The Work of Neoliberal Governmentality: Temporality and Ethical Substance in the Tale of Two Dads


  • Sam Binkley Emerson College



This paper considers debates around the neoliberal governmentality, and argues for the need to better theorize the specific ethical practices through which such programs of governmentality are carried out. Arguing that much theoretical and empirical work in this area is prone to a “top down” approach, in which governmentality is reduced to an imposing apparatus through which subjectivities are produced, it argues instead for the need to understand the self-production of subjectivities by considering the ethical practices that make up neoliberal governmentality. Moreover, taking Robert T. Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad/Poor Dad as an illustrative case, the point is made that the work of neoliberal governmentality specifically targets the temporalities of conduct, in an attempt to shape temporal orientations in a more entrepreneurial form. Drawing on Foucault’s lecture courses on liberalism and neoliberalism, and Jacques Donzelot’s work on the social, the case is made that neoliberal governmentality exhorts individuals to act upon the residual social temporalities that persist as a trace in the dispositions of neoliberal subjects. Moreover, the paper concludes with a discussion of the potentials for resistance in this relation, understood as temporal counter-conducts within neoliberalism.

Author Biography

Sam Binkley, Emerson College

Sam Binkley is assistant professor of sociology at Emerson College, Boston. His research considers the production of identity in the context of contemporary cultures of consumption, with a concentration on the role of lifestyle movements from the counterculture of the 1970s to contemporary anti-consumerist activism. He has also researched topics ranging from Cuban socialism to the temporality of neo-liberalism, as well as a range of theoretical inquiries related to Pierre Bourdieu, Norbert Elias and Michel Foucault. His recent monograph, Getting Loose: Lifestyle Consumption in the 1970s (Duke University Press, 2007), examines the role of lifestyle discourse in the shaping of reflexive identity. Several recent articles have studied the everyday production of identity against the backdrop of new economic rationalities. He currently serves as co-editor of the journal Foucault Studies, and his articles have appeared in the Journal of Consumer Culture, Cultural Studies, Rethinking Marxism, The European Journal of Cultural Studies and the Journal for Cultural Research. He is currently working on a new book on happiness.




How to Cite

Binkley, S. (2009). The Work of Neoliberal Governmentality: Temporality and Ethical Substance in the Tale of Two Dads. Foucault Studies, 60–78.