The entrepreneur of the self beyond Foucault's neoliberal homo oeconomicus

Tim Christiaens*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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In his lectures on neoliberalism, Michel Foucault argues that neoliberalism produces subjects as 'entrepreneurs of themselves'. He bases this claim on Gary Becker's conception of the utility-maximizing agent who solely acts upon cost/benefit-calculations. Not all neoliberalized subjects, however, are encouraged to maximize their utility through mere calculation. This article argues that Foucault's description of neoliberal subjectivity obscures a non-calculative, more audacious side to neoliberal subjectivity. Precarious workers in the creative industries, for example, are encouraged not merely to rationally manage their human capital, but also to take a leap of faith to acquire unpredictable successes. It is this latter risk-loving, extra-calculative side to neoliberal subjectivity that economists usually designate as 'entrepreneurial'. By confronting Foucault with the theories of entrepreneurship of the Austrian School of Economics, Frank Knight, and Joseph Schumpeter, the Foucauldian analytical framework is enriched. Neoliberal subjectivation is not the monolithic promotion of utility-maximizing agents, but the generation of a multiplicity of modes for entrepreneurs to relate to oneself and the market.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1368431019857998
Pages (from-to)493-511
Number of pages19
JournalEuropean journal of social theory
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • creative industries
  • entrepreneurship
  • Foucault
  • neoliberalism
  • subjectivity
  • WORK
  • RISK


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