According to Michel Foucault’s concept of “governmentality”, modern power is exercised less through coercive force than through the dissemination of particular discourses and ideologies; once these ideologies are internalized, people conduct themselves accordingly, effectively governing themselves and lessening the need for explicit coercion. At Jump Start Job Club, this modern form of power is on full display. One week, jobless members heard from a motivational “career coach”. With charismatic and suave business-casual dress, he spun sketchy behavioral science and dubious statistics (“people are 117 percent more likely to like you if you are confident!”) into a shiny forty-five-minute pep talk. He assured us that all three dozen job seekers here were out of work because we were allowing our “limiting beliefs” to hold us back. “The only thing standing between you and wild, radical success”, he charged, “is you!” The first thing we needed to do on the path to success was to get “I can’t” out of our vocabulary and begin to “retrain the brain” to see our own power in determining our situation. To ultimately overcome our employment woes, we need only to turn our scarcity mindset into an “abundance mindset.” With this neatly packaged presentation, the speaker transformed a public issue into an individual problem and depoliticized the most pressing question in the audience’s lives. And the crowd bought it, too. Several offered up their own “limiting beliefs” for group critique, others pledged to dig down deep to finally “believe” in themselves during the job hunt (…) These meetings show the power of ideology in anti-organizing — in suppressing social movements under capitalism. Of course, job clubs aren’t the only places these ideologies are promulgated: our discursive toolkits are built out of messages broadcast in movies, on billboards, in the iconization of figures like Steve Jobs. Any successful resistance to capitalism needs to take discourses seriously — not just as they play out in political speeches but as they operate in the minds and mouths of everyday workers.
Ignacio Thomas in Ideological Training for the New Economy (Jacobin)