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Abstract

Theories of the good and proper self (the governmental normative subject, be it a reflexive, enterprising, individualising, rational, prosthetic, or possessive self)1 or even the self produced in conditions not of its own making, such as Bourdieu's habitus, all rely on ideas about self-interest, investment and/or ‘playing the game’. As people are increasingly expected to publicly legitimate themselves as good and worthy subjects, and as capital increasingly enters the spaces of intimacy and bio-politics, we need to reconsider the limits of our theoretical imaginaries for understanding the value production necessary to the performance of personhood. Specifically, most of the theories we have for understanding the connections between personhood and value reproduce and legitimate the normative, hinging our theoretical imaginary to the dominant symbolic, making proper personhood an exclusive resource predicated on constitution by exclusion; where limits define the norm, the margins the centre and the improper the proper. How then can we understand how people who are excluded from the possibilities of accruing and attaching value to themselves, who are positioned outside of the dominant symbolic as the constitutional limit for the proper self, or as the zero limit to culture, develop value/s? Drawing upon three different empirical research projects the paper builds on my previous critique of the self as a classed concept to develop a different perspective on value. It argues that an analysis of autonomist working-class sociality offers us ways to imagine personhood and person value that are often imperceptible to the bourgeois gaze.