Book Chapter

The affective life of neoliberal employability discourse


This chapter argues that the affective life of neoliberalism should be taken seriously since it permeates the formation of neoliberal reason, including the identification of goals, or ‘happy objects’, to which individuals are encouraged to aspire (Ahmed, The affect theory reader. Duke University Press, Durham North Carolina, 2010; Anderson, Progress in Human Geography, 40, 734–753, 2016). The chapter examines neoliberal practices that shape the subjectivities of university students and encourage their valorisation of the happy object of graduate employability. It shows how some graduates are led to seek employability by learning to ‘play the game’ of displaying qualities they believe employers expect, and by inhabiting a discourse of responsibility and initiative, whilst at the same time becoming more anxious and dependent on the expanding market for employability advice.

Attached files


Handley, Karen
Millar, Jill

Oxford Brookes departments

Oxford Brookes Business School


Year of publication: 2023
Date of RADAR deposit: 2024-04-24

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

Related resources

This RADAR resource is Identical to The Affective Life of Neoliberal Employability Discourse
This RADAR resource is Part of Rethinking Graduate Employability in Context: Discourse, Policy and Practice [ISBN: 9783031206528] / edited by Päivi Siivonen, Ulpukka Isopahkala-Bouret, Michael Tomlinson, Maija Korhonen, Nina Haltia (Palgrave Macmillan, 2023).


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