Neoliberal and Postfeminist Discourses: Constituting and Constraining Subjectivities within a Bank and a Network Marketing Organisation

Authors: Carr, M.

This thesis contributes towards an understanding of how neoliberalism and postfeminism have become entrenched within organisations as a gendered form of governance. The study contributes to current debates by adopting a poststructuralist approach to explore how discourses of neoliberalism constitute and constrain feminine subjectivities. It is argued that these discourses act as forms of governance to obscure inequalities by: calling on women to ‘work within’ and psychologise; individualising strategies, which divide women and negate collective action, and finally; obscuring inequalities through normalising discourses.

The study draws on material collected in two different organisations. First, twenty qualitative in-depth interviews were conducted with women managers in a multinational bank with its headquarters in the UK. Second, using an ethnographical-inspired approach, observations and interviews were conducted with sixteen women distributors in a beauty based networking marketing organisation. The analysis of the interviews and field notes is organised into chapters presented in the format of peer-reviewed journal articles. First, I offer poststructuralist reflexivity as a way to consider research practice, research subjectivity, power and regimes of truth. The second article uses the psychic and affective life of neoliberalism to consider how neoliberal spirituality has been co-opted within the network marketing company as a gendered form of governance. Next, I turn to the bank to consider what happens when women collectively mobilise, a solution often offered in the literature to the individualising effects of postfeminism. The final article considers how discourses of competition differ across the two organisations, albeit framed in neoliberal terms which bind women in unique ways.

Through examining two different organisations, the thesis extends our understanding of the ways in which fluid and adaptable neoliberal discourses are enacted within organisations. Overall, the thesis seeks to make a contribution to debates about neoliberalism and postfeminism as forms of governance which silence critique and normalise women’s experiences in organisations.

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