Shame, subjectivity, and pandemic productivity


  • Gwyn Easterbrook-Smith Massey University, Wellington



productivity, neoliberalism, working from home, neoliberal subjectivity


As the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the globe, the lockdown, isolation, and quarantine restrictions which were put in place in many countries obliged many people to begin working from home. Concurrently, advice in the form of articles and social media posts emerged, urging people to use the ‘opportunity’ of isolation during the pandemic to engage in self-improvement activities or launch a business. In this paper, I consider the ways that the temporal collapse between private and work life can be seen to exacerbate the degree to which these productivity discourses played upon neoliberal conceptions of identity formation through self-commodification and optimisation. The discourses frequently used a combination of shame and the suggestion that productivity was an obligation to the community, as well as to the self, to justify themselves and make finding purchase to engage in a critique of the broader structural issues at play more rhetorically difficult.


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