CPS: You have argued, speaking of neoliberalism, you have argued that neoliberalism does not simply promote economic policies but to quote you “disseminates market values into every sphere of human activity.” What distinguishes your perspective here from the despair found in someone like Adorno? What would it require to translate the despair that many people experience in very personal and de-politicized ways into a form of political mobilization?
Wendy Brown: That is an interesting question because it assumes that neoliberalism produces despair. I wish it did but I am not convinced that it does. I think that the process that some of us have called neoliberalization actually seizes on something that is just a little to one side of despair that I might call something like a quotidian nihilism. By quotidian, I mean it is a nihilism that is not lived as despair; it is a nihilism that is not lived as an occasion for deep anxiety or misery about the vanishing of meaning from the human world. Instead, what neoliberalism is able to seize upon is the extent to which human beings experience a kind of directionlessness and pointlessness to life that neoliberalism in an odd way provides. It tells you what you should do: you should understand yourself as a spec of human capital, which needs to appreciate its own value by making proper choices and investing in proper things. Those things can range from choice of a mate, to choice of an educational institution, to choice of a job, to choice of actual monetary investments – but neoliberalism without providing meaning provides direction. In a sad way it is seizing upon a certain directionlessness and meaninglessness in late modernity.