The Psychology of Neoliberalism and the Neoliberalism of Psychology

Glenn Adams, Sara Estrada-Villalta, Daniel Sullivan, Hazel Rose Markus

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

100 Scopus citations


In this article, we approach the relationship between neoliberalism and psychological science from the theoretical perspective of cultural psychology. In the first section, we trace how engagement with neoliberal systems results in characteristic tendencies—including a radical abstraction of self from social and material context, an entrepreneurial understanding of self as an ongoing development project, an imperative for personal growth and fulfillment, and an emphasis on affect management for self-regulation—that increasingly constitute the knowledge base of mainstream psychological science. However, as we consider in the second section, psychological science is not just an observer of neoliberalism and its impact on psychological experience. Instead, by studying psychological processes independent of cultural–ecological or historical context and by championing individual growth and affective regulation as the key to optimal well-being, psychological scientists reproduce and reinforce the influence and authority of neoliberal systems. Rather than a disinterested bystander, hegemonic forms of psychological science are thoroughly implicated in the neoliberal project.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)189-216
Number of pages28
JournalJournal of Social Issues
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)


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