Human Capital

Becker the Obscure: Human-Capital Theory, Liberalisms, and the Future of Higher Education
  • Elaine Hadley
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Literature, Culture and Economics book series (PSLCE)


This chapter reviews the history of the “human capital” concept to argue that its contemporary neoliberal present has a nineteenth-century liberal past. Focusing on its role as a measure for education, the chapter explores the political assumptions underlying its scientific claims, which have their roots in Victorian ideologies. Thomas Hardy’s 1895 Jude the Obscure operates as both evidence and forecaster, for it not only limns the exhaustion of the nineteenth-century liberal ideal of self-cultivation but also outlines an emergent human-capital subjection formation, and thereby warns about the impoverishment implicit in Chicago-style economics and its recasting of human effort as a form of capital investment.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Elaine Hadley
    • 1
  1. 1.University of ChicagoChicagoUSA

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