This is the dual meaning of a managerial discourse that makes performance a duty and an advertising discourse that makes pleasure an imperative. To stress nothing but the tension between the two would be to neglect everything that establishes equivalence between the duty of performance and the duty of pleasure. It would be to underestimate the imperative of “ever more,” which aims to intensify the effectiveness of every subject in all areas—educational and professional, but also relational, sexual, and so forth. “We are the champions”—such is the hymn of the new entrepreneurial subject. From the song’s lyrics, which in their way heralded the new subjective course, the following warning in particular must be retained: “No time for losers.” What is new is precisely that the loser is the ordinary man, the one who in essence loses.
The social norm of the subject has in fact changed. It is no longer balance, the average, but maximum performance that becomes the focal point of the “restructuring” of the self, mandatory for everyone. The subject is no longer required simply to be “conformist,” to slip ungrudgingly into the ordinary garb of agents of economic production and social reproduction. Not only is conformism no longer enough. It even becomes suspect, inasmuch as subjects are enjoined to “surpass themselves,” to “push back the limits,” as managers and trainers say. More than ever, the economic machine cannot work at equilibrium, and still less at loss. It must aim at a “beyond,” a “more,” which Marx identified as “surplus-value.” This exigency peculiar to the regime of capital accumulation had not hitherto exhibited all its effects. This occurs when subjective involvement is such that the quest for a “beyond-the-self ” is the precondition for the functioning of subjects and enterprises alike—hence the interest in identifying the subject as personal enterprise and human capital. The extraction of a “surplus-pleasure” from oneself, from one’s pleasure in living, from the simple fact of being alive, is precisely what makes the new subject and the new system of competition function. “Accountable” subjectivation and “financial” subjectivation ultimately define a form of subjectivation as an excess of self over self, or boundless self-transcendence. In this way, an original figure of subjectivation is delineated. It is not a “trans-subjectivation,” which would involve aiming at a beyond-the-self that establishes a break with the self and self-renunciation. Nor is it a “self-subjectivation” whereby one would seek to attain an ethical relationship to the self independently of any other goal, whether political or economic in kind.11 In a way, it is an “ultra-subjectivation,”12 whose goal is not a final, stable condition of “self-possession,” but a beyond-the-self that is always receding, and which is constitutionally aligned in its very regime with the logic of enterprise and, over and above that, with the “cosmos” of the world market.