Resisting the lure of the paycheck: Freedom and dependence in financial self-help

  • Daniel Fridman University of Texas at Austin
Keywords: Financial Freedom, Dependence, Neoliberal, Governmentality, Technologies of the self, Ethnography, Self-help


Based on two years of fieldwork with fans of financial success best-sellers, this article analyzes the idea of financial freedom, which is the cornerstone of popular financial self-help resources.  Fans of the genre train themselves and engage in business and investing with the main goal of reaching something that is at once mathematical and a condition of the self.  Financial freedom is a specific equation between income and expenses that makes it possible to quit one’s job while maintaining an income.  But it is also a condition by which one has freed oneself from one’s own fears and limitations in regards to money and investing and the need for security.  Therefore, all practices directed at increasing one’s wealth are also practices of the self that are directed at combating external and internal forms of dependence.  The intellectual roots of the problematization of internal and external dependence are explored.  The tension between freedom and security is illustrated through the example of the examination of one’s family upbringing.

Author Biography

Daniel Fridman, University of Texas at Austin
Daniel Fridman is Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology and the Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies at the University of Texas-Austin. He is interested in the intersections of economy and culture, neoliberalism and financialization, economic policy in Latin America, consumer culture, and the construction of economic subjects.
How to Cite
Fridman, D. (2014). Resisting the lure of the paycheck: Freedom and dependence in financial self-help. Foucault Studies, (18), 90-112.
Special Issue on Ethnographies of Neoliberal Governmentalities