Reconfiguring Worker Subjectivity: Career Advice Literature and the “Branding” of the Worker's Self
Career advice literature, commonly used by many job seekers, has increasingly exhibited an emphasis on “personal branding,” an economic discourse that invites workers to conceive of themselves as profit-generating enterprises. In this article, we examine the meanings that personal branding provokes in the minds of precariously employed white-collar workers in Boston. We use interviews conducted with 62 white-collar workers and job seekers to explore the utility of Foucauldian theories of governmentality, which have received little attention within American sociology. Results suggest that precariously employed workers do feel pressured to incorporate personal branding into their orientations toward both self and work, much as Foucauldian theory expects. Yet our findings also identify important exceptions to this pattern, with smaller proportions of workers engaging in outward accommodation of self-branding discourse, or else explicit contestation of its terms. We conclude that Foucauldian theories of the “enterprising self” warrant more widespread consideration among American sociologists, hopefully opening up a stronger understanding of counterconduct, one of the theory's notable blind spots to date. © 2018 Eastern Sociological Society
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Vallas, S.P. and Hill, A.L., "Reconfiguring Worker Subjectivity: Career Advice Literature and the “Branding” of the Worker's Self" (2018). Social Work & Criminal Justice Publications. 497.