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Prof. Dr.

Ulrich Bröckling
Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg
Institut für Soziologie
Rempartstr. 15
79098 Freiburg
Tel. +49-761-203-3494
Mail. ulrich.broeckling@soziologie.uni-freiburg.de
www.soziologie.uni-freiburg.de/personen/broeckling

The Subject in the Marketplace, the Subject as Marketplace

Presentation at the Conference „The Marketization of Society: Economizing the NonEconomic“, University of Bremen, 01./02.06.2012

I.
My talk deals with the marketization of the self. Allow me to first highlight what I do not
understand by this and consequently will not discuss: I will not pursue the question of how
individuals operate in the commodity or service markets as producers or customers and in
what way their actions are imbedded in juridical regulations, cultural practices, regimes of
knowledge, Polity Models and technical infrastructures. Likewise, I will not examine which
social dynamics such market activities release, which mobilisation and innovation effects they
produce or which forms of social inequality or exclusion they create. The scope of my
argumente is more limited. When I speak of the marketization of the self, I am interested in
how subjects are interpellated and addressed as agents of the market, how they are expected to
understand themselves and act as agents of the market in areas of life that go far beyond
economic action. Therefore within the context of my talk, marketization indicates a specific
form of subjectification. It deals with the discursive fabrication of one subject position or,
more precisely: of two intensely interlinked subject positions: that of the subject in the
marketplace and that of the subject as marketplace. Taken together, both of these positions
amount to those contemporary figures of subjectification that I, at other points, have referred
to as “The Enterprising Self” (Bröckling 2007).
Interpellation and addressing invoke two figures of thought which stem from differing
theoretical contexts but nevertheless relate in a number of ways: The concept of interpellation
originated from Louis Althusser (1977) and was adopted and expanded by Judith Butler
(2001; 2003); the concept of addressing was developed within the frame of sociological
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system theory specifically by Peter Fuchs (1997), Michael Hutter und Gunther Teubner
(1994).
Althusser (1971: 163) has condensed interpellation into a famous small „theoretical
scene“, „which can be imagined along the lines of the most commonplace everyday police (or
other) hailing: 'Hey, you there!' Assuming that the theoretical scene I have imagined takes
place in the street, the hailed individual will turn round. By this mere one-hundred-andeighty-degree physical conversion, he becomes a subject. Why? Because he has recognized
that the hail was 'really' addressed to him, and that 'it was really him who was hailed' (and not
someone else). Experience shows that the practical telecommunication of hailings is such that
they hardly ever miss their man: verbal call or whistle, the one hailed always recognizes that
it is really him who is being hailed. And yet it is a strange phenomenon, and one which cannot
be explained solely by 'guilt feelings', despite the large numbers who 'have something on their
consciences'.“
To be what one is, so the scene suggests, one firstly becomes a subject through hearing the
voice of another, and secondly through knowing that it is you and only you who is being
addressed. The power of this voice is only confirmed, or even constituted, by the turning of
the called party towards the call. Were the “Hey, you there!” to fall on deaf ears, there would
neither be the authority or a subject that – obediently or reluctantly – referred to it. The
process of interpellation follows the model of linguistic signification while aiming at the same
time towards the allocation of non-linguistic meaning. The power of the designation lies in
the way it generates that which is presumed. Judith Butler has drawn attention to the fact that
this does not occur through one, single act, but rather through an iterative process. The
assigned meanings are therefore never stable; they are continually charged, interrupted,
postponed and translated.
In a similar manner to the figure of interpellation the system-theoretical concept of addressing
combines processes of attribution with those responding to this self-constitution. And, as with
interpellation, everything is affected: “The social address is a question of survival”, writes
Peter Fuchs (2003: 61f.), nothing would work for an individual in this world, “if they could
not assume the form of addressability, if they didn’t come into question as a point of
departure for generating an address”. The individual would be suspended from every form of
communication relied on for existence. As is well known, system theory took leave of the
term “action” as a basic sociological category and replaced it with communication, or more
precisely: the term “action” was reformulated communication-theoretically. Rather than
consisting

of

acting

subjects,

social

systems
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process

communication.

However,

communication is viewed as a chain of utterances that in turn have to related to points of
utterance. “Someone, something must have demonstrated behaviour which allowed
connections precisely because it was understandable as an utterance in the first place” (Fuchs
2003: 59). Put another way: Communication emphasises and produces agent-fictions and it is
this communicative fabrication of agents as points of attribution that the concept of
addressing or addressability advances. In short: An agent is one onto whom action can be
attributed. Who or what in this sense counts as attributable is contingent and an effect of
communicative processes in themselves. Crucial is the assumption of an instance that
understands an utterance as information. This as-if assumption that enables communication
and stability, and is referred to as a “person”, corresponds most directly in system theoretical
terminology to that which in other theoretical language is termed “subject”.
In functionally differentiated societies the various subsystems each establish specific
communicative addressings. The economic system operates with a different fiction of the
agent from the legal system and this in turn with one different from the political system, and
so on. Each social subsystem possesses its own model of rationality. With the help of this
model it “sees” and personifies specific human characteristics; and it “sees” and personifies
only these. The psychic systems, repeatedly addressed as Homo oeconomicus, Homo
juridicus, Homo politicus, Homo religiosus, Homo scientificus etc. can be addressed as such
because they themselves use the specific fictions of the agent from each function system in
order to be able to connect their operations with the communicative operations in economy,
law, politics, religion, science etc. (Hutter/Teubner 1994). During this process of addressing,
the social subsystems only actualise a section of possible human behaviour while at the same
time expanding these highly selective subject positions into generalised concepts of the self.
Subsequently, from the perspective of the economic system one “is” a Homo oeconomicus not
just at the till in a supermarket or when one completes an employment contract. The psychic
systems conversely fall back on these subsystem-specific addressings in order to describe
themselves. The simultaneity of various forms of addressing appears from their point of view
as conflicting interpretations of the self, which individuals must be able to update according
to the communicative context. Not only two souls live within them, as in Goethe’s Faust, but
rather many souls that must find equilibrium or, depending on the situation, be exchanged for
one another. The social function systems, with their constructions of the person and social
addressings, create irritations in the psychic system which enables it, “to physically
experience the limitations the social world has to reckon with” (Luhmann 2008: 146). From
the perspective of system theory, subjectification means exactly this: Irritation caused by the
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social systems and the processing of these irritations through the psychic systems.
Resultantly, the Homo oeconomicus is not a random narrative construct in economic theory
but a cipher for the function-specific expectations of the economic system, which defines how
human beings should understand themselves as agents and how they have to act in order to
participate in the market. With every purchase contract the economic system reproduces this
fiction and with every act of buying and selling the participating psychic systems align their
self-reflection with this fiction. One has to have learned a lot to be able to buy and sell
(oneself), and every purchase teaches the process anew.
Interpellation and addressing are equally as descriptive as prescriptive: They generate a force
field, a vortex where individuals are identified as those who are yet to become and who have
yet to mould themselves. Even more so than Althusser’s figure of interpellation the system
theoretical concept of addressing leaves behind notions of subjectification as other-directed
conditioning or ideological veneer. That subject positions are the effect of the allocation of
communicative addressing does not mean that they can be reduced to being formed by
manipulation. The real-fiction of the Homo oeconomicus in no case merely translates the
functional requirements of the economic system into a role script. Rather it is dependant on
becoming subjectivated, which means dependant on generating the individual resonances in
the form of altered self-interpretations and self-practices. Resonances are not independent
from, but are also never identical to, the impulses through which they are triggered. This is
especially true since in a functionally differentiated society incompatible impulses are
generally processed at the same time and the conflicting forms of addressing mutually limit
each other. Thus the economic being is simultaneously expected to be a political subject, the
bourgeois simultaneously to be a citoyen - or brought more up to date: the risk-savvy
enterprising self, who in anticipation of later profits bets on the future, at the same time is
supposed to act as a risk-averse, preventative self, whose future expectations have shrunk to
the point where, in the best case, the worst might not happen (cf. Bröckling 2010;
Lengwiler/Madarász 2010). In the polyphonic meeting of conflicting forms of interpellation
and addressing subject positions prove to be disputed projects of precarious status.
Just as precarious are the positions of the self at the marketplace and the self as marketplace:
The thesis of a marketization of the subject, the way it finds its manifestation in the role
model of the enterprising self, does not imply complete subsumption of the individual under
the requirements of totalised competition. Rather they diagnose for the present an
“asymmetrical interpenetration” (Voswinkel/Kocyba 2005: 80) between the economic system
and the remaining function systems in terms of economic mechanisms that overlap into other
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areas of the social. (I also understand the conference title “Economizing the Non-Economic”
in this way.) With this expansion, the mutual balance of the disparate function-systemspecific forms of addressing lose equilibrium, and through the competing subject positions,
market-related forms of addressing gain a hegemonic position. The imperative to understand
yourself as an agent of the market and behave as such is no longer limited to situations in
which goods are bought and sold, but rather the imperative is generalised. There is virtually
no area of the social where the market’s effect cannot be felt. Nevertheless this hegemony
does not remain unchallenged. The pressure to be affirmed as the entrepreneur of one’s self
on the ubiquitous markets and quasi-markets is not the only one that the individual is exposed
to, and not all pressures are equal.
An indication of marketization has been the semantic shift during the course of which, since
the 1990s at the latest, the term of the customer has dramatically proliferated: patients in
hospitals, students at universities, clients in the counselling centre or citizens at the authorities
(and presumably soon prisoners in jails too) have meanwhile also been addressed as
customers – whether they have accepted these services freely or have been forced, whether
they have or haven’t paid for them. However, the fabrication of subject positions that address
the self according to market-formed behaviour do not only depend on semantic adjustments
but also lean on legal rules and organisational arrangements. Representative of this are the
pervasive target agreements that put mutual claims in the form of a contract rather than
stipulating them hierarchically. Organisations as well as individuals are supposed to increase
their efficiency while at the same time better coordinating their output. This is used as the
justification for this mode of control, which is to say when they imagine themselves as
supplier and consumer on the quasi-market and align their decisions accordingly. Both sides
are therefore located opposite each other as equal business partners and negotiate binding
services and delivery times.
The discursive transformation of superiors and subordinates into internal customers and
suppliers makes invisible the asymmetry of internal power relations and instead suggests a
win-win situation of equal interests; thus a contract is only closed when all parties hope to
gain something from it. However, the formal equality of the contracted parties solidifies and
factually legitimates their social inequality: That the “contract society” (Weber 1972: 439)
binds exploitation and oppression to the consent of those who are exploited and oppressed,
means that power asymmetries are given the legitimacy of consensus. Whatever is expected
of the contract signatory, coactus voluit, he or she wanted it this way. The fictional nature of
the contract partners’ equality, assumed in the contract, becomes particularly apparent when
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social transfers are adjusted to a regime of contractualism, as in the case of the so-called Hartz
laws’ regime in Germany. Quite obviously, the service agreements between social services
and those dependent on public support are anything but symmetrical: One side states when a
contract is closed and stipulates the conditions, the other must abide by them. Marketization
operates over long stretches in a pretend-as-if-mode. This fictionalisation with its intention of
behaviour modification is far from complex: The simulation of markets aims towards the
stimulation of market-forming action.

II.
At this point I leave open which factors promoted the hegemony of a market-forming
addressing of the self and to what extent this addressing actually dominates contemporary
forms of self interpretation and moulding. Alternatively, I will try to dissect some of the
elements of entrepreneurial behaviour and in this way sketch out a sociological portrait of
forms of subjectification of the subject in the and as marketplace. As such I will not ask how
strong the vortex is, but rather in which direction it pulls. Two streams of discourse, which at
first glance appear highly disparate, provide illustrative material: Firstly, the human-capital
theory, discussed in the work of Gary S. Becker (1976) (Becker 1993, cf. Radnitzky/Bernholz
1987; Lazear 2000) whose “economic imperialism” radicalised the logic of the market into a
general descriptive model of human behaviour, and secondly, contemporary self-help guides
for budding self-optimizers.
Marketization of the self means addressing individuals as entrepreneurs of their selves and
that in turn means not seeing people in them, “like those one encounters in life and in history
but as the embodiment of functions in the course of market operations” (Mises 1940: 245). In
this sense human-capital theory describes the individual as an economic institution whose
continued existence, like that of a company, depends on his or her choices. Whatever
someone does could have been decided against or replaced by something else done at the
same time. For that reason it makes sense to presume that individuals take up the options
assumed to correspond most closely to their preferences. The human being of human-capital
theory is above all someone who unswervingly decides to invest his or her material, cognitive,
emotional or social assets in one way or another. This presupposes that he or she at the same
time understands his or herself as his or her own proprietor and property. The innovation of
theory of human capital lies in its conception of consumption as itself an entrepreneurial
activity. It sees in the consumer not only a passive user of goods but also an active producer.
In this framework, the purchase of a good or service is not a concluding economic act; rather,
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it is a form of input in which the individual makes use of his resources, especially the scarce
factor of time, in such a way that the highest degree of satisfaction leaps out from this as
output. This economization not only of working time but of consuming time as well is the
decisive lever with which theory of human capital succeeds in drawing the entire spectrum of
human activities into its analysis.
From this perspective every interaction appears as a market relation. Each activity is moulded
as an investment decision which has to prove itself in competition. Whatever people do and
allow, at the very least they invest or uninvest time from their lives. At the same time they
neither act with arbitrary intuition nor function like calculators that schematically apply the
same rules. In fact they make their decisions based on available (always incomplete)
information and constantly adapt to changing conditions. Since they can and want to learn,
creating or removing incentives can systematically influence their behaviour.
According to a further axiom of human-capital theory, the most effective mechanism of
increasing the learning capacity of people and in this way also their ability to maximise
utility, is the market. It builds an ideal conditioning instrument because it does not operate
against individual advantage seeking, but through it. It is the choices of individual agents that,
mediated by the prices, produce social synthesis. Competition combines universal comparison
and the necessity of difference; it totalises and individualises at the same time: individuals in
pursuit of their utility have to compare themselves to everyone else and can only enhance
their utility to the extent that they stand out from their competitors and can effectively make a
unique selling point for themselves or for that which they bring to the generalised exchange
process.
The stimulating effect of competition is only supposed to be unfolded when it is not
overridden by competition-distorting or preventative interventions. Thus the same is true for
competition as for maximising individual utility: Neither are natural givens but constantly
have to be manufactured, secured and optimised. During this a circular conditioning
mechanism is at work: The more competition is produced, the more opportunity the agents
have to align their actions with competitiveness. In short: Only competition makes
competitive. The market does not appear from this perspective as a place of balancing
interests through exchange but rather as a confusing, endless succession of opening and
closing gaps. Recognising and exploiting them is what distinguishes the enterprising self.
This role model likewise constitutes a return as well as a radical inversion of the Homo
oeconomicus: The reactivation of this form consists of generally determining human actions
as actions of choice and presupposing the principle of maximised utility under competition
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conditions to be an anthropological fact. However, while classical liberals like Adam Smith
were convinced that individuals would follow their nature and would commit themselves as
rational economic subjects if only the political instances would not prevent them, for the
human-capital theory, neither the market nor the agent of the market are natural givens that
have only to be exposed. Rather, they must be continually created and taught. In this way
making markets and making enterprising selves coincide.

III.
More recent management theories consistently transfer this view onto the organisation of
work. Employees are therefore not only supposed to operate as entrepreneurs during the act of
selling but they are required to show entrepreneurial initiative, a willingness to take risks and
be responsible during the labour time that they have sold. For a long time the social
organisation of work was characterised by a fundamental dichotomy: In their external
relations companies were market agents that followed the rules of the competition; internally
they were organised hierarchically. At the closing of a work contract the employer and the
employee met each other as formally free and equal contract partners. Labour was a
commodity that succumbed to the same fluctuations in supply and demand as other goods did.
With the signing of the employment contract the employee submitted to the stipulated
working hours and the employer’s authority. The wage was the material compensation for this
temporary cession of individual freedom. In order to transform the bought labour into actual
work companies did not rely on market-like regulations but rather on mechanisms of
discipline. According to generally accepted “common sense”, productivity and thus
competitiveness on the external markets were understood to be most efficiently increased by
installing an internal regime of command and control that rationalised the flow of work
according to the science of business management.
It was Luc Boltanski’s und Éve Chiapello’s (2003) well-known heading the “new spirit of
capitalism” that summarised the transformation in which the unquestionable plausibility of
this model was challenged. Since then it has been generally agreed that enterprises that want
to survive on the market should also be internally driven by market mechanisms. The message
is that when companies transform themselves into a variety of “companies within
companies”, they increase their economy. That means seeing every department and eventually
every single employee as a customer of the previous, as well as supplier of the following,
phase in the value chain. As internal customer the employees have the right (and the
economic duty) to insist on an uncompromised fulfilment of deadlines and quality standards
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vis-à-vis the suppliers; as internal supplier they are required to suit their products or service to
the needs of the customer. Previous conformists who received wages and orders have now
become “intrapreneurs” who independently organise and optimise their areas of work
according to internal, as well as external customer needs.
It is obvious that a consistent implementation of the programme is limited since it
presupposes that the internal suppliers and customers would actually be pitted against each
other as seller and buyer – and indeed not as employees of the same company. While some
would have to put themselves in competition with external competitors, in the case of
dissatisfaction others would also have to be able to receive the required services from external
suppliers, which is still an exception despite outsourcing and profit centre concepts. Thus the
concept of intrapreneurship serves in the first instance to establish a changing corporate
culture, in other words: To bind employees of all levels to entrepreneurship. Spheres of
production and circulation are supposed to function in the same way and even factories are
no longer governed by means of authority and discipline but through the self-regulating
mechanisms of the market. In place of order, diligence and punctuality, serving the customer
has become the highest virtue. While the disciplinary discourse had provided permanent
moulds that could serve individuals as models to fit into, the mobilising discourse of
enterprise culture generates a vortex, which seeks to spark enthusiasm for following the
fluctuating desires of the customer.
Markets permanently “process” alterities, by either privileging them as unique selling points
or excluding them from social exchange as non-utilisable. They are spaces of contingency par
excellence, highly fluid mazes of gaps and niches, which open up as quickly as they disappear
again or are closed by the competition. Any attempt to halt the dynamic is doomed to failure.
One cannot succeed with mere imitation and average performance. Therefore, for
standardised and normalised disciplinary subjects there is no space in generalised market
society, rather what is demanded are performers of daily life who combine eccentricity with
efficiency. Only those are successful, who mimetically adapt to the dynamic or even seek to
surpass it; in other words, those who are flexible enough to grab their chance before someone
else does. To the extent that an individual person creates him or herself as an unmistakable
"Brand You", he or she sets themselves apart from the masses and is able to beat the
competition – of course, only if the personal label simultaneously guarantees quality and
meets customer demands, regardless of whether the respective customer is a potential
employer or a relationship partner. Nonconformism is to be cultivated because, economically
seen, it produces a unique selling point. „Obligation to dissent“, this is called at McKinsey´s.
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The alternative runs, as management-guru Tom Peters writes in unashamed brutality: "distinct
... or extinct.” (Peters 2004: 95). It is an imperative that is second to none to the paradox of
the legendary "Be spontaneous", and precisely because of its unrealizable nature functions as
a generator for individualization.
Popular guides to success, which deliver the instruction manuals for this, again suggest
adjusting oneself to the company model. Becoming an entrepreneur of the self thus requires
the same procedure as the founding of any company: "Getting yourself a clearly defined
product and doing some effective market research. To do that, you must see yourself as selfcontained economic entity, not as a component part looking for a whole within you can
function" (Bridges 1994: 104). With this self-identification as product it is certainly not over;
the parallelization of individual and enterprise goes even further. The enterprising self is not
only supposed to be seen by a market in everything that he or she does but he or she is also
expected to imagine him or herself as a marketplace and split accordingly. They are not only
boss and subordinate, but also supplier and customer, seller and buyer in one person. As
"customer of him or herself", he or she is his own ruler, a being with needs that are to be
recognized and satisfied by the "supplier of him or herself". If the latter ignores the demands
of their internal business partner, this partner will chasten them with lethargy, exhaustion or
other forms of energy deprivation. If the exchange works well, however, both profit from it.
For this reason, it is just as important to explore one's own wishes as one's own strengths and
weaknesses. Like skilful sales management, successful self-management is not based on
confrontation and subjugation, but rather on clever bargaining and the ability of all the
participants, that is to say all personality stakeholders to obligate themselves to a common
goal. What is required is not an authoritarian regime of the "head" over the "heart", but rather
participatory decision-making and partnership-based cooperation. Since the self, unlike a
"real" business can neither choose its staff members nor fire them for unsatisfactory
performance, the self has no other choice but to reconcile the heterogeneous elements.
Moralizing is counterproductive here: there are no good and bad personality stakeholders,
there is only a team that either cooperates well or badly. To overcome "success blocks", due
for instance to a disagreement between the "career stakeholder" and the "joy of living
stakeholder", one guide entitled "Coach Yourself" recommends calling an internal conference,
appointing the "creative stakeholder" as moderator and seeking possibilities for improving
cooperation in a round-table discussion (Besser-Siegmund/Siegmund 1991: 132). Whether the
conflicting souls in one's own breast may be pacified in this way, may be doubted. Yet
anyone who feels torn between career and the joy of living, at least stays in motion.
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Other self-help-books recommend a "commitment strategy" and individual "benchmarking":
"Set down your goal projects for one year, for five years in writing as a contract with
yourself," Sonja Buholzer, author of "Women Take Off", advises and immediately simplifies
the matter by providing a form template with lines for name, date and signature. The goals
here cannot be set too high. "Break your limits!", she urges her readers. "Unless you are
prepared and determined to consciously overcome your limits every day, you will only feel
woman-power in a withered version. To avoid this, you need big goals. A bar that is set too
low, will not allow you to jump out of the box of limitations" (Buholzer 1999: 220). Of
course, such heroic endeavors cry out for a balance, but the book even provides contract
templates for periods of relaxation: "I will make a note in my agenda of when my 'carefree
days' are," states a relevant self-obligation. "I will reserve at least one day each month for this,
and I will not tolerate anything unpleasant under any circumstances" (Buholzer 1999: 77).
The obtrusive contractualism of the guides to success – there is literally nothing that cannot
be regulated per contract – represents a general characteristic of neoliberal self-management
techniques. Contracts can only be concluded with a view to something that you own.
Therefore the idea of the individual as owner as well as property of themselves is constitutive
of the addressing of the individual as a subject of the market. Those who enter into
contractual relationships on the one hand split themselves into a bundle of assets and on the
other hand into an instance that profitably manages these assets through exchange and
cooperation. In this doubling of the self everything that makes a concrete individual becomes
part of investing and accumulating capital, while the contract-subject shrivels into a
completely abstract source point of individual choices and promises that at the same time is
fully detached from body, sexuality, biography and social embedding. The contractor is a
hermaphroditic being: firstly, a mere signature that makes the contract legally binding,
secondly, pure leverage, an accumulation of contingent (because sellable) property. This real
fiction of the duplicated self is necessary – fictive because no one can actually perform the
splitting, real because it is practised in every contractual act – if only so that the parties can
face each other as equals on the external marketplaces as well as on the multiple self
conceived as marketplace.
Confronting the individual with contradictory demands is another consistent feature of
mobilizing the enterprising self. The catalogue of key qualifications, which the self-help
literature both postulates and promises to convey, must ultimately confront even the most
ambitious self-optimizer with unsolvable tasks. The structural excessive demand is
intentional, as it generates the continuous tension that never lets individuals come to rest,
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because they must balance out all progress in one direction with an equal endeavour in the
other direction. Despite formulaic invocation of the work-life-balance the programmes do not
aim for well-adjusted equality between the conflicting demands, rather for the co-presence of
extremes. What is sought here are the paradoxical hybrid figures that Manfred Moldaschl and
Dieter Sauer (2000: 221) have identified as the common learning goal of self-management
manuals and innumerable coaching seminars: “the assertive team-player or the lone warrior
with team ability, the customer-oriented smooth operator with corners and edges […]; the
gifted self-marketer, who places his concerns in the foreground; the empathetic moderator
with a keen sense for situations that can be turned into capital; and the practical rationalist, the
utilization maximizer with insights into the requirements of the whole.” The programmes
seamlessly switch back and forth between a “grammar of severity” and a “grammar of care”
(Fach 2000). Which register the entrepreneur draws on is left to his or her tactical calculation
or intuition. What is crucial is that he or she draw on both.
The mobilization of the oppositions corresponds to opposing strategies of mobilization: The
guidebooks for success postulate in the same way a rational form of self-governance as well
as a charismatic one. On the one side, the enterprising self should be a calculating accountant
of one's own life, who is a computing administrator of the costs as well as the benefits, and on
the other side, a genius of motivation, who relentlessly strives for new achievements of the
highest kind, and who shoots off an ongoing firework display of creative ideas. Disciplining
and enthusiating the self run parallel; this also explains the obvious incoherence of selfmanagement programs that at the same time constantly promote both modes of optimizing.
The checklists, contract formulas, and feedback systems serve the disciplining control and
practice, while the affirmation-, (auto-)suggestion- and boundary-crossing-techniques serve
the releasing of passions,. Just as the one leads the subjective striving, likewise the other gives
them the energy.
In this way economic success and self-realisation do not contradict but are expected to
necessitate and strengthen one another. Both follow the imperative of unending growth; both
are the result of consistent alignment with the market. Individuals are supposed to maximise
their power over themselves, their feelings of self-worth, their confidence and their health as
much as their work capacity and wealth. They should be able to achieve this more
successfully, the more actively and responsibly the take hold of their lives – and they are
expected to seek professional help if they become overwhelmed by it all. No matter how
opposed the ethos of entrepreneurial action and the values of therapy culture, especially those
found in the concepts of human psychology, at first glance seem to be, they both unite in a
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regime of the self which prompts individuals to work for personal growth as much as for the
accumulation of their own human capital. By now the culture of entrepreneurship and the
culture of therapy have also found each other in ever-present coaching.

IV.
The infinite nature of the claims fuels the addressing of the self in the marketplace or as
marketplace. Notwithstanding it is not the principle of non-closure per se, but rather its
specific mode that distinguishes this regime of work from traditional programs of selfdiscipline: unlike the disciplinary subject that was always starting again, the project manager
of the self is never finished with anything (Deleuze 1992: 5). Permanently continuing
education, life-long learning, personal growth – the self-optimization imperative implies
being compelled to permanently achieve more. This compulsion to outdo oneself is driven by
mechanisms of competition. Because one can assert one’s position only for the moment and
only in relation to one’s competitors in the ubiquitous labour, attention and relationship
markets, no one can simply rest on their achievements. Today's recipe for success is
tomorrow's path to ruin.
Marketization as a form of subjectification implies a categorical comparative: It is not enough
to simply be creative, resourceful, willing to take risks and make decisions, one has to be
more creative, more resourceful, more willing to take risks and make decisions than the
competitors and is therefore not permitted to stop aiming for increased creativity,
resourcefulness, willingness to take risks and ability to make decisions. The realisation that it
might not be enough creates the pull towards permanent excess. Since the demands have no
limits individuals always fail to meet them. The plus ultra that Joseph Schumpeter (1926:
137) identified as the maxim of the entrepreneur corresponds to the consecutive inadequacy
of each person who tries to align his or her life with it.
Entrepreneurial interpellation combines a promise with a threat, encouragement with
discouragement, a declaration of freedom with an irrefutable conviction. If it lures with the
idea that everyone forges their own happiness, it simultaneously asserts that everyone is
responsible for their own unhappiness. On the one hand nothing is allowed to escape the
principle of continuous improvement prompted by the market. There is no utterance that
cannot be utilised to the maximum, no decision that cannot be optimised, no desire that
cannot be commodified.
Compared to its expectations the production of entrepreneurial individuals, on the other hand,
is always an operation that fails. A perfect entrepreneur is as unlikely as a pure market.
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Entrepreneurial interpellation therefore confronts the individual with a double impossibility –
to actually have to become an enterprising self as well as having to ignore the demand to
become one. No one must or is able to follow the unswerving call but everyone has that voice
in their head that says it would be better to do so. The vortex pulls in even the most subliminal
areas of everyday life and it draws its power straight from the fact that no target level exists
that could indicate when to stop. Just as there is no way to escape from it there is no way to
resist. In other words: One is only ever an enterprising self à venir - always in the mode of
becoming, never of being.

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