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Power, alienation and performativity in capitalist societies

Tyler, Colin



The article presents a model of performative agency in capitalist societies. The first section reconsiders the problem of third-dimensional power as developed by Steven Lukes, focusing on the relationships between universal human needs and social forms. The second section uses the concepts of the 'self', 'I' and 'person' to characterize the relationships between human nature, affect, individual alienation, social institutions and personal judgement. Alienation is argued to be inherent in human agency, rather than being solely created by capitalism. The next section applies this analysis within an agonal theory of civil society that is driven by the individual's performative participation in associations that compete within institutional settings. Finally the article considers the political ramifications of this model, rejecting contemporary constitutionalist approaches in favour of a revised form of pluralist associationalism. Throughout, the article warns of the dangerous marginalization of emotions (or 'affect') by excessively self-conscious, rationalist approaches such as Mead's social theory, liberal universalism and even some performative theories.


Tyler, C. (2011). Power, alienation and performativity in capitalist societies. European Journal of Social Theory, 14(2), 161-179.

Journal Article Type Article
Online Publication Date May 12, 2011
Publication Date 2011-05
Print ISSN 1368-4310
Electronic ISSN 1461-7137
Publisher SAGE Publications
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 14
Issue 2
Pages 161-179
Keywords Affect; Agonal politics; Alienation; Human needs; Performativity; Power
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