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WRAPPED IN PLASTIC: Transformation and Alienation in the New Finnish Economy



Coming out from the shadow of the economic crisis of the 1990s, the neoliberalizing Finnish state identified another emergent threat: “burnout,” a mental disorder characterized by cynicism and loss of productivity affecting nearly all strata of the workforce. Efforts to identify and rehabilitate workers focused on improving “self-awareness,” and having individuals reevaluate their relationship with and expectations of society. For many Finnish mental health professionals, burnout stemmed from individuals who were too “conscientious,” holding attitudes that were increasingly maladaptive in the new competition-oriented economy. Yet for many in rehabilitation centers, calls to “know yourself” paradoxically generated questions about being, and the challenge to come into oneself as a sovereign, beyond these temporally contingent constructions. Many of those under rehabilitative care spoke of finding themselves estranged and metamorphosized in the face of a diagnosis that presented themselves to themselves as an entity yet to be discovered. In this way, rather than focus on the generative potential of institutional categories to construct new subject identities, I instead locate their power in their capacity to open up to examination that which they name. [subjectivity, alienation, emergent disorder, neoliberalism, sovereignty]

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