The commodification of the personal: labour market demands in the era of neoliberal postindustrialization

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This article takes as its point of departure the observation that contemporary labour markets of highly developed capitalism have witnessed a new and profound focus on personal traits and characteristics such as social skills. We believe this focus is indicative of a new standard of ascribing value in contemporary capitalism and ask which are the societal and paradigmatic changes that may have led to this change. After an outline of demands to the labour force during earlier phases of capitalism the article seeks to establish an explanatory framework in current societal transformations towards neoliberalization and logics of postindustrialization. The effect of these shifts is on the one hand that the well-being of human beings is made to depend entirely on their individual competiveness, and on the other hand that postmaterial, cognitive, connexionist, and emotional assets that were hitherto considered personal and irrelevant to the sphere of production are now considered central to the labour market value of human beings. The combined result of shifts towards neoliberalism and the advent of logics of postindustrialism is thus the commodification of the personal. In order to arrive at this conclusion we merge different theoretical contributions to the critic of modern capitalism, as we regard theories about cognitive, connexionist and emotional capitalism as complementary rather than competing approaches.
Original languageEnglish
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)94-108
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - 23 Mar 2016


  • cognitive capitalism, commodification, connexionist capitalism, emotional capitalism, neoliberalism, personal demands, social skills

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