Stagflation, virtuosity and other ambivalences

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This essay investigates emotional and affective dimensions to social life that emerge in the early period of neoliberalism. In consideration of the films Five Easy Pieces; Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore, and McCabe and Mrs. Miller, I argue that negative affects such as depression, fear, anxiety, and cynicism not only reflect reconfigurations of selfhood engendered by neoliberalism but also present the possibility for new modes of sociality. Drawing on the work of Paolo Virno, I suggest that virtuosity-the capacity to perform-allows neoliberal subjects to navigate the emotional situation emergent from dynamic changes in the economy, politics, and culture.

Keywords: Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore; Five Easy Pieces, McCabe and Mrs. Miller; Paulo Virno; affect; ambivalence; emotional situation; neoliberalism; stagflation; virtuosity

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Sociology, Graduate Center, City University of New York, USA

Publication date: July 1, 2009

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