Affect, Diversity, and the Problem of Consolation in the Critique of Public Servant Identity

  • Francisco ValenzuelaEmail author


This chapter seeks to contribute to the project of constructing a more radical, feminist-oriented diversity through the critical study of affect in Public Service. It does so by focusing on the discursive underpinnings of Public Servant identity amidst neoliberal, patriarchal ‘governmentalities’, particularly those which normalize affective labour in the form of a ‘diversified’ responsiveness to citizens-customers. Following recent post-Weberian and Foucauldian readings of Public Servant ethos, affective diversity is interpreted critically as the effect of neoliberal regimes and their commodification of emotions. Consequently, an abstract, ‘dis-affected’ diversity is conceived as the righteous horizon for Public Servant identity work, on the moral grounds of replacing a responsive-but-discriminatory disposition with an indifferent-yet-equalizing one, against the 'misguided' diversity of customer-oriented neoliberalism. Nevertheless, the chapter also reflects critically around such contentions, drawing on what Barnett has called the ‘consolations of neoliberalism’. Here, 'consolation' concerns both the critical researcher-critic's reassurance about her ability to decipher neoliberal regimes, along with actors who resist them, and her under-theorization of the way in which neoliberalism is embodied into a plurality of differences at the concrete, everyday level. I propose that the critique of consolation not only reveals the limitations of certain ‘disembodied’ calls for the study of diversity, often coming from the liberal left and critical management scholarship, but also illuminates the decisive role that the desire of the researcher-critic plays in commiting to a more radical experience of diversity, by propelling a confrontation with her own embodied attachments.


  1. Acker, J. 1990. Hierarchies, jobs, bodies: A theory of gendered organizations. Gender and Society 4 (2): 139–158.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. ———. 2006. Inequality regimes: Gender, class, and race in organizations. Gender & Society 20 (4): 441–464.Google Scholar
  3. Aleman, J. 2016. Horizontes neoliberales en la subjetividad. Buenos Aires: Grama Editorial.Google Scholar
  4. Amigot, P., and M. Pujal. 2009. On power, freedom and gender. A fruitful tension between Foucault and feminism. Theory & Psychology 19 (5): 646–669.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Archer, L. 2008. The new neoliberal subjects? Young/er academics’ constructions of professional identity. Journal of Education Policy 23 (3): 265–285.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Ball, S. 2003. The teacher’s soul and the terrors of performativity. Journal of Education Policy 18 (2): 215–228.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Barnett, C. 2005. The consolations of ‘neoliberalism’. Geoforum 36 (1): 7–12.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Barnett, C., N. Clarke, P. Cloke, and A. Malpass. 2008. The elusive subjects of neo-liberalism: Beyond the analytics of governmentality. Cultural Studies 22 (5): 624–653.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Berengere, S. 2017. 2017 in feminist protests: In pictures. OpenDemocracy. [online] Available at Accessed 1 July 2018.
  10. Binkley, S. 2011. Psychological life as enterprise: Social practice and the government of neo-liberal interiority. History of the Human Sciences 24 (3): 83–102.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Butler, J. 1997. The psychic life of power: Theories in subjection. Stanford: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  12. Cremin, C. 2012. The social logic of late capitalism: Guilt fetishism and the culture of crisis industry. Cultural Sociology 6 (1): 45–60.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Driver, M. 2017. Never social and entrepreneurial enough? Exploring the identity work of social entrepreneurs from a psychoanalytic perspective. Organization 24 (6): 715–736.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. du Gay, P. 2005. The values of bureaucracy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  15. ———. 2008. ‘Without affection or enthusiasm’ problems of involvement and attachment in ‘responsive’ public management. Organization 15 (3): 335–353.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Eagan, J. 2008. Public administration and “precarious life”. Administrative Theory & Practice 30 (2): 240.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Fardella, C. 2013. Resistencias cotidianas en torno a la institucionalización del modelo neoliberal en las politicas educacionales: el caso de la docencia en Chile. Psicoperspectivas 12 (2): 83–92.Google Scholar
  18. Fotaki, M. 2013. No woman is like a man (in academia): The masculine symbolic order and the unwanted female body. Organization Studies 34 (9): 1251–1275.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Fotaki, M., and N. Harding. 2013. Lacan and sexual difference in organization and management theory: Towards a hysterical academy? Organization 20 (2): 153–172.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Fotaki, M., and K. Kenny. 2014. The psychosocial and organization studies: Affect at work. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  21. Fotaki, M., K. Kenny, and S. Vachhani. 2017. Thinking critically about affect in organization studies: Why it matters. Organization 24 (1): 3–17.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Foucault, M. 1991. Discipline and punish: The birth of a prison. London: Penguin.Google Scholar
  23. ———. 2008. The birth of biopolitics: Lectures at the Collège de France, 1978–1979. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  24. Gago, V. 2017. Neoliberalism from below. London: Duke University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Gammon, E. 2013. The psycho- and sociogenesis of neoliberalism. Critical Sociology 39 (4): 511–528.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Heyman, J. 2012. Review: Deepening the anthropology of bureaucracy. Anthropological Quarterly 85 (4): 1269–1277.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Hoedemaekers, C. 2010. ‘Not even semblance’: Exploring the interruption of identification with Lacan. Organization 17 (3): 379–393.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Hoedemaekers, C., and A. Keegan. 2010. Performance pinned down: Studying subjectivity and the language of performance. Organization 31 (8): 1021–1044.Google Scholar
  29. Horton, S. 2006. New public management: Its impact on public servant’s identity: An introduction to this symposium. International Journal of Public Sector Management 19 (6): 533–542.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Howarth, D. 2000. Discourse (concepts in the social sciences). London: Open University Press.Google Scholar
  31. Jessop, B. 2007. From micro-powers to governmentality: Foucault’s work on statehood, state formation, statecraft and state power. Political Geography 26: 34–40.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Kenny, K. 2012. ‘Someone big and important’: Identification and affect in an international development organization. Organization Studies 33 (9): 1175–1193.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Kenny, K., and S. Gilmore. 2014. From research reflexivity to research affectivity: Ethnographic research in organizations. In The psychosocial and organization studies: Affect at work, ed. En K. Kenny and M. Fotaki. London: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Kenny, K., S. Muhr, and L. Olaison. 2011. The effect of affect: Desire and politics in modern organizations. Ephemera: Theory & Politics in Organization 11 (3): 235–242.Google Scholar
  35. King, A. 2004. The prisoner of gender: Foucault and the disciplining of the female body. Journal of International Women’s Studies 5 (2): 29–39.Google Scholar
  36. Lacan, J. 2007. The other side of psychoanalysis, The seminar of Jacques Lacan. Vol. Book XVII. New York: W.W.Norton & Co.Google Scholar
  37. Lahn, J. 2018. Being indigenous in the bureaucracy: Narratives of work and exit. The International Indigenous Policy Journal. 9 (1)Google Scholar
  38. Lapping, C. 2013. Which subject, whose desire? The constitution of subjectivity and the articulation of desire in the practice of research. Psychoanalysis, Culture & Society 18 (4): 368–385.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. McGinn, K., and P. Patterson. 2005. “A long way toward what?” sex, gender, feminism, and the study of public administration. International Journal of Public Administration 28 (11–12): 929–942.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. McGowan, C. 2018. How the feminist movement is defying machismo culture in Chile. The Culture Trip. [online] Available at Accessed 1 July 2018.
  41. McIvor, D. 2012. Bringing ourselves to grief: Judith Butler and the politics of mourning. Political Theory 40 (4): 409–436.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. McSwite, O. 2001. Reflections on the role of embodiment in discourse. Administrative theory & practice 23 (2): 243–250.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Munro, I. 2012. The management of circulations: Biopolitical variations after Foucault. International Journal for Management Reviews 14 (3): 345–362.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Parker, I. 1994. Reflexive research and the grounding of analysis: Social psychology and the psy-complex. Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology 4: 239–252.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Parker, M. 2001. Queering management & organization. Gender, Work and Organization 9 (2): 146–166.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Parker, I. 2014. Managing neoliberalism and the strong state in higher education: Psychology today. Qualitative Research in Psychology 11 (3): 250–264.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Parker, M. 2016. Queering queer. Gender, Work and Organization 23 (1): 71–73.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Penz, O., B. Sauer, M. Gaitsch, J. Hofbauer, and B. Glinsner. 2017. Post-bureaucratic encounters: Affective labour in public employment services. Critical Social Policy 37 (4): 540–561.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Pullen, A., and C. Rhodes. 2015. Ethics, embodiment and organizations. Organization 22 (2): 159–165.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Pullen, A., T. Thanem, M. Tyler, and L. Wallenberg. 2016. Sexual politics, organizational practices: Interrogating queer theory, work and organization. Gender, Work and Organization 23 (1): 1–6.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Radcliffe, S., and A. Webb. 2015. Subaltern bureaucrats and postcolonial rule: Indigenous professional registers of engagement with the Chilean state. Comparative Studies in Society and History 57 (1): 248–273.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Repo, J. 2016. Gender equality as biopolitical governmentality in a neoliberal European Union. Social Politics 23 (2): 307–328.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Rottenberg, C. 2018. How neoliberalism colonised feminism – And what you can do about it. The conversation. [online] Available at Accessed 1 July 2018.
  54. Rumens, N., Moulin, E., and Brewis, J. 2018. Queering queer theory in management and organization Studies: Notes toward queering heterosexuality. Organization Studies. Advance online publication.
  55. Springer, S. 2012. Neoliberalism as discourse: Between Foucauldian political economy and Marxian poststructuralism. Critical Discourse Studies 9 (12): 133–147.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Stavrakakis, Y. 2008. Subjectivity and the organized other: Between symbolic authority and fantasmatic enjoyment. Organization Studies 29 (7): 1037–1059.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Stivers, C. 1991. Toward a feminist perspective in public administration theory. Women & Politics 10 (4): 49–65.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. ———. 1994. The listening bureaucrat: Responsiveness in public administration. Public Administration Review 54 (1): 364–369.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Street, A. 2012. Seen by the state: Bureaucracy, visibility and governmentality in Papua new Guinean hospital. The Australian Journal of Anthropology 23 (1): 1–21.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Thomas, R., and A. Davies. 2005. Theorizing the micro-politics of resistance: New public management and managerial identities in the UK public services. Organization Studies 26 (5): 683–706.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Tie, W. 2004. The psychic life of governmentality. Culture, Theory and Critique 45 (2): 161–176.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Vighi, F., and H. Feldner. 2007. Ideology critique or discourse analysis? Žižek against Foucault. European Journal of Political Theory 6 (2): 141–159.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Wilkins, A. 2012. Commodifying diversity: Education and governance in the era of neoliberalism. Human Affairs 22: 122–130.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Wozniak, A. 2010. The dream that caused reality: The place of the Lacanian subject of science in the field of organization theory. Organization 17 (3): 395–411.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Žižek, S. 2013. It’s the political economy, stupid! In It’s the political economy, stupid! The global financial crisis in art and theory, ed. G. Sholette and O. Ressler. London: Pluto Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Administration, School of Economics and BusinessUniversity of ChileSantiagoChile

Personalised recommendations