Imagining post-neoliberal regulatory subjectivities: call for papers

by Mika

The tide of neoliberalism lies at the heart of the modus operandi of Western societies. Its first wave pushed an agenda of deregulation. The second wave started a reflexive process of re-regulation. Standards, codes of conduct, recommendations and other soft legal instruments proliferated to address the market failures and information asymmetry problems unearthed by the initial ebb of regulation.

The neoliberal deregulatory push introduced a flurry of instruments which challenge legal orthodoxy. These instruments seem to be performing a novel ontology of law, one which eludes the previous legal heuristic of prescription and proscription, inclusion and exclusion. The central-but hitherto under-conceptualised-tenet of this transformation is that law no longer leaves its subjects radically free to act within the bounds of law. Instead, regulation extends its reach to virgin territory, within the subject itself.

The new art of regulation works through establishing elaborate schemes aimed at producing actors with appropriate agency – or in anthropomorphic terms, a subjectivity. Many of these subjectivity regulation processes have taken place inside economic actors. For example, the Basel banking rules, the ISO 26000 Guidance on social responsibility and the OECD Principles of Corporate Governance all articulate and assign actors specific subjectivities to perform. By scripting the internal cognitive and control flows, the regulatory schemes seem to control the conduct of their subjects by affecting the subjects’ selves.

This subjectivity turn is a challenge to regulatory theory. We are not accustomed to think that law purposely changes its subjects. Simultaneously, the fundamental change seems to also open a possibility for transcending the paralysing effects of zombie neoliberalism. A new space for ethical struggle emerges. Despite its origins in ordoliberal schemes of ameliorating perceived rationality deficiencies in economic theory and practice, subjectivity regulation is inherently inundated by ethical programs and value judgements. Once the self of the subject is on the table, even a progressive ethics can no longer be bracketed away in the favour of external rationalities or set, immobile neoliberal subjectivities. The playing field is levelled: regulation becomes a battlefield of multiple ethics and concomitant assemblages of things, ideas and subjects.

How to Rule the Economy, a research project funded by the Academy of Finland, is organising a seminar on imagining post-neoliberal regulatory subjectivities. We call for papers dealing with different aspects of the subjectivity turn. The papers could, for example, map the possible genealogies for the emergence of post-neoliberal law, or address the implications of anthropomorphic corporate regulation, or transformations in sovereign subjectivities.

The seminar takes place in south-western Finland, in a former leper colony, from October 15 to October 17 2014. The seminar is intended for late stage PhD students and early career post-docs. We will accept 8-12 applicants to give papers. The generous support from How to Rule the Economy and Faculty of Law, University of Turku allows us to pay for travel and accommodation for presenters. If you would like to participate, please send us an abstract (max. 600 words) and info on your career stage at the latest on August 15, 2014 to

How to rule the economy is a research project funded by the Academy of Finland and University of Turku. The project focuses on reforming the legal framework regulating the economy. It seeks to challenge the prevailing neoliberal ideologies, which have led to repeated financial crises, a glaring sustainability gaps and a moral bankruptcy. The project’s main contention is that the economy cannot be ruled justly unless law and legal thinking in general are fundamentally transformed. The transformation is only attainable if the basic tenets of economic regulation are reconsidered and reformulated. Core normative legal principles, such as equality, solidarity, fairness, and protection of human rights must be taken seriously and entrenched into basic legal structures of economic regulation.