Over the last two decades, managerialism (Enteman, 1993) has become consolidated on multiple fronts. As a formula of governance, it has elaborated various vocabularies: the `audit society' (Power, 1997, 2007) has become entrenched in all types of organizations; surveillance methods (Lyon, 2001) have become increasingly dispersed and insidious; and — alongside —`new' concepts of subjectivity and the`self' are used to frame more intense regimes of self-discipline or what Tipton (1984) called `self-work'. These moves have been captured by Heelas (2002), Thrift (1997) and others in the term `soft capitalism'. In this article, we reflect upon this phenomenon by analysing some examples: `culture', `performativity', `knowledge' and `wellness'. Although they belong to a group often described as `fads' and `fashions' and dismissed as managerial `mumbo-jumbo', we suggest that their proliferation indicates a more stable cultural tendency of management discourses to capture subjectivity in its general agenda. We attempt to offer an historical-cultural interpretation from which this range of managerial concepts might be viewed. Our argument suggests that they have a certain cultural coherence that can be perhaps better glimpsed within a wider historical context. As a particular way in which managerialism frames its logic, analysing `soft capitalism' historically offers a reasonable basis for understanding the strength of its hard disciplinary edge as a regime of governance.
The final, definitive version of this article has been published in the Journal, Human Relations, 61 (5), 2008, © SAGE Publications Ltd, 2008 by SAGE Publications Ltd at the Feminist Theory page: http://hum.sagepub.com/ on SAGE Journals Online: http://online.sagepub.com/