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Wiebke Wiede

Subjectification, the Subject, and the Self

Version: 3.0, in: Docupedia-Zeitgeschichte, 21.12.2020


Artikelbild: Subjekt und Subjektivierung

Oskar Schlemmer: “Sketch on the theme of dematerialisation, from the essay “Mensch und Kunstfigur,” in Die Bühne im Bauhaus (Bauhausbücher 4), Munich 1925, 7-24, here p. 17. Source: <a rel="nofollow" class="external text" href="… Commons</a> [15.12.2020] (<a rel="nofollow" class="external text" href="">public domain</a>)

How are people made into subjects, and how do they make themselves into subjects? - asks Wiebke Wiede and presents in the article the most important theoretical approaches to the functioning of "subjectification" in the 20th century. Subjects constitute themselves in historical space and are subject to institutional structures and subject definitions that are historically contingent. Accordingly, the cultural orientation needs of our present are also reflected in subject theories.

Subjectification, the Subject, and the Self

von Wiebke Wiede

The epistemological idea of the autonomous subject capable of self-reflection, distinct from the objects of its actions, and striving towards emancipation has been an intrinsic part of modern history and historiography. Since the 17th century is the autonomous, self-reflexive “subject” essential for the West’s understanding of culture and society. The classical philosophy of the subject – as developed by René Descartes, Immanuel Kant, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, and other thinkers of the modern era – inquired into the essential rational or metaphysical core of human beings.

This article looks instead at the sociological and cultural theories of the subject articulated in the second half of the 20th century. While different in many respects from the classical philosophy of the subject, these theories arise from a common set of questions: How are subjects made? Or, more precisely, how are individuals made into subjects and how do they make themselves into subjects? Which practices form subjects? How do individuals become aware of themselves as selves? How do subjects acquire self-knowledge and what do they come to know?

All these questions concern subjectification, the historical factors and conditions that make individuals into societally acknowledged individuals equipped with agency. Theories of the subject are interested in how subjects produce themselves and how they are produced in social structures such as education, bureaucratic apparatuses bureaucracies, legal rules, ideals of physical health, and architectural spaces. A decisive aspect of sociological and cultural theories of the subject is the historicity of human essence, a view they share with historical anthropology. That is to say, they do not do regard humanness as a fixed quality but as a product of changing anthropological projections, political programs, and formations of self based on historically contingent institutional structures and definitions.[1] These theories have grown out since the late 20th century of a search for cultural orientation and an attempt to understand the demands made on the subject up to the present day.

Sociological and cultural theories of the subject have been primarily shaped by postmodernism. It is no surprise, therefore, that there exists no single uniform theory of the subject. Rather, theories of the subject draw on approaches from poststructuralism, psychoanalysis, praxeology, postcolonial studies, media theory, gender studies, and intersectionality. Due to the exceptionally wide range they comprise, not all of these approaches can be addressed in this article.[2] Rather, in explaining the most important theories of subjectification, I present concepts from three poststructual fields: the government of the self (Michel Foucault), the interpellation and autonomy of the self (Louis Althusser, Judith Butler), and the delimitation of the self from others.[3] These fields are related in their critique of the classical philosophy of the subject along with its notions of subjective self-consciousness, authenticity, alienation, and agency. I follow this presentation with a discussion of important trends in historical, sociological, and cultural scholarship and then conclude by briefly examining the problems associated with a contemporary history of subjectification.

Theories and Definitions of the Subject

Government of the Self: Foucault’s Theory of Power

Michel Foucault’s concept of the subject is central for debates regarding the notion of the self in sociology and cultural studies. In his 1982 essay “The Subject and Power,” Foucault writes that the goal of his work “has been to create a history of the different modes by which, in our culture, human beings are made subjects.”[4] The topic of subjectification runs through his work from Madness and Civilization (1961) and Discipline and Punishment (1975), where it appears in the observational practices of the modern age; to The Order of Things (1966), where it informs the apparatuses of the human sciences and the objectification of knowledge; and The Care of the Self, the third volume of The History of Sexuality (1976–2018), where it culminates in the “technologies of the self.”

Viewed as a whole, Foucault’s work can be seen to trace the historical development of apparatuses (dispositifs) for exerting power, beginning in the absolutism of the pre-modern era, when sovereigns held sway over life and death, and extending to the diverse techniques of discipline, surveillance, and biopolitics. But it should be noted that in Foucault’s analysis of power does not solely serve to repress. It comes in various forms, some of whose effects are even “amiable.”[5] Power, in other words, can also be a source of empowerment. The government of bodies and souls does not merely respond to practices of discipline; every single person empowers him- or herself by self-government, and in relation to others. These “technologies of the self” that bring subjects into being, examines Foucault already in The History of Sexuality as care practices of classical antiquity.

For Foucault, the technologies of the self are a basic part of “governmentality,” “the entirety of institutions and practices through which human beings are controlled, from administration to upbringing.”[6] Accordingly, Foucault believes that governmentality is crucial for a contemporary history of subjectification.[7] But while a historical view can shed light on everyday power in institutions that are under direct or indirect state influence such as hospitals, schools, and families, it cannot answer systematic questions about the genesis of governmentality and its limits.

In addressing these questions, Foucault takes a genealogical approach. Since the 18th century, he argues, the freedom of the individual has been linked to the surveillance of the population.[8] Liberal forms of government do not rule by disciplining individuals but by empowering them to govern themselves. Individual freedom provides states legitimacy for the deployment of functional apparatuses of power and knowledge. Indeed, it is freedom that elicits technologies of power. “If there are relations of power in every social field,” Foucault writes, “this is because there is freedom everywhere.”[9] The subject forms the nucleus of liberalism and its techniques for objectification and veridiction. The “games of truth” – the acts of examination, avowal, self-thematization bound to certain forms of truth – establish relations of power that subjectify individuals.[10]

School and military – two institutions of modern subjectification. Classes at the West Point Officers’ School, USA 1929. Photographer: unknown (Aktuelle-Bilder-Centrale, Georg Pahl). Source: [,_USA,_Unterricht_in_der_Offiziersschule_West-Point.jpg Bundesarchiv Bild 102-08174 / Wikimedia Commons] [15.12.2020], Licence: [ CC-BY-SA 3.0]
School and military – two institutions of modern subjectification. Classes at the West Point Officers’ School, USA 1929. Photographer: unknown (Aktuelle-Bilder-Centrale, Georg Pahl). Source: Bundesarchiv Bild 102-08174 / Wikimedia Commons [15.12.2020], Licence: CC-BY-SA 3.0

The subject arises in two ways. On the one hand, subjects are subject to, and subject themselves to, certain rules. On the other, they determine themselves through their own freedom. Foucault pointedly formulates these two aspects of subjectification in “The Subject and Power”: “There are two meanings of the word ‘subject’: subject to someone else by control and dependence; and tied to his own identity by a conscience of self-knowledge.”[11] Over the course of Foucault’s writings, one can discern a “genealogy” of subjectification, from assujettissement to subjectivation through self-empowerment. However, these apparatuses of power are neither sequential nor antipodal – the one, repressive; the other, productive. Rather they coexist and in so doing expand the spectra of power.[12] These “microphysics of power” are situated inmidst of highly nuanced interlocked tactics of veridiction.

Interpellation and Autonomy

Theoretical models of interpellation conceive the societal configuration of subjects in conjunction with the formation of self and others. They help us to understand subjectification as an act of decentralisation. For it is not the sovereign subject who is interpellated; the interpellation itself constitutes the subject. All theoretical discussions of interpellation go back to a passage in Louis Althusser’s essay “Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses,” which he completed in the wake of the Paris riots of May 1968. Althusser describes an everyday situation “along the lines of the most commonplace, everyday hailing, by (or not by) the police: ‘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-and-eighty-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).”[13] In Althusser’s example, the moment of interpellation and the individual’s recognition that he is the one being addressed occur consecutively. But at a societal level, the two must be imagined as a simultaneous and mutually constitutive act. The state apparatuses that transmit ideology (e.g. government institutions, family, schools) and the interpellation of individuals as subjects are “one and the same thing.”[14] To Althusser, ideology does not represent “false consciousness”; it arises in this “two-fold constitution” of everyday practices and rituals.[15]

Judith Butler adopts the basic ideas of Foucault and Althusser but argues that the act of interpellation is open to interpretation and hence to misunderstanding.[16] Following the speech act theories of J. L. Austin and the work of Jacques Derrida on iteration, Butler regards interpellation as a performative act. As such, an instance of interpellation is not an individual act of naming but part of an endless chain of performative utterances without a genuine origin.[17] For example, the act of assigning a gender (“It’s a girl! / It’s a boy!”) is successful only if it corresponds to a culturally defined hegemonic concept of gender. Misnomers and failures act as subversive repetitions in the chain of performative utterances. Because the repetitions are not identical, they make any individual act of identification precarious and elicit shifts in meaning. According to Butler, iteration in different spatio-temporal contexts changes signs and resignifies their meanings.[18]

But what about the more general question of agency, i.e. if subjects can act in any sense of autonomy? For both Butler and Foucault, structural changes could only take place by reproducing structures. In a sense, acts of resistance are paradoxical effects of subjectification as subjection. Iterative shifts of meaning through subjection make this project both ambivalent and subversive. Processes of subjectification are fields of power that are heterogeneous and complex and bring with them shifts in meaning that are equally heterogeneous and complex.[19] Foucault coined also the term “counter-conduct” (contre-conduite) to describe transgressive, disorderly behaviour in the face of consolidated hegemonic power (i.e. domination). This counter-conduct comprises subversive practices such as privation, dissidence, escape, and physical resistance.[20]

Foucault’s notion of counter-conduct recalls historical concepts of Alltagsgeschichte, “stubborness” and “subjectivity.” In the early 1980s, German historians explored these topics in focusing on so called “ordinary” people and everyday life. The idea of stubborness, or Eigensinn, comprises a wider array to act in situations of hegemonic power than resistance or subjection.[21] “Stubborness” describes a fragile refusal of hegemonic power in favour of one’s Eigen-sinn, literarily one’s own logic of action: skipping work, staying home, mockery, trickery, spite. Poststructural theories of subjectification and Alltagsgeschichte share an interest in the “counter-conduct” of past actors. Though each comes with its own terminological emphasis, as studies in Alltagsgeschichte mark out a more general, theoretically less ambitious perspective “from below”. Considered as historical source, poststructural theories and Alltagsgeschichte both document the cultural and social sciences’ interest in individuality and subjectivity of the early-1980s.[22]

The Delimitation of the Self from Others

Concepts of the subject and subjectification are markers of difference that distinguish “normal” hegemonic forms from “anormal” ones. In this section, I turn to the paradigmatic catalysts for understanding such markers as problematic: the gender theories of Judith Butler and the debates of postcolonial studies.

Butler’s work focuses on the performativity that accompanies the generation of subjecthood. She holds that the ostensibly biological facts of sex and body are effects of performative practices that materialize through signs and speech acts and produce physical identities.[23] In the act of naming bodies acquire their significance, that is to say, they begin to matter. This “materialisation” takes place within regulatory norms that are products of reiteration.[24] Butler draws a sharp distinction between her work and that of Simone de Beauvoir and the phenomenology of Jean-Paul Sartre and Maurice Merleau-Ponty, who she believes ultimately remain bound to the theological idea of the body as a vessel for incarnation.[25] Butler opposes this patriarchal dualistic relationship between a signifying spirit and body as its physical signifier with a concept that understands the materiality of the body not as a site or a surface but as a process.[26] The regulatory effects of power dynamics in Foucault’s sense are what produce physical stability in the first place. A person’s biological sex is one of these regulating norms that significantly distinguish his or her body and make it culturally viable.

Butler’s stated political aim is to incite “gender confusion” and “the parodic proliferation and subversive play of gendered meanings.”[27] By deconstructing the political categories of subjectification and moving beyond the constructs of “man” and “woman,” she can interrogate categories of identity from a historical and political perspective.[28] According to Butler, the analysis of the normative phantasms that construct life, along with the “zones of social life” of those whose identifications did not fit in a regulatory framework, opens one’s eyes to the definitional limits of what and who may count as a subject.[29]

Butler’s theory of gender identity draws in part on political concepts from postcolonial studies. This field comprises an array of ideas that are of interest for the theory and history of subjectification. Two areas in particular bring into relief the vexing moments of colonial subjectification and extend beyond the colonial context. On the one hand, postcolonial studies ask how subalterns, i.e. groups who are marginalized due to their sex or their social membership, are perceived in colonial, hegemonic discourses. On the other hand, they explore processes of ambiguous identity formation under colonial rule.

In her 1988 essay “Can the Subaltern Speak?” Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak examines the representation of marginalized groups in light of what Edward Said calls “hegemonic discourse.”[30] Spivak stresses the difficulties that subalterns have voicing their own interests in the face of colonial power. Western systems of knowledge and their communicative rules prevent subalterns from successfully articulating a point of view. Spivak borrows Said’s concept of “Othering” to describe the judgmental distinctions between group membership.[31] Though “Othering,” colonial discourse produces the colonized Other, and by distancing the colonizers from the colonized, it confirms the former’s social and cultural “normality.” “Othering” tends to employ hierarchical, stereotypical, racists, sexist, and socially degrading terms that emphasize the differences between the experiences of dominant groups and those of their subordinates.

Homi K. Bhabha has introduced the interrelated concepts of mimicry and hybridity to describe the ambivalences and ambiguities of colonial subjectification. While hybridity describes the cultural, linguistic, political figuration of polysemous representations of colonizing and colonized subjects, mimicry is the process whereby the colonized imitate the culture of the colonizers and thereby camouflage the difference between the two.[32] The performative act of mimicry undermines the purported line separating colonizing and colonized subjects. For Bhabha, colonial subject formation is a slippery process riven with ambivalences and constantly producing difference.

Subjectification in Contemporary History Studies

Subjectification and subject formation have attracted much interdisciplinary attention from German sociologists, cultural studies scholars, philosophers, and historians since the 2000s.[33] Subdisciplines of history that address subjectification include historical anthropology, history of gender and the body, cultural and social history, the cultural history of politics, the history of knowledge and science, the history of emotions, and postcolonial studies. Thematically, these fields borrow extensively from the genealogies of the subject undertaken by Foucault and his disciples. They focus on the knowledge and practices of the human sciences, the concept of bodily health and disease, sexuality, and the government and administration of social life. Despite this similarity, it is important to note that the sociological and historical models of subjectification do not necessary operate within a Foucauldian framework.

Current historical scholarship can be grouped into three areas: the history of the modern self and sociality, the analysis of homo economicus, and the history of physical and psychological subjectification. This classification is purely functional, however. In reality, processes of subjectification in Modernity distinguish themselves precisely through their interrelationships and reciprocal effects.

The Modern Self: The Political Individual in Society

In the history of ideas and the history of philosophy, the story of the self is about the gradual evolution of a specifically “modern” self and “modern” identity.[34] The modern era begins in 1800 and is closely tied to the ideas of the Enlightenment and the political upheavals of state organisations. Accordingly, the “modern self” is a specifically political and socialized self, much like the corresponding notions of citizenship and the “citizenization” of subjugated populations.

In the 1990s, Anglo academia saw the emergence of “governmentality studies,” which grew out of the reception of Foucault’s late lectures by Daniel Defert, Jacques Donzelot, François Ewald, and Giovanna Procacci. Scholars in this field discuss the genesis of citizenship in 19th century America and U.K. in the 19th century through the processes of self-governance and self-determination.[35] Historical studies of the government of “subjects” by institutions of modern statehood also investigate everyday techniques of bureaucracies such as administration, verification, education, and punishment that have momentous effects on subjects.[36]

The particular appeal of subjectification theory lies in its understanding of subjects in their physical and emotional existence amid a broad spectrum of everyday forms of subjectification. In this way, it allows scholars to make new historical comparisons between policies regulating bodies and societies. For example, recent work on the subject has examined “struggle” as a persistent philosophical theme in modern subjectivity during the 19th and early 20th centuries. Likewise, they have considered the “subject of football” in the German Empire along with the national discourses accompanying the techniques of the male body.[37]

Studies of dictatorships explicitly address the conjuncture of political systems of rule and subjectification, asking how and to what extent subjectification in dictatorships is similar or comparable to that in liberal societies.[38] The normative validity of terror, prosecution, and violence appears institutionally embedded in totalitarian systems. The narrow corset of acceptable behaviour imposed by totalitarian regimes and their authority to decide over life and death make Foucault’s micropolitical power instruments seem tame by comparison.

Alongside hermetically sealed state apparatuses and strict hierarchies that perpetuate the opposition between individual and society, scholars also examine the role played by self-empowerment and self-mobilisation in the genesis and consolidation of dictatorial rule and the extent to which “technologies of self” (e.g. criticism and self-criticism in Stalinism, denunciation, social mobilisation) contest or aid state subjectification.[39] Important work has utilized the potential of first-person documents (diaries, notebooks, letters) to understand the many strategies and motivations with which subjects respond to the ideals of the “New Man” in the 20th century – adapting to them, working against them, or distancing themselves from them.[40]

Reading and writing - two basic techniques that allow one to locate oneself in the social world. Painting by the Danish painter Johannes Ottesen (1875-1936): Girl at a Desk, 1929. Source: [ Wikimedia Commons] [15.12.2020], Licence: public domain
Reading and writing - two basic techniques that allow one to locate oneself in the social world. Painting by the Danish painter Johannes Ottesen (1875-1936): Girl at a Desk, 1929. Source: Wikimedia Commons [15.12.2020], Licence: public domain

In postcolonial studies, scholars have carried out empirical analyses of the government and administration of colonial subjects. These works borrow from Foucault’s concepts of power and the subject, though he rarely mentioned colonialism in his own work.[41] Studies of Colonial Governmentality look at the implementation of sexual apparatuses, the generation of colonial knowledge, the approaches of colonial jurisprudence, and the effect of colonial subjectification on the emergence of the idea of the “civilized” colonial subject.[42]

There is reason to believe that a significant upheaval has taken place in the West’s political government of the self since the 1970s. In this regard, it makes little sense to discuss the development, dispersal, and range of societally effective concepts of self and subjectifying political norms “in and around the year 1968” or in the wake of breaks in the social structure “after the boom.” At any rate, the answers found by such analysis will significantly depend on the research interests asked for.[43] To date, scholars have explored the changes in the concepts and practices of the political that emerged in the social movements and countercultural milieus of the 1970s and 80s. As psychological knowledge and frameworks, they focused on the private life of the “alternative left-wing subject” and his or her relationship to the self, which they regarded as an “authentic” and “self-determined” site of politics.[44]

Studies in the 20th century frequently treat the women’s movement of the 1970s as an outgrowth of the decade’s alternative milieu, and attribute the former’s influence on the dynamics of societal subjectification to bodily self-determination.[45] Only rarely have scholars described the societal requirements placed on women and the subjectification practices of women in terms of a specific experience of difference.[46] This neglect stands in odd contrast to the important contribution of feminist criticism to the theory of the subject. Nevertheless, it is symptomatic of many historical studies on subjectification, which rarely make explicit the social and cultural assumptions underlying their interpretative frameworks. Similarly overlooked are the processes of subjectification experienced by “subalterns” in the peripheral spaces of the Western world: those of migrants, the poor, and the marginalized.[47]

Studies in sociology and political science tend to focus more on the social structures that subjectify individuals. Taking their cue primarily from governmentality studies, they examine present-day phenomena through the lens of earlier developments in genetics, medicine, social police, health and labour market policies, gender, and criminology.[48] Many of these developments are associated with neoliberalism.

In 1970s, numerous sociologists began to think critically about contemporary individuality and individualisation. In Germany, the best known of these is Ulrich Beck, whose work on reflective modernity and risk has been received much attention in contemporary history as well as in sociology. First published in 1983 in his book Risikogesellschaft, Beck argues that society has become increasingly individualized since the 1960s.[49] Experiences of societal dissolution and the emergence of new forms of life decoupled from “status and class” brought about a “categorical transformation” in the relationship of individuals to society. Amid changes in education and social mobility and increasing levels of unemployment institutions once central to society such as the family, marriage, parenthood, gender roles, local communities, and work relationships dissolved and the individual became the decisive force in shaping social relationships. Traditional class-based of biographies of industrial society were replaced with the do-it-yourself life paths of the individual.[50] Ulrich Beck and his partner, Elisabeth Beck-Gernsheim, distinguish the individual that emerged in the 20th century both from the 18th century bourgeois individual and from the self-determined autonomous individual. Unlike its predecessors, the modern individual brings an existential freedom of choice whose uncertainties and dilemmas act as accelerators of social inequality.[51]

Homo economicus

Both as an ideal and as an interpellation, homo economicus plays a paradigmatic role in current debates about economic subjectification and its genesis in the last third of the 20th century. Now a standard figure in economy theory, homo economicus can be traced back to the English economist John Stuart Mill, who wanted to develop a method for understanding economic decision-making in the modern industrial age. In discussions of Mill’s work, the term arose to describe a type of human being who always acts in way that maximizes economic utility. By 1900, the topos of the economically self-interested human agent had entrenched itself in economics, literature, and anthropology.[52]

The figure of homo economicus received new attention at the turn of the millennium as debates critical of capitalism sought to explain recent changes to work and to life in general. In the late 1990s, sociologists observed a fundamental break in the organization of capital markets and labour. They found that globalized capitalism tended towards unfettered profit maximization, and the neoliberal economic policies that accompanied it had begun to affect all areas of society, up to and including the social government of individuals.

In their 1999 book, the French sociologists Luc Boltanski and Ève Chiapello spoke of a “new spirit of capitalism.”[53] They attributed this new spirit to the management discourse of the 1960s, which co-opted countercultural criticisms of authoritarian labour structures and gave them a capitalist twist. The modern employee was supposed to be flexible, mobile, creative, and self-motivated. In his 1998 The Corrosion of Character, the sociologist Richard Sennett studied the effects of this “new capitalism” on people.[54] There he argued that this form of capitalism – global, physically decentralized, flexibly organized – produces apathetic people, indifferent both to others and themselves.

In a similar vein, researchers in governmentality studies have argued that neoliberal ideas championing self-driven behaviour and self-empowerment have shaped social policy in the West since the 1970s. These researchers frequently cite the late lectures of Foucault in which he defined the homo economicus of American-style neoliberalism as an “entrepreneur, and entrepreneur of himself.”[55] The sociologist Ulrich Bröckling popularized Foucault’s catchy turn of phrase in a 2007 study arguing that the “entrepreneurial self” encapsulates a hegemonic form of subjectification whereby constant entrepreneurial activity is a socially and politically accepted form of personal development.[56]

Since the 1980s, sociologists studying the “subjectification of work” in industry and labour have analyzed the expanding notions of self-organisation and self-control at the workplace.[57] Whereas previous work in this field focused on production, technology, and organisation, these later thinkers have stressed the increasing importance of workers’ actions, mental resources, and motivations. For instance, Hans J. Pongratz and G. Günter Voß speak of the “employee entrepreneur” (Arbeitskraftunternehmer), a type of worker expected to adopt increased levels of self-control, self-economization, and self-rationalization. A heightened sense of self-motivation and performance – a result of restructuring measures such as outsourcing, demanding more flexibility, and introducing “agreements on objectives” for employees – has had a major impact on people’s lives both at work and outside it.

In recent years, contemporary historians have drawn on these sociological studies and adopted neoliberal subjectification as an interpretative framework.[58] In the management and coaching literature, it is fairly easy to find topoi of entrepreneurial self-optimization. A well-known example is the “Yuppie,” a type of young urban professional that emerged in the U.S. and the U.K. in the early 1980s. Smartly dressed and focused on consumerism and career, Yuppies represented the ideal embodiment of the neoliberal self.[59]

The Yuppie (young urban professional) attached importance to expensive brand-name clothes, professional success and status-securing leisure activities. “They live to buy” was the slogan for the Yuppies who made it onto the cover of the US news magazine “Newsweek” in 1984 (left): Newsweek 105 (1984), 31 December). Newsweek featured a two-page article on the Yuppies that referred to the Yuppie Handbook published the same year: a satirical guide to the conformist career ambitions of class-conscious youth of middle-class background (right: Marissa Piesman, and Marilee Hartley, The Yuppie Handbook. The State-of-the Art Manual for Young Urban Professionals, Horsham: Pocket Books 1984).
The Yuppie (young urban professional) attached importance to expensive brand-name clothes, professional success and status-securing leisure activities. “They live to buy” was the slogan for the Yuppies who made it onto the cover of the US news magazine “Newsweek” in 1984 (left): Newsweek 105 (1984), 31 December). Newsweek featured a two-page article on the Yuppies that referred to the Yuppie Handbook published the same year: a satirical guide to the conformist career ambitions of class-conscious youth of middle-class background (right: Marissa Piesman, and Marilee Hartley, The Yuppie Handbook. The State-of-the Art Manual for Young Urban Professionals, Horsham: Pocket Books 1984).

The perils of using this framework of “neoliberal subjectification” are quite obvious. Of course, the closer one looks at working subjects and their practices, the more generalizations like the Yuppie give way to the nuances of individual reality.[60] At the level of specific jobs and companies, the patterns of subjectification at the workplace are inconsistent, asynchronic, and contradictory. The urgency with which sociological studies stress the inequalities in the organisation and availability of employment and the new types of instability that come with expanded individual responsibility suggests the need for more concrete explorations of their historical causes.[61]

The subjectivity of work practices is also primarily at issue when it comes to the body at work.[62] The socio-spatial order of a given company indicates which social hierarchies are produced or dissolved. Conceptions of work and its organisation show which forms of subjectification are addressed and the role discipline, codetermination, and self-organization play in the process.

The history of consumption brings further aspects of economic subjectification into view. Since the 1970s, historians have emphasized the importance of the role played by consumption in subjectification.[63] The consuming subject defines his individuality “entirely from market activity ... in which he participates as a mostly autonomous subject.”[64] Andreas Reckwitz, in his survey of hegemonic subject cultures in the modern era, speaks of the “creative consumers” who emerged in the 1970s and who lead lives oriented towards economics and consumerism all while aspiring to curate their very own unique existence.[65]

Body, Spirit and Soul: The Postboom Psychology Boom

Of all the academic fields exploring subjectification, the history of psychology and mental health is the most extensive. The British sociologist Nikolas Rose pioneered this field in the 1990s, focusing on how theories in human sciences developed, how they spread, and how conceptions of the self have changed.[66] Drawing on practice theory, Rose and others understand psychological sciences, psychological knowledge, and therapeutic practices as governmental technologies of the self. In particular, they address the political forms of these technologies as they change over time.

Regimes of subjectification in psychology, medicine, and the human sciences derive their power from the “scientization of the social.”[67] The growing influence of scientific knowledge in the areas of politics, economics, and public administration along with its popularisation in self-help literature and everyday counselling established new concepts of the self, based on science. Another decisive factor in the rise of these subjectifying practices is the application of scientific knowledge to the modern institutions governing social life such as hospital, asylums and government agencies, to everyday routines, and to regulatory social policies.

The subjectification of mental life is closely related to bodily health and aesthetics. The scholarship on the history of the body, a field of research that emerged in the 1990s amid the growing popularity of cultural history, is mind-bogglingly vast.[68] Moreover, the methodological boundary between the history of the body and theories of the subject is almost impossible to delineate because both fields draw extensively on the work of Foucault and Butler. Discourses about the body almost always turn on questions of subjectification, and the major works of each field share an interest in the social formation of bodies.[69] According to theories of intersectionality, the history of the body cuts across various categories of race, class, and gender. While feminist thinking focuses on the production, normalization, and problematization of male and female bodies, historians of the body turned increasingly their attention to marginalized, discriminated, ill, and crippled bodies along with other “monsters” – areas of research that have become mainstays of disability studies.[70]

Subjectification also extends to the technological modification of bodies. Whether in the form of prosthetics, which replace or supplement bodily functions, or biotechnical enhancement, which improves physical routines – body modification raises questions about the limits of human subjectivity, who draws them, and how.[71] These questions have become increasingly pressing ever since computers became commonplace and subjectivity entered the virtual dimension. On the one hand, the digital world can dissolve the physical body so that subjects can test out alternative versions of themselves. On the other hand, social media imposes on users standards of what is normal that shape the formation of the self. Sociologists have criticized technology measuring personal data (fitness trackers, smartphone apps, vital sensors) for creating a regime of self-optimization to which users subject themselves as they strive towards ideals of bodily fitness.[72]

The first surveys of the modern body identified an affinity between aesthetic and ethical forms of subjectification.[73] For instance in the 19th and 20th centuries, the “beautiful” self was both healthy and morally impeccable. Histories of bodily health have mostly looked at health policies and their interpellations of the subject through self-care advocacy in the form of good nutrition and fitness. Accordingly, some scholars have argued that prevention and care are basic elements of Western healthcare in the 20th century.[74] Past nutrition policies alternated between two technologies of the self: the criticism of unhealthy diets and the performative act of body shaping in different societal areas (work, sports, military, reproduction, etc.). The dominant view among cultural historians is that concepts of prevention have furthered a process that, beginning in the middle of the 19th century, has not only curated the physical self in sickness but has sought to optimize it in health as well.[75]

The history of sexuality is innate to Foucault’s theory of the subject. It goes back to his important concept of the sexual apparatus that produced historically contingent bodies and desires.[76] German contemporary history has concentrated on concepts of the sexual self in the self-help and counselling industries that have prospered since the 1960s.[77]

The history of sport has examined the past ideas regarding the athletic body. Its offshoots have delivered much impetus for a practice theory of subjectification and have linked the genealogy of modern body ideas and athletic practices (competition, play, cooperation, etc.) to social ideals of the subject.[78]

Historians of psychological subjectification have postulated a fundamental change in the culture of the subject since the 1970s brought about by a “postboom psychology boom.” For the most part, histories of psychiatry in the 19th century follow Foucault in arguing that the societal diagnosis of madness had a normalizing function. By contrast, psychological notions of illness, psychiatric diagnoses and therapies, and the concepts of self that represent them have mostly been neglected, with the exception of several specialized studies and the well-known work of Alain Ehrenberg.[79]

Studies of the “postboom psychology boom” in the 1970s investigate however the popularization of psychological knowledge, therapy, and counselling and the epistemic breaks that different forms of subjectification brought with them.[80] Underlining the cultural and political significance of 1960s-era social movements, these researchers locate support for the emerging therapeutic and psychological discourses in the countercultural movement. The new subject that formed from the psychology boom had to satisfy a demanding catalogue of requirements: psychologically self-aware, emancipated, authentic, creative and self-determined, and socially adaptable. The result was what might be called the alternative “New Man”. His life was an interplay of physical and mental training characterized by permanent self-expression based on the somatisation of religious or metaphysical experience.[81] The ideal of “self-growth” laid the foundations of the expressive emotionality and intimacy of what Andreas Reckwitz refers to as the “postmodern self,” the countercultural subject that existed from 1960s to the 1980s.[82] But as studies on the history of the emotions make clear, the optimistic emotionality of the “left-leaning alternative subject” was also accompanied by fears arising from experiences of social and political uncertainty.[83]

Based more on prejudice than on empirical and comparative evidence, some have argued that the countercultural subject ushered in later hegemonic cultures of the subject. Picking up on Boltanski’s and Chiapello’s claim that capitalistic society co-opted the criticisms of the 60s-protest generation, they assert that the ideas of emancipation and the therapeutic technologies of alternative lifestyles paved the way for the rise of the “entrepreneurial self” in the 1980s.


The methodological conception of the subject is an integral part of its empirical study. As the philosopher Martin Saar put it, the theory of historical subjectivity receives its “systematic payoff” only when we analyze the concrete forms of the subject and subjectification.[84] Historical studies can thus help put empirical meat on the bones of what is meant by “subjectification.”

There is no doubt that the history of the self along with its subjectification and formation is experiencing somewhat of a boom. But modish preoccupations almost always blur the concepts they employ. It is true that historians in general are not nearly as disturbed by the casual use of conceptual tools as sociologists and philosophers are. But in the interest of achieving well-founded empirical results, one must ask about the heuristic value of the concepts of subjectification and the self and how this heuristic value can be securely, critically, and intelligibly communicated. No matter how justified or stimulating the theoretical model is, historians must address basic conceptual questions: How should subjectification be made visible? Which sources should be used? How were they produced? What social status and political interest do they possess?

This criticism particularly applies to recent studies in contemporary history, which generally argue that a new, “neoliberal” form of subjectification arose in the 1970s. For one, their meaning of subjectification remains nebulous. More importantly, their criticism of the neoliberal form of the subject and the regime of self-optimization misses its mark by overgeneralizing the attendant social and political circumstances. In extreme cases, they risk throwing liberal concerns such as self-determination, co-determination, independence, and agency out with the bathwater of neoliberalism.

Describing processes of subjectification without contextualizing their sources has generated similar fuzziness in historical studies of the subject. Ulrich Bröckling’s concept of “human regulation” (Menschenführung), which describes the apparatus of social order, is historically vexing.[85] It is true that sociologists use this term to describe the exertion of power in institutions that govern human beings (such as companies, the military, and educational institutions). But the concept of “human regulation” was shaped in conservative and far-right industry-adjacent milieus during the the interwar years. Their representatives sought to steer participatory movements towards hierarchical organisations for the sake of the Führer principle.[86]

By contrast, understanding subjectification as a systematic catch-all term of modern governmentality – as I do in this article – requires a more granular level of detail. Periodization represents the classical way of dividing history into smaller units. Though sociologists have taken various approaches to periodization, they all start with the upheavals that took place in the 1920s and 1970s. Andreas Reckwitz proposes a broad spectrum of subject cultures extending from the “morally sovereign general subject” of the modern 19th century bourgeois to the “post-bourgeois employee” of the mid-20th century and the “creative consumer” of the 1970s and beyond.[87]

Instructively, the sociologists Alexander Hesse and Stefan Senne identify three regimes of self-regulation in the governmental structures of the 20th century.[88] In the 1920s, it was mainly about schooling the will and practicing the ideal of the “armoured sovereign subject.” In the 1960s and 70s, self-regulation aimed at democratization and liberalization through techniques of self-expression, authenticity, and self-development. In the 1990s and 2000s, self-help books promoted the efficiency of the emotions and the activation of individual responsibility. A single ideal of the subject gave way to “episodic subjectification” and continuous self-actualisation. Instead of an increasingly free and self-determined subject, self-help books endorsed a “subject who increasingly lost the centre of his formation,” and was ever more unable to response to interpellations of self-regulation.[89]

These sociological concepts are of interest to contemporary history because they regard subjectification in the final third of the 20th century as part of a long history and located in specific societal structures. The “subject” as such did not appear out of nowhere around 1970. Rather, scholars mostly agree that a specific form of subjectification take shape during these years. The point must be stressed lest we ignore other forms of subjectification in other historical moments and social conjunctures (e.g., self-empowerment in acts of violence, self-expression in religious interiority, self-discipline in physical exercise).

But it is also possible to put forward a model of subjectification that is more complex than the linear narrative of increasing self-expression and self-regulation that one frequently finds in histories of subjectification. New studies in sociology suggest that the most recent processes of subjectification go beyond emancipated self-realization and economical self-optimisation, but include ideals of social conformity, submissiveness, obedience, or even the “comeback of authoritarianism” (Wilhelm Heitmeyer).[90] At all times the stubborness of subjects, insisting on “normality” (Hürtgen/Voswinkel), could interfere in historiography, that tells a story too smoothly.[91] It is important, therefore, that historians continue to scrutinize social stratifications and contradictions in the subjectification process.

Translated from the German by Lucais Sewell.

German Version: Wiebke Wiede, Subjekt und Subjektivierung, Version: 3.0, in: Docupedia-Zeitgeschichte, 15.12.2020

Empfohlene Literatur zum Thema

Thomas Alkemeyer/Gunilla Budde/Dagmar Freist (eds.), Selbst-Bildungen. Soziale und kulturelle Praktiken der Subjektivierung. Bielefeld 2013

Ulrich Bröckling, Das unternehmerische Selbst. Soziologie einer Subjektivierungsform, Frankfurt a. M. 2007

Pascal Eitler/Jens Elberfeld (eds.), Zeitgeschichte des Selbst. Therapeutisierung, Politisierung, Emotionalisierung. Bielefeld 2015

Michel Foucault, The Ethics of the Concern for Self as a Practice of Freedom. Interview on January 20, 1984 with Raul Fornet-Betancourt, Helmut Becker, and Alfredo Gomez-Müller, in: Sylvère Lotringer (ed.), Foucault Live. Collected Interviews, 1961–1984, New York 1989, PP. 432–449

Michel Foucault, The Subject and Power, in: James D. Faubion (ed.), Essential Works of Foucault, Volume 3 - Power, New York 1997, PP. 326–349

Andreas Gelhard/Thomas Alkemeyer/Norbert Ricken (eds.), Techniken der Subjektivierung, Munich 2013

Andreas Reckwitz, Subjekt, Bielefeld 2008

Andreas Reckwitz, Subjekt, in: Sina Farzin/Stefan Jordan (eds.), Lexikon Soziologie und Sozialtheorie. Hundert Grundbegriffe, Stuttgart 2008, PP. 288‒291

Nikolas Rose, Governing the Soul. The Shaping of the Private Self, London 1999

Nikolas Rose/Peter Miller, Governing the Present. Administering Economic, Social and Personal Life, New York 2008

Wiebke Wiede, Subjectification, the Subject, and the Self, Version: 3.0, in: Docupedia-Zeitgeschichte, 21.12.2020, URL:

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    1. For a pointed analysis, see Ulrich Bröckling, “Anruf und Adresse,” in Andreas Gelhard, Thomas Alkemeyer, and Norbert Ricken (eds.), Techniken der Subjektivierung (Munich: Wilhelm Fink Verlag, 2013), 49–59.
    2. Andreas Reckwitz provides a concise summary of each approach in his book Subjekt (Transcript: Bielefeld 2008).
    3. I have borrowed this classification from Norbert Ricken, “Subjektivität und Kontingenz: Pädagogische Anmerkungen zum Diskurs menschlicher Selbstbeschreibungen,” in Vierteljahrsschrift für wissenschaftliche Pädagogik 75 (1999): 213; and from Martin Saar, “Analytik der Subjektivierung. Umrisse eines Theorieprogramms,” in Andreas Gelhard, Thomas Alkemeyer, and Norbert Ricken (eds), Techniken der Subjektivierung (Munich: Wilhelm Fink, 2013), 17–27.
    4. Michel Foucault, “The Subject and Power,” in: Essential Works of Foucault, vol. 3 (New York: New Press, 1997), 326. See also Frédéric Gros, “Situierung der Vorlesungen,” in Michel Foucault, Hermeneutik des Subjekts, ed. Francois Ewald, Alessandro Fontana, and Frédéric Gros (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 2004), 623.
    5. Michel Foucault, “Les réponses du philosophe,” interview with C. Bojunga and R. Lobo (1 November 1975), republished in Michel Foucault, Dits et Écrits II, 1970–1975 (Paris: Gallimard, 1994), 816.
    6. See Michel Foucault, “Entretien avec Michel Foucault,” interview with D. Trombadori (end of 1978), republished in Michel Foucault, Dits et Écrits IV, 1980–1988 (Paris: Gallimard, 1994), 93.
    7. See Graham Burchell, Colin Gordon, and Peter Miller (eds.), The Foucault Effect. Studies in Governmentality (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991); Klaus Große Kracht, “‘Gouvernementalität’ – Michel Foucault und die Geschichte des 20. Jahrhunderts,” in Zeithistorische Forschungen/Studies in Contemporary History 3 (2) (2006): 273–76; Maren Möhring, “Die Regierung der Körper: ‘Gouvernementalität’ und ‘Techniken des Selbst,’ in Zeithistorische Forschungen/Studies in Contemporary History 3 (2) (2006): 284–90; and Jürgen Martschukat, “Feste Bande lose schnüren ‘Gouvernementalität’ als analytische Perspektive auf Geschichte,” in Forschungen/Studies in Contemporary History 3 (2) (2006): 277–83 ( [15.12.2020]).
    8. For more, see Michel Foucault, “Theatrum Philosophicum,” in Essential Works of Foucault, 1954–1984, vol. 2 (New York: The New Press, 1998), 347.
    9. Michel Foucault, “The Ethics of the Concern for Self as a Practice of Freedom,” interview with Raul Fornet-Betancourt, Helmut Becker, and Alfredo Gomez-Müller on January 20, 1984, trans. Phillis Aranov and Dan McGrawth, in Foucault Live: Collected Interviews, 1961–1984, ed. Sylvère Lotringer (New York: Semiiotext(e), 1989), 441.
    10. Michel Foucault, “Pompidou’s Two Deaths,” in Essential Works of Foucault, 1954–1984, vol. 3 (New York: New Press, 1997), 419–20.
    11. Foucault, The Subject and Power,” in Essential Works of Foucault, 331.
    12. See Martin Saar, Genealogie als Kritik: Geschichte und Theorie des Subjekts nach Nietzsche und Foucault (Frankfurt am Main: Campus, 2007). 28; Gros, “Situierung,” 621; and Petra Gehring and Andreas Gelhard, “Vorwort,” in ibid., Parrhesia: Foucault und der Mut zur Wahrheit (Zurich: Diaphanes, 2012), 9.
    13. Louis Althusser, Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses, trans. G. M. Goshgarian (London: Verso, 2014), 190.
    14. Ibid., 265.
    15. Ibid, 261, 105.
    16. See Judith Butler, The Psychic Life of Power: Theories in Subjection (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1997), 83–105.
    17. See Jacques Derrida, “Signature Event Context,” in Limited INC (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1988), 1–25.
    18. See Judith Butler, Excitable Speech: A Politics of the Performative (New York: Routledge, 1997).
    19. See Marion Ott and Daniel Wrana, “Gouvernementalität diskursiver Praktiken: Zur Methodologie der Analyse von Machtverhältnissen am Beispiel einer Maßnahme zur Aktivierung von Erwerbslosen,” in Johannes Angermüller and Silke van Dyk (eds.), Diskursanalyse meets Gouvernementalitätsforschung: Perspektiven auf das Verhältnis von Subjekt, Sprache, Macht und Wissen (Frankfurt am Main: Campus Verlag, 2010), 159.
    20. Michel Foucault, Security, Territory, Population. Lectures at the Collège de France, 1977–78, ed. Michel Senellart (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007), 191–226; Michel Foucault, Vorlesung 8. Sitzung vom 1. März 1978, Sicherheit, Territorium, Bevölkerung. Geschichte der Gouvernementalität I. Vorlesung am Collège de France 1977-1978 (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp 2006), 278–330, 292. See also Daniel Hechler and Axel Philipps (eds.), Widerstand denken: Michel Foucault und die Grenzen der Macht (Bielefeld: Transcript, 2008).
    21. For more on “stubborness”, see Alf Lüdtke, Eigen-Sinn: Fabrikalltag, Arbeitererfahrungen und Politik vom Kaiserreich bis in den Faschismus (Hamburg: Ergebnisse Verlag, 1993).
    22. See Lutz Eichler, System und Selbst: Arbeit und Subjektivität im Zeitalter ihrer strategischen Anerkennung (Bielefeld: Transcript, 2013), 257–85.
    23. Judith Butler, Gender Trouble (New York: Routledge, 1990), 163–80; and ibid., Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of Sex (New York: Routledge, 1993), 32.
    24. Ibid., Bodies That Matter, 33.
    25. Ibid., Gender Trouble, 12 and n. 15 (195–96).
    26. Butler, Bodies That Matter, 9 and 28; and ibid., Gender Trouble, 44.
    27. Ibid., Gender Trouble, 44.
    28. Ibid., xxix.
    29. Ibid., Bodies That Matter, 3–4.
    30. See Edward Said, Orientalism (New York: Pantheon, 1978) and Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Can the Subaltern Speak? (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 1988).
    31. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, “Subaltern Studies: Deconstructing Historiography,” in Donna Landry and Gerald MacLean (eds.), The Spivak Reader: Selected Works of Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak (New York: Routledge, 1996), 203–36.
    32. Homi K. Bhabha, The Location of Culture (New York: Routledge, 1994), 85–91, 112–21.
    33. “Selbst-Bildungen” (“Formations of Self”) was the name of a DFG Graduate School at the Carl von Ossietzky University of Oldenburg. See [15.12.2020]. The publisher Transcript Verlag has issued a series on the subject titled Practices of Subjectification. For more, see [15.12.2020].
    34. See Charles Taylor, Sources of the Self: The Making of the Modern Identity (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1989); Roy Porter (ed.), Rewriting the Self: Histories from the Renaissance to the Present (London: Routledge, 1997); and Jerrold E. Seigel, The Idea of the Self: Thought and Experience in Western Europe Since the Seventeenth Century (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005).
    35. See Regenia Gagnier, Subjectivities: A History of Self-Representation in Britain, 1832–1920 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991); Robert H. Wiebe, Self-Rule: A Cultural History of American Democracy (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995); and Patrick Joyce, Democratic Subjects: The Self and the Social in Nineteenth-Century (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994). For methodological questions, see Patrick Joyce, “The End of Social History?”, in Social History 20 (1995): 73–91.
    36. See Andreas Kaminski, “Prüfungen um 1900: Zur Genese einer Subjektivierungsform,” in Historische Anthropologie 19 (2011): 331–53; ibid., “Wie subjektivieren Prüfungstechniken? Subjektivität und Möglichkeit bei William Stern und Martin Heidegger,” in Gerhard, Alkemeyer and Ricken (eds.), Techniken der Subjektivierung, 173–87; Ruben Hackler, “Subjektivierung der Rechtsprechung? Vom forum internum zur (Sozial-) Psychologie des Richters im Straf- und Zivilrecht um 1900,” in Techniken der Subjektivierung, 133–48; Daniela Saxer, “Persönlichkeiten auf dem Prüfstand: Die Produktion von Arbeitssubjekten in der frühen Berufsberatung,” Historische Anthropologie 19 (2011): 354–71; and Wiebke Wiede, “Von Zetteln und Apparaten: Subjektivierung in bundesdeutschen und britischen Arbeitsämtern der 1970er- und 1980er-Jahre,” Zeithistorische Forschungen/Studies in Contemporary History 13 (3) (2016): 466–87 ( [15.12.2020]).
    37. See Nils Baratella, Das kämpferische Subjekt. Boxen – Der Kampf als Subtext moderner Subjektphilosophie (Paderborn: Fink Verlag, 2015); and Jörn Eiben, Das Subjekt des Fußballs: Eine Geschichte bewegter Körper im Kaiserreich (Bielefeld: Transcript, 2016).
    38. See Brigitte Studer and Heiko Haumann (eds.), Stalinistische Subjekte / Stalinist Subjects / Sujets staliniens: Individuen und System in der Sowjetunion und der Komintern 1929–1953 (Zurich: Chronos Verlag, 2006); Mark D. Steinberg, Proletarian Imagination: Self, Modernity, and the Sacred in Russia, 1910–1925 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2002); and Oleg Kharkhordin, The Collective and the Individual in Russia: A Study of Practices (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999). On Germany and the Nazi period, see Janosch Steuwer, “Ein Drittes Reich, wie ich es auffasse”: Politik, Gesellschaft und privates Leben in Tagebüchern 1933–1939 (Göttingen: Wallstein Verlag, 2017); and Moritz Föllmer, Individuality and Modernity in Berlin: Self and Society from Weimar to the Wall (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013).
    39. On the techniques of self in Stalinism, see Brigitte Studer, “Liquidate the Errors or Liquidate the Person? Stalinist Party Practices as Techniques of the Self,” in Studer and Haumann (eds.), Stalinistische Subjekte, 197–216; Jochen Hellbeck, “Fashioning the Stalinist Soul: The Diary of Stepan Podlubnyi (1931–1939),” Jahrbücher für Geschichte Osteuropas 44 (1996): 344–73; and Jochen Hellbeck, Revolution on My Mind: Writing a Diary under Stalin (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2006).
    40. On methodological questions related to first-person documents, see Penny Summerfield, Histories of the Self. Personal Narratives and Historical Practice (New York: Routledge, 2019); and Christine Hämmerling and Daniela Zetti (eds.), Das dokumentierte Ich: Wissen in Verhandlung (Zurich: Chronos, 2018). On diaries in the 20th century, see Janosch Steuwer and Rüdiger Graf (eds.), Selbstreflexionen und Weltdeutungen: Tagebücher in der Geschichte und der Geschichtsschreibung des 20. Jahrhunderts (Göttingen: Wallstein Verlag, 2015).
    41. See David Scott, “Colonial Governmentality,” Social Text 43 (1995): 191–220; Angelika Epple and Ulrike Lindner, “Introduction,” Comparativ 21(1) (2011): 7–13. Special edition, Entangled Histories: Reflecting on Concepts of Coloniality and Postcoloniality, ed. Angelika Epple, Olaf Kaltmeier and Ulrike Lindner ( [15.12.2020]).
    42. Catherine Hall, Civilising Subjects: Metropole and Colony in the English Imagination 1830–1867 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002); Ann Laura Stoler, Race and the Education of Desire: Foucault’s History of Sexuality and the Colonial Order of Things (Durham: Duke University Press, 1995); Ann Laura Stoler, Along the Archival Grain: Epistemic Anxieties and Colonial Common Sense (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2009); Ulrike Schaper, Koloniale Verhandlungen: Gerichtsbarkeit, Verwaltung und Herrschaft in Kamerun 1884–1916 (Frankfurt am Main: Campus Verlag, 2012); and Taylor C. Sherman, William Gould and Sarah Ansari (eds.), From Subjects to Citizens: Society and Everyday State in India and Pakistan, 1947–1970 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014).
    43. See Pascal Eitler and Jens Elberfeld, “Von der Gesellschaftsgeschichte zur Zeitgeschichte des Selbst – und zurück,” in Pascal Eitler and Jens Elberfeld (eds.), Zeitgeschichte des Selbst: Therapeutisierung, Politisierung, Emotionalisierung (Bielefeld: Transcript Verlag, 2015), 10, 14, 26. There, Eitler and Elberfeld argue against Anselm Doering-Manteuffel and Lutz Raphael, who stress the perspective dependence in the analysis of structural change and societal interactions. See Anselm Doering-Manteuffel and Lutz Raphael, Nach dem Boom: Perspektiven auf die Zeitgeschichte seit 1970 (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2008), 92.
    44. On the political history of the self, see Maik Tändler and Uffa Jensen (eds.), Das Selbst zwischen Anpassung und Befreiung: Psychowissen und Politik im 20. Jahrhundert (Göttingen: Wallstein Verlag, 2012), 14; Sven Reichardt, Authentizität und Gemeinschaft: Linksalternatives Leben in den siebziger und frühen achtziger Jahren (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 2014), 885–91; and Andreas Reckwitz, Das hybride Subjekt: Eine Theorie der Subjektkulturen von der bürgerlichen Moderne zur Postmoderne (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 2006), 494–99.
    45. See Imke Schmincke, Von der Befreiung der Frau zur Befreiung des Selbst: Eine kritische Analyse der Befreiungssemantik in der (Neuen) Frauenbewegung, in Eitler and Elberfeld (eds.), Zeitgeschichte des Selbst, 217–37.
    46. Some exceptions are Andrea Bührmann, Der Kampf um “weibliche Individualität”: Zur Transformation moderner Subjektivierungsweisen in Deutschland um 1900 (Münster: Westfälisches Dampfboot, 2004); Brigitte Studer, 1968 und die Formung des feministischen Subjekts (Vienna: Picus Verlag, 2011); Helga Bilden, “Feministische Perspektiven in der Sozialpsychologie am Beispiel der Bulimie,” in Heiner Keupp (ed.), Zugänge zum Subjekt: Perspektiven einer reflexiven Sozialpsychologie (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp,1994), 147–85; and, famously, Angela McRobbie, The Aftermath of Feminism: Gender, Culture and Social Change (Los Angeles: Sage, 2009).
    47. Some exceptions include Jens Elberfeld, “Unterschichten, Frauen, Ausländer: Zur Normalisierung von Differenz in Familientherapie und -beratung, BRD 1960–1990,” Traverse 18(3) (2011): 105–21; Jens Elberfeld and Pascal Eitler, “Gesellschaftsgeschichte zur Zeitgeschichte des Selbst und zurück,” in Jens Elberfeld and Pascal Eitler (eds.), Zeitgeschichte des Selbst, 25; and Massimo Perinelli, “Migration und das Ende des bürgerlichen Subjekts. Transformationen des Subjekts vom Gastarbeiterregime bis zum Diskurs des Illegalen,” in Jens Elberfeld and Pascal Eitler (eds.), Zeitgeschichte des Selbst, 195–215.
    48. For a summary, see Economy and Society 22(3) (1993), special issue (Liberalism, Neoliberalism and Governmentality); and Burchell, Gordon, and Miller, The Foucault Effect; Peter Miller and Nikolas Rose, Governing the Present. Administering Economic, Social and Personal Life (Malden: Polity Press, 2008); in German language: Marianne Pieper and Encarnación Gutiérrez Rodríguez (eds.), Gouvernementalität: Ein sozialwissenschaftliches Konzept in Anschluss an Foucault (Frankfurt am Main: Campus Verlag, 2003); Ulrich Bröckling, Susanne Krasmann and Thomas Lemke (eds.), Gouvernementalität der Gegenwart: Studien zur Ökonomisierung des Sozialen (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp Verlag, 2010); and Klaus Große Kracht, “Gouvernmentalität.”
    49. Ulrich Beck, “Jenseits von Stand und Klasse? Soziale Ungleichheiten, gesellschaftliche Individualisierungsprozesse und die Entstehung neuer sozialer Formationen und Identitäten,” in Reinhard Kreckel (ed.), Soziale Ungleichheiten (Göttingen: Schwartz 1983), 35–74; Ulrich Beck, Risikogesellschaft: Auf dem Weg in eine andere Moderne (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1986), 205–19. See also Ulrich Beck and Elisabeth Beck-Gernsheim, “Individualisierung in modernen Gesellschaften ‒ Perspektiven und Kontroversen einer subjektorientierten Soziologie,” in Ulrich Beck and Elisabeth Beck-Gernsheim (eds.), Riskante Freiheiten: Individualisierung in modernen Gesellschaften (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1994), 10–39.
    50. Beck calls the cobbled together life of the individual a Bastelbiographie. See Beck and Beck-Gernsheim, “Individualisierung,” 13.
    51. Ulrich Beck and Elisabeth Beck-Gernsheim, “Nicht Autonomie, sondern Bastelbiographie: Anmerkungen zur Individualisierungsdiskussion am Beispiel des Aufsatzes von Günter Burkart,” Zeitschrift für Soziologie 22 (1993): 179.
    52. For more on the development of homo economicus through 1830, see Joseph Vogl, Kalkül und Leidenschaft: Poetik des ökonomischen Menschen (Zurich: Diaphones, 2002).
    53. See Luc Boltanski and Ève Chiapello, The New Spirit of Capitalism, trans. Gregory Elliott (London: Verso, 2005). First published in 1999 as Le novel esprit de capitalisme with Éditions Gallimard.
    54. See Richard Sennett, The Corrosion of Character: The Personal Consequences of Work in the New Capitalism (New York: Norton, 1998).
    55. Michel Foucault, The Birth of Biopolitics, trans. Graham Burchell and ed. Michel Senellart (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008), 226. For more on this topic, see Jan-Otmar Hesse, “‘Der Mensch des Unternehmens und der Produktion’: Foucaults Sicht auf den Ordoliberalismus und die ‘Soziale Marktwirtschaft,’” in Zeithistorische Forschungen/Studies in Contemporary History 3 (2) (2006): 291–96 ( [15.12.2020]).
    56. See Ulrich Bröckling, Das unternehmerische Selbst: Soziologie einer Subjektivierungsform (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 2007). A similar term, “enterprising subject,” appeared in Peter Miller and Nikolas Rose’s 1995 study, “Production, Identity, and Democracy,” Theory and Society 24 (1995): 430 ( [15.12.2020]).
    57. See, for instance, Manfred Moldaschl and G. Günter Voß (eds.), Subjektivierung von Arbeit (Munich: R. Hampp, 2002); Martin Baethge, “Arbeit, Vergesellschaftung, Identität: Zur zunehmenden normativen Subjektivierung der Arbeit,” Soziale Welt 42 (1991): 6–19 ( [15.12.2020]); and G. Günter Voß and Hans J. Pongratz, “Der Arbeitskraftunternehmer: Eine neue Grundform der ‘Ware Arbeitskraft’?,” Kölner Zeitschrift für Soziologie und Sozialpsychologie 50 (1998): 131–58.
    58. See Doering-Manteuffel and Raphael, Nach dem Boom; Anselm Doering-Manteuffel and Lutz Raphael, “Nach dem Boom: Neue Einsichten und Erklärungsversuche,” in Anselm Doering-Manteuffel, Lutz Raphael, and Thomas Schlemmer (eds.), Vorgeschichte der Gegenwart: Dimensionen des Strukturbruchs nach dem Boom (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2016), 19; Frank Bösch, Thomas Hertfelder, and Gabriele Metzler, “Grenzen des Neoliberalismus: Der Wandel des Liberalismus im späten 20. Jahrhundert,” in Frank Bösch, Thomas Hertfelder, and Gabriele Metzler (eds.), Grenzen des Neoliberalismus: Der Wandel des Liberalismus im späten 20. Jahrhundert (Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 2018), 15f.
    59. See Sina Fabian, “Der Yuppie: Projektionen des neoliberalen Wandels,” in Bösch, Hertfelder, and Metzler, Grenzen des Neoliberalismus, 93–117.
    60. For views that agree with these sociological and historical approaches, see the articles in Morten Reitmayer and Ruth Rosenberger (eds.), Unternehmen am Ende des “goldenen Zeitalters.” Die 1970er Jahre in unternehmens- und wirtschaftshistorischer Perspektive (Essen: Klartext, 2008); and Hans J. Pongratz and G. Günter Voß (eds.), Typisch Arbeitskraftunternehmer? Befunde der empirischen Arbeitsforschung (Berlin: Edition Sigma, 2004).
    61. See, for instance, Dieter Sauer, “Die Zukunft der Arbeitsgesellschaft. Soziologische Deutungen in zeithistorischer Perspektive,” Vierteljahrshefte für Zeitgeschichte 55 (2007): 309–28 ( [15.12.2020]).
    62. See Timo Luks, Der Betrieb als Ort der Moderne: Zur Geschichte von Industriearbeit, Ordnungsdenken und Social Engineering im 20. Jahrhundert (Bielefeld: Transcript Verlag, 2010), 123–33; and Karsten Uhl, Humane Rationalisierung? Die Raumordnung der Fabrik im fordistischen Jahrhundert (Bielefeld: Transcript Verlag, 2014), 154–61, 241–49, 223–25. For some articles on the theory of subject, see Lars Bluma and Karsten Uhl (eds.), Kontrollierte Arbeit ‒ disziplinierte Körper? Zur Sozial- und Kulturgeschichte der Industriearbeit im 19. und 20. Jahrhundert (Bielefeld: Transcript, 2012).
    63. See Jan-Otmar Hesse, “Der Konsument als Unternehmer: Fünf Einwände und ein Interpretationsvorschlag,” in Reitmayer and Rosenberger (eds.), Unternehmen am Ende des “goldenen Zeitalters,” 319–35 ( [15.12.2020]); and Reckwitz, Das hybride Subjekt, 588–628. Peter-Paul Bänziger argues that the “busy individual” arose from an extensive formation of subject in the 20th century. See his “Der betriebsame Mensch: ein Bericht (nicht nur) aus der Werkstatt,” in Österreichische Zeitschrift für Geschichtswissenschaften 23 (2012): 222–36 ( [15.12.2020]).
    64. Andreas Wirsching, “Konsum statt Arbeit? Zum Wandel von Individualität in der modernen Massengesellschaft,” Vierteljahrshefte für Zeitgeschichte 57 (2009): 182 ( [15.12.2020]).
    65. Reckwitz, Das hybride Subjekt, 588.
    66. See Nikolas Rose, Governing the Soul: The Shaping of the Private Self (London: Free Association Books, 1990); and ibid., Inventing Our Selves: Psychology, Power, and Personhood (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996). On the 20th century development of concepts of self in the human sciences, see Greg Eghigian, Andreas Killen, and Christine Leuenberger, “The Self as Project: Politics and the Human Sciences in the Twentieth Century,” Osiris 22 (2007): 1–25; Eva Illouz, Saving the Modern Soul: Therapy, Emotions, and the Culture of Self-Help (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008); Mathew Thomson, Psychological Subjects: Identity, Culture, and Health in Twentieth-Century Britain (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006); Boris Traue, Das Subjekt der Beratung: Zur Soziologie einer Psycho-Technik (Bielefeld: Transcript, 2010); Jens Elberfeld, Anleitung zur Selbstregulation. Eine Wissensgeschichte der Therapeutisierung im 20. Jahrhundert (Frankfurt a.M.: Campus, 2020) and Tändler and Jensen (eds.), Das Selbst zwischen Anpassung und Befreiung.
    67. See Lutz Raphael, “Die Verwissenschaftlichung des Sozialen als methodische und konzeptionelle Herausforderung für eine Sozialgeschichte des 20. Jahrhunderts,” Geschichte und Gesellschaft 22 (1996): 165–93; ibid., “Die Verwissenschaftlichung des Sozialen – Wissens- und Sozialordnungen im Europa des 20. Jahrhunderts,” in ibid., Ordnungsmuster und Deutungskämpfe. Wissenspraktiken im Europa des 20. Jahrhunderts (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2018), 13-50; ibid., “Embedding the Human and Social Sciences in Western Societies, 1880–1980: Reflections on Trends and Methods of Current Research,” in Kerstin Brückweh, Dirk Schumann, Richard F. Wetzell, and Benjamin Ziemann (eds.), Engineering Society. The Role of the Human and Social Sciences in Modern Societies, 1880–1980 (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), 41–56. For the relationship to subjectification, see Bröckling, Das unternehmerische Selbst, 42.
    68. On the history of the body, see Maren Lorenz, Leibhaftige Vergangenheit: Einführung in die Körpergeschichte (Tübingen: Edition Diskord 2000).
    69. See Netzwerk Körper (ed.), What Can a Body Do? Praktiken und Figurationen des Körpers in den Kulturwissenschaften (Frankfurt am Main: Campus Verlag, 2012).
    70. See Torsten Junge and Imke Schmincke (eds.), Marginalisierte Körper: Beiträge zur Soziologie und Geschichte des anderen Körpers (Münster: Unrast, 2007); and Elisabeth Bösl, Anne Klein, and Anne Waldschmidt (eds.), Disability History: Konstruktionen von Behinderung in der Geschichte – Eine Einführung (Bielefeld: Transcript, 2010). For education sciences from a historical viewpoint, see Lisa Pfahl, Techniken der Behinderung: Der deutsche Lernbehinderungsdiskurs, die Sonderschule und ihre Auswirkungen auf Bildungsbiografien (Bielefeld: Transcript, 2011).
    71. See Bernd Stiegler, Der montierte Mensch: Eine Figur der Moderne (Paderborn: Wilhelm Fink, 2016); and Jürgen Straub and Alexandre Métraux (eds.), Prothetische Transformationen des Menschen: Ersatz, Ergänzung, Erweiterung, Ersetzung (Bochum: Westdeutscher Universitätsverlag, 2017).
    72. See Deborah Lupton, The Quantified Self: A Sociology of Self-Tracking (Malden: Polity Press, 2016).
    73. See Jens Elberfeld and Marcus Otto (eds.), Das schöne Selbst: Zur Genealogie des modernen Subjekts zwischen Ethik und Ästhetik (Bielefeld: Transcript, 2008).
    74. See Martin Lengwiler and Jeanette Madarász (eds.), Das präventive Selbst. Eine Kulturgeschichte moderner Gesundheitspolitik (Bielefeld: Transcript, 2010); and Malte Thießen, Britta-Marie Schenk, and Jan-Holger Kirsch (eds.), Zeitgeschichte der Vorsorge, in Zeithistorische Forschungen/Studies in Contemporary History 10 (3) (2013) ( [15.12.2020]).
    75. See, for instance, Mary G. Winkler and Letha B. Cole (eds.), The Good Body: Asceticism in Contemporary Culture (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1994); Peter N. Stearns, Fat History: Bodies and Beauty in the Modern West (New York: New York University Press, 1997); and Jürgen Martschukat, “‘Adipositas-Krise’ und ‘Ich-Gesellschaft’: Zur Geschichte von Fitness und Fatness in den USA,” in Zeitgeschichte-Online (July 2014) ( [15.12.2020]).
    76. For a review of the literature, see Harry G. Cocks, “Modernity and the Self in the History of Sexuality,” in Historical Journal 49 (2006): 1211–1227.
    77. See Peter-Paul Bänziger, Sex als Problem: Körper und Intimbeziehungen in Briefen an die ‘Liebe Martha’ (Frankfurt am Main: Campus Verlag: 2010); Annika Wellmann, “Instruktionen für ein sensitives Selbst. Sexualtherapie und Zärtlichkeitsregime um 1980,” in Sabine Maasen, Jens Elberfeld, Pascal Eitler, Maik Tändler (eds.), Das beratene Selbst: Zur Genealogie der Therapeutisierung in den „langen“ Siebzigern (Bielefeld: Transcript, 2011), 185–204; Annika Wellmann, Beziehungssex: Medien und Beratung im späten 20. Jahrhundert (Cologne: Böhlau, 2011); Peter-Paul Bänziger, Stefanie Duttweiler, Philipp Sarasin, and Annika Wellmann (eds.), Fragen Sie Dr. Sex! Ratgeberkommunikation und die mediale Konstruktion des Sexuellen (Berlin: Suhrkamp, 2010). For the longue durée, see Sabine Maasen, Genealogie der Unmoral: Zur Therapeutisierung sexueller Selbste (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp Insel, 1998).
    78. See Jürgen Martschukat, “‘The Necessity for Better Bodies to Perpetuate Our Institutions, Insure a Higher Development of the Individual, and Advance the Conditions of the Race’: Physical Culture and the Formation of the Self in Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Century USA,” in Journal of Historical Sociology 24 (2011): 472–93; Pirkko Markula-Denison and Richard Pringle, Foucault, Sport and Exercise: Power, Knowledge and Transforming the Self (London: Routledge, 2007); and Pirkko Markula, “‘Turning into One’s Self’: Foucault’s Technologies of the Self and Mindful Fitness,” in Sociology of Sport Journal 21 (2004): 190–210. For the German-speaking region, see Thomas Alkemeyer and Mathias Michaeler, “Subjektivierung als (Aus-)Bildung körperlich-mentaler Mitspielkompetenz: Eine praxeologische Perspektive auf Trainingstechniken im Sportspiel,” in Gelhard, Alkemeyer, and Ricken (eds.), Techniken, 213–27.
    79. See Michal Shapira, The War Inside. Psychoanalysis, Total War, and the Making of the Democratic Self in Postwar Britain (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013); Sandra Schmitt, Das Ringen um das Selbst: Schizophrenie in Wissenschaft, Gesellschaft und Kultur nach 1945 (Berlin: De Gryuter Oldenbourg, 2018). For the postwar era, see Marietta Meier: Spannungsherde: Psychochirurgie nach dem Zweiten Weltkrieg (Göttingen: Wallstein, 2015); Magaly Tornay, Zugriffe auf das Ich: Psychoaktive Stoffe und Personenkonzepte in der Schweiz, 1945 bis 1980 (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2016). For a study of the present that draws on events going back to the 1960s, see Alain Ehrenberg, The Weariness of the Self: Diagnosing the History of Depression in the Contemporary Age (Montreal: McGill-Queenʼs University Press, 2010).
    80. See Eitler and Elberfeld (eds.), Zeitgeschichte des Selbst; Sabine Maasen, “Das beratene Selbst: Zur Genealogie der Therapeutisierung in den ‘langen’ Siebzigern: Eine Perspektivierung, in Sabine Maasen, Jens Elberfeld, Pascal Eitler and Maik Tändler (eds.), Das beratene Selbst: Zur Genealogie der Therapeutisierung in den “langen” Siebzigern (Bielefeld: Transcript, 2011), 24f. ( [15.12.2020]); Reichardt, Authentizität und Gemeinschaft, 885–91; Maik Tändler, Das therapeutische Jahrzehnt: Der Psychoboom in den siebziger Jahren (Göttingen: Wallstein, 2016); Joachim C. Häberlen, The Emotional Politics of the Alternative Left: West Germany 1968–1984 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018).
    81. Pascal Eitler, “Körper – Kosmos – Kybernetik. Transformationen der Religion im ‘New Age’ (Westdeutschland 1970–1990),” Zeithistorische Forschungen/Studies in Contemporary History 4 (1–2) (2007): 116–36 ( [15.12.2020]); Tobias Dietrich, “Laufen als Heilssuche? Körperliche Selbstfindung von den 1970er bis zu den 1990er Jahren in transatlantischer Perspektive,” in Eitler and Elberfeld (eds.), Zeitgeschichte des Selbst, 147–61.
    82. See Reckwitz, Das hybride Subjekt, 527–54.
    83. See Frank Biess, “Die Sensibilisierung des Subjekts: Angst und „Neue Subjektivität“ in den 1970er Jahren,” in WerkstattGeschichte 17 (2008): 51–71 ( [15.12.2020]); Susanne Schregel, “Konjunktur der Angst: ‘Politik der Subjektivität’ and ‘neue Friedensbewegung,’ 1979–1983,” in Bernd Greiner, Christian Th. Müller, and Dierk Walter (eds.), Angst im Kalten Krieg (Studien zum Kalten Krieg) (Hamburg: Hamburger Edition, 2009), 495–520.
    84. Martin Saar, “Analytik der Subjektivierung: Umrisse eines Theorieprogramms,” in Gelhard, Alkemeyer, and Ricken (eds.), Techniken, 23.
    85. See Ulrich Bröckling, Gute Hirten führen sanft: Über Menschenregierungskünste (Berlin: Suhrkamp, 2017), 16f.
    86. See Rüdiger Hachtmann, “‘Neue Staatlichkeit’ – Überlegungen zu einer systematischen Theorie des NS-Herrschaftssystems und ihre Anwendung auf die mittlere Ebene der Gaue,” in Jürgen John, Horst Möller, and Thomas Schaarschmidt (eds.), Die NS-Gaue – regionale Mittelinstanzen im zentralistischen ‘Führerstaat’ (Munich: De Gruyter Oldenbourg, 2007), n. 37, 70f. ( [15.12.2020]). Hachtmann cites Helmuth Trischler, “Führerideal und die Formierung faschistischer Bewegungen: Industrielle Vorgesetztenschulung in den USA, Großbritannien, der Schweiz, Deutschland und Österreich,” in Historische Zeitschrift 251 (1990): 45–88 ( [15.12.2020]).
    87. See Reckwitz, Das hybride Subjekt.
    88. See Alexander Hesse and Stefan Senne, Genealogie der Selbstführung: Zur Historizität von Selbsttechnologien in Lebensratgebern (Bielefeld: Transcript, 2019).
    89. Hesse and Senne, Genealogie der Selbstführung, 426, 422.
    90. Wilhelm Heitmeyer, Autoritäre Versuchungen. Signaturen der Bedrohung I (Berlin: Suhrkamp, 2018).
    91. See Stefanie Hürtgen and Stephan Voswinkel, Nichtnormale Normalität? Anspruchslogiken aus der Arbeitnehmermitte (Berlin: Edition Sigma, 2016).