century that correspond to the fordist and neoliberal modes of regulation. Out basic claim will be that those modes of subjectivity can be differentiated on the basis of the location the figure of the ‘Big Other’ – that their respected governmentality regimes construct in order to govern subjects – has.

Krzysztof Świrek, born in 1985, is a sociologist, assistant professor at the Faculty of Sociology, University of Warsaw, where he defended his PhD thesis in 2016. His scientific interests include theories of ideology, symbolic power and social classes. He lectures on classical sociological theories, and has conducted seminars on conceptions of modernity and psychoanalytical analysis of power. He is an author of the book Teorie ideologii na przecięciu marksizmu i psychoanalizy [Theories of ideology at the junction of Marxism and psychoanalysis] (2018). Świrek published articles in „European Journal of Social Theory”, „Studia Socjologiczne”, „Societas/Communitas”, „Przegląd Humanistyczny”, „Hybris”, and others. Member of the editorial team of academic journal „Vew. Theories and Practices of Visual Culture” (https://www.pismowidok.org/en/index). Researcher in RePast project (2018-2019), principal investigator in a project funded from Miniatura programme of the Polish National Science Centre (2019). He has published essays and reviews on cinema in Polish press, among ohters in „Kino” monthly and „Dwutygodnik.com”.

Milan Urošević is a research trainee at the Institute for Philosophy and Social Theory at the University of Belgrade. He got his bachelor and master degrees at the Department for Sociology at the Faculty of Philosophy in Belgrade. His interests include cultural studies, theories of ideology, theories of subjectivity, poststructuralist philosophy, semiotics and discourse analysis. He has published in journals like „Sociologija”, „Sociološki pregled”, „Kultura” and „Etnoantropološki problemi”. He was one of the organizers of the conference „Horizons of engagement: Eternalizing Pierre Bourdieu“ that took place at the Institute for Philosophy and Social Theory in 2020.

Adriana Zaharijević is a senior research fellow at the Institute for Philosophy and Social Theory.


15. April
16:00 - 18:00