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Elliott, A. (2000). Discerning the psychic costs of privatization. Free Associations, 7(4):13-28.

(2000). Free Associations, 7(4):13-28

Discerning the psychic costs of privatization

Anthony Elliott

Ours is The Age of privatization.1 From the narcissistic lures of psychotherapy through the technocratic imaginary of cyberspace and virtual reality, to the consumerist ideologies of late capitalism (in which, as decentred subjects, we slide blissfully from signifier to signifier): experience today, much like everything else, is essentially privatized.

A deregulation of public institutions is not only on the agenda, but is an increasingly fundamental aspect of politics today. In our culturally cosmopolitan, globalized world, the activities of government are more and more centred on the restructuring of political responsibilities and public institutions, one consequence of which has been an effacing of past commitments and prior values. Out with the old, in with the new: the “common interest” and the “public good” have been replaced by the benchmark of individual choice, the freedom of the market and of pleasure-seeking.

At a political-institutional level, this is evident from a range of policy changes that have brought about the demise of the Keynesian welfare compromise in the West. These include:

* the pro-market restructuring of national economies into global economic competition;

* the deregulation of financial and labour markets, currency and banking systems;

* and the dismantling/privatization of public institutions (such as the partial or complete sell-off of banks, gas, electricity, water, airlines, telecommunications, and the like).

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