The Art of Shrinking Heads: The New Servitude of the Liberated in the Era of Total Capitalism
February 2008, Polity
For two centuries, Kant’s critical subject and
Freud’s neurotic subject provided us with philosophical
templates for modernity, but today modern capitalism is
systematically destroying these two subjects and replacing them
with something new. The two subjects of modernity both presupposed
some reference to a higher value or power (like Reason) which
provided a symbolic guarantor, but neoliberalism, by emphasizing
the exchange of commodities in the marketplace, destroys all
transcendental references of this kind. Now human beings no longer
look beyond themselves and no longer have to agree about symbolic
values: they only have to get on with the circulation and
consumption of goods. Deprived of his faculty of judgement and
urged to enjoy himself without restraint, the ‘new man’
of neoliberalism takes centre stage in the era of global
In this biting critique of our contemporary condition Dufour shows that the radical transformation of the subject brought about by neoliberalism – what he calls ‘the art of shrinking heads’ – contains a new kind of violence which has far-reaching consequences for our ways of living together.
1. From Modernity to Postmodernity.
Mapping the Transition.
2. Homo Zappiens Goes to School.
The Denial of Generational Difference.
3. The Denial of Sexion.
4. Neo-Liberalism as Desymbolisation.
A New Form of Domination.
- A biting new book from Dany-Robert Dufour – an
international icon of the resistance to global capitalism
- A detailed critique on the new state of capitalism known as
- Dufour laments the desymbolisation of the world – the
dismantlement of traditional symbolic value in favour of a
never-ending circulation of commodities
- This book will suit students of many different disciplines, as well as interested general readers
British Journal of Sociology
"In this fascinating book, Dany-Robert Dufour shows the dangers
we are facing in a society that promotes excessive individualism.
This book enables us to understand why it is not a contradiction to
feel increasingly dissatisfied in a society which seemingly offers
an abundance of freedom and choice. In a cunning way, today's
consumerist ideology actually thrives on our dissatisfactions. This
book gives us the tools to understand and fight against it."
Renata Salecl, University of Ljubljana