Self-orienting individuals : subjectivity and contemporary liberal individualism

Scerri, A 2006, Self-orienting individuals : subjectivity and contemporary liberal individualism, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Global Studies, Social Science and Planning, RMIT University.

Document type: Thesis
Collection: Theses

Attached Files
Name Description MIMEType Size
Scerri.pdf Thesis application/pdf 2.49MB
Title Self-orienting individuals : subjectivity and contemporary liberal individualism
Author(s) Scerri, A
Year 2006
Abstract This thesis addresses both theories and practices of subjectivity in Anglo-American societies into the twenty-first century. The central argument is that one dominant subjectivity that has emerged in these societies centres on a deep-seated, almost irreconcilable tension. On the one hand, persons experience relatively heightened desires for unbounded lifestyles amidst relatively high levels of affluence and consumption. Meanwhile, on the other hand, the education, skills, and dispositions that persons assume in social worlds make desiring problematic. For example, high-level consumption or workplace flexibility are not necessarily seen as desirable things, yet appear to envelop contemporary lifestyles. Individuated desires form key aspects of an Anglo-American 'way-of-life', but a liberal individualism that emphasizes personal capacities and responsibilities, 'self-improvement' and 'well-being' has arisen, and this makes resolving ethical and existential dilemmas difficult. That is, many worldly dilemmas - concerns with material security, social justice, the environment, or nutrition, for example - seem irreconcilable to the liberal individualism that is 'lived' as subjectivity 'on the ground'. The thesis synthesizes social anthropology and social theory to ground its claims about the empirical world that sees subjectivity as 'being' human for particular social worlds. The approach is designed to look at situations that call upon self-orienting individuals, in order to explain how these represent the form of life that an 'immediate' self-projecting and orienting, self-asserting and 'creative' dominant subjectivity takes in Anglo-American societies. The argument develops a number of examples in the context of a theory-based approach in two registers: normative and ontological. Inquiry over an ontological register discusses the social formation of subjectivity in relation to the 'cat egories' of spatiality, temporality, embodiment, and institutionality, and the social constitution of subjectivity over coeval somatic, practical-ethological, and reflexive 'layers of affect'. Inquiry over a normative register discusses practical and discursive conditions, and relates the overall argument to a critique of normativity based in the claim that 'being' requires that norm-based and relational contexts can affectively 'legitimate' ongoing sociality. In summary, the thesis has two dimensions. It argues that this dominant subjectivity moves between sovereign desires for satisfactions and their atomized dissatisfactions, and turns on a sustained deferral of worldly dilemmas irreconcilable to the liberal individualism that is seen to both anchor and impel ongoing sociality. Secondly, it suggests that we need to rethink theories of subjectivity in order to understand better this new dominant form of life.
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Institution RMIT University
School, Department or Centre Global Studies, Social Science and Planning
Keyword(s) Individualism
Version Filter Type
Access Statistics: 331 Abstract Views, 1301 File Downloads  -  Detailed Statistics
Created: Mon, 29 Nov 2010, 16:09:00 EST by Catalyst Administrator
© 2014 RMIT Research Repository • Powered by Fez SoftwareContact us