Marketing the self

The politics of aspiration among middle-class silicon valley youth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

I explore a contemporary politics of social reproduction among middle-class youth in Silicon Valley during the economic downturn subsequent to the tech boom of the 1990s. Drawing on ethnographic data collected at a public high school serving middle-class and affluent youth, I examine the relationship of the school and community environment to students' styles of self-cultivation and aspiration. In particular, I explore values and notions of success - such as freedom of expression, the pursuit of authentic passions, and conventional markers of academic and social achievement - that shape students' forms of self-discipline, self-definition, and aspiration. While arguing that young people's styles of self-cultivation suggest an entitled orientation toward work and life that may promote class privilege, I suggest that they also reflect a neoliberal politics of citizenship-shaping processes of social reproduction through schooling for middle-class youth. This politics of citizenship obligates middle-class youth to 'package' or market authentic personal traits to showcase their exceptional qualities, welt-roundedness, and authentic originality, and to frame such acts in terms of personal choice. Linking such processes of subjectification to political-economic and social conditions, I ultimately argue that middle-class youth bear increasing responsibility for middle-class status. Moreover, I suggest that the pressures resulting from this burden and the ways in which young people negotiate them suggest a domestic politics of 'hyper-vigilance' that may transform young people's self-perceptions, attitudes towards schooling, and aspirations, while also potentially posing risks to youth.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2814-2830
Number of pages17
JournalEnvironment and Planning A
Volume40
Issue number12
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2008

Fingerprint

silicon
middle class
marketing
politics
valley
citizenship
student
education
national politics
vigilance
economic conditions
school
self-image
privilege
social factors
economics
youth
transform
responsibility
market

Cite this

@article{10885855f778488cb10e2e08baff82d2,
title = "Marketing the self: The politics of aspiration among middle-class silicon valley youth",
abstract = "I explore a contemporary politics of social reproduction among middle-class youth in Silicon Valley during the economic downturn subsequent to the tech boom of the 1990s. Drawing on ethnographic data collected at a public high school serving middle-class and affluent youth, I examine the relationship of the school and community environment to students' styles of self-cultivation and aspiration. In particular, I explore values and notions of success - such as freedom of expression, the pursuit of authentic passions, and conventional markers of academic and social achievement - that shape students' forms of self-discipline, self-definition, and aspiration. While arguing that young people's styles of self-cultivation suggest an entitled orientation toward work and life that may promote class privilege, I suggest that they also reflect a neoliberal politics of citizenship-shaping processes of social reproduction through schooling for middle-class youth. This politics of citizenship obligates middle-class youth to 'package' or market authentic personal traits to showcase their exceptional qualities, welt-roundedness, and authentic originality, and to frame such acts in terms of personal choice. Linking such processes of subjectification to political-economic and social conditions, I ultimately argue that middle-class youth bear increasing responsibility for middle-class status. Moreover, I suggest that the pressures resulting from this burden and the ways in which young people negotiate them suggest a domestic politics of 'hyper-vigilance' that may transform young people's self-perceptions, attitudes towards schooling, and aspirations, while also potentially posing risks to youth.",
author = "Davidson, {Elsa M}",
year = "2008",
month = "12",
day = "1",
doi = "10.1068/a4037",
language = "English",
volume = "40",
pages = "2814--2830",
journal = "Environment and Planning A",
issn = "0308-518X",
publisher = "SAGE Publications Ltd",
number = "12",

}

Marketing the self : The politics of aspiration among middle-class silicon valley youth. / Davidson, Elsa M.

In: Environment and Planning A, Vol. 40, No. 12, 01.12.2008, p. 2814-2830.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

TY - JOUR

T1 - Marketing the self

T2 - The politics of aspiration among middle-class silicon valley youth

AU - Davidson, Elsa M

PY - 2008/12/1

Y1 - 2008/12/1

N2 - I explore a contemporary politics of social reproduction among middle-class youth in Silicon Valley during the economic downturn subsequent to the tech boom of the 1990s. Drawing on ethnographic data collected at a public high school serving middle-class and affluent youth, I examine the relationship of the school and community environment to students' styles of self-cultivation and aspiration. In particular, I explore values and notions of success - such as freedom of expression, the pursuit of authentic passions, and conventional markers of academic and social achievement - that shape students' forms of self-discipline, self-definition, and aspiration. While arguing that young people's styles of self-cultivation suggest an entitled orientation toward work and life that may promote class privilege, I suggest that they also reflect a neoliberal politics of citizenship-shaping processes of social reproduction through schooling for middle-class youth. This politics of citizenship obligates middle-class youth to 'package' or market authentic personal traits to showcase their exceptional qualities, welt-roundedness, and authentic originality, and to frame such acts in terms of personal choice. Linking such processes of subjectification to political-economic and social conditions, I ultimately argue that middle-class youth bear increasing responsibility for middle-class status. Moreover, I suggest that the pressures resulting from this burden and the ways in which young people negotiate them suggest a domestic politics of 'hyper-vigilance' that may transform young people's self-perceptions, attitudes towards schooling, and aspirations, while also potentially posing risks to youth.

AB - I explore a contemporary politics of social reproduction among middle-class youth in Silicon Valley during the economic downturn subsequent to the tech boom of the 1990s. Drawing on ethnographic data collected at a public high school serving middle-class and affluent youth, I examine the relationship of the school and community environment to students' styles of self-cultivation and aspiration. In particular, I explore values and notions of success - such as freedom of expression, the pursuit of authentic passions, and conventional markers of academic and social achievement - that shape students' forms of self-discipline, self-definition, and aspiration. While arguing that young people's styles of self-cultivation suggest an entitled orientation toward work and life that may promote class privilege, I suggest that they also reflect a neoliberal politics of citizenship-shaping processes of social reproduction through schooling for middle-class youth. This politics of citizenship obligates middle-class youth to 'package' or market authentic personal traits to showcase their exceptional qualities, welt-roundedness, and authentic originality, and to frame such acts in terms of personal choice. Linking such processes of subjectification to political-economic and social conditions, I ultimately argue that middle-class youth bear increasing responsibility for middle-class status. Moreover, I suggest that the pressures resulting from this burden and the ways in which young people negotiate them suggest a domestic politics of 'hyper-vigilance' that may transform young people's self-perceptions, attitudes towards schooling, and aspirations, while also potentially posing risks to youth.

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?scp=65949106588&partnerID=8YFLogxK

U2 - 10.1068/a4037

DO - 10.1068/a4037

M3 - Article

VL - 40

SP - 2814

EP - 2830

JO - Environment and Planning A

JF - Environment and Planning A

SN - 0308-518X

IS - 12

ER -