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Affect, diversity and the problem of consolation in the critique of Public Servant identity.

Cap. Libro y Libros: Affect, diversity and the problem of consolation in the critique of Public Servant identity.

FRANCISCO VALENZUELA D.

2019 - Book: Diversity and Affective Embodiment in Organising. Basingstoke. - Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. Pp 275-303

Abstract

This chapter seeks to contribute to the project of constructing a more radical, feminist-oriented diversity through the critical study of affect in Public Service, going beyond and against the neoliberal diversity offered to Public Servants as the ‘normal’ guide to organizing contemporary state administration. It does so by focusing on the discursive underpinnings of Public Servant identity amidst market-driven, patriarchal 'governmentalities', particularly those that legitimize affective labour in the form of a 'diversified' responsiveness to citizens-customers. Following recent post-Weberian and Foucauldian readings of Public Servant ethos, affective diversity at the level of Public Service is interpreted as the effect of neoliberal regimes and their commodification of emotions. Consequently, an abstract, 'dis-affected' diversity is conceived as the only meaningful horizon for Public Servant identity work, on the moral grounds of replacing a responsive-but-discriminatory disposition with an indifferent-yet-equalizing one. The defence of a 'true' diversity through the cultivation of an indifferent attitude - and a lack of desire -, it is argued, can serve to disrupt a neoliberal logic at the heart of public sector organization. Yet the chapter also elaborates in reflective fashion around what Clive Barnett has called the ‘consolations of neoliberalism’. This concerns the ways in which the construal of ‘neoliberalism’ by critical academia brings reassurance to the researcher-critic about her ability to decipher regimes and establish solidarity towards actors in resistance, but at the same time undertheorizes the diverse embodiments of neoliberal discourse at the concrete, everyday level. I propose that the analysis of consolation not only helps appreciating the limitations of certain ‘disembodied’ calls for diversity, often coming from the liberal left and critical management scholarship. It also serves to illuminate the decisive role that the desire of the researcher-critic plays in breaking away from ‘consolatory’ positions of critique, such as the ones discussed in the first half of the chapter, and committing to a more radical understanding of diversity, through confronting her own embodied attachments.

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