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Who Am I For Myself? Anxiety and The Tyranny of Choice

a public conversation with and presentation by internationally acclaimed scholar Renata Salecl


Fields of Knowledge
  • Philosophy / Theory
  • Politics / Economics

Organizing Institutions



Aaron Levy

Opens to public





4017 Walnut St
Philadelphia, PA 19148


0% Formal - 100% Informal

Slought Foundation is pleased to announce "Who Am I For Myself? Anxiety and The Tyranny of Choice," a public conversation with and presentation by internationally acclaimed scholar Renata Salecl on Thursday, February 16, 2006 from 6:30-8:00pm. Please join us as Renata Salecl engages Charles Shepherdson, Patricia Gherovici, and Jean-Michel Rabaté in a wide-ranging discussion about the anxiety of choice in late capitalism.

"In the Western world," Salecl writes, "people are not only under the impression that there are endless possibilities to find fulfillment in life, but they are also encouraged to be some kind of self-creators, i.e., they are supposedly free to choose what they want to be. In this highly individualized society, which allegedly gives priority to the individual's freedoms over submission to group causes, people, however, face an important anxiety provoking dilemma: 'Who am I for myself?'"

"The idea that we are supposed to be able to manage ourselves and that there is a choice in how we deal with our emotions, is linked to the very perception of the self that dominates late capitalist society. Today, the true self is increasingly self-made, and more than that, an individual project. In the 1980s and 1990s, drawing on the work of Michel Foucault, academic theories emphasized the social construction of the self. However, now self construction has become a cultural imperative in the West, and the emphasis is not on social determinations, but on the individual project of self-making. This is related to what Ulrich Beck and others have called 'individualization.' While individualization takes many forms, it always involves a 'fetishization' of the autonomous self, one that refuses to acknowledge the idea that society can set limits on self-aspiration. Paradoxically, the ideology of a limitless world is itself a product of late capitalism and the relentless drive of consumer society with its emphasis on endless choice and possibility. If, one the one hand, we live under the assumption that everything in life can be a matter of choice (on top of consumer and usual political choices, we can choose not only how we look, but our sexual orientation, whether or not to have children, what kind of medical treatment we want, etc.), on the other hand, the very choice itself seems to be anxiety provoking and deeply dissatisfying. That is why we often hear in the popular media that our society actually suffers from so-called tyranny of choice and an abundance of freedom."

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Renata Salecl is an internationally acclaimed philosopher and sociologist, Senior Researcher at the Institute of Criminology at the Faculty of Law, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia, and Centennial Professor at the London School of Economics. She regularly teaches as a visiting professor at Cardozo School of Law in New York. In her work she uses the framework of psychoanalysis to analyse current social and cultural phenomena. Her books include The Spoils of Freedom (Psychoanalysis and Feminism After the Fall of Socialism); (Per)versions of Love and Hate; and On Anxiety. She was also the co-editor (with Slavoj Zizek) of Gaze and Voice as Love Objects; and editor of Sexuation.

Charles Shepherdson is Professor of English, SUNY Albany. He writes on contemporary continental philosophy and psychoanalysis. He is the author of Vital Signs: Nature, Culture and Psychoanalysis (Routledge), and The Epoch of the Body (Stanford), as well as a collection of essays published in Belgrade by Zenske Studie, The Ethics of Female Love. His work has had support from the Henry Luce Foundation, the Andrew Mellon Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. He is the editor of Insinuations, a new books series on psychoanalysis and philosophy at SUNY Press. He is currently working on a book on tragedy, as well as a book on Lacan and Philosophy.

Patricia Gherovici is a Lacanian analyst in private practice and founding member and director of the Philadelphia Lacan Study Group and Seminar. She has published in numerous journals and collections, including "Where Id Was: Challenging Normalization in Psychoanalysis" (Continuum: 2001). She is the former director of a mental health clinic in The Puerto Rican neighborhood of North Philadelphia. Her recent book, The Puerto Rican Syndrome (Other Press, 2003), won the Gradiva Award in Historical Cultural and Literary Analysis and The Boyer Prize for Contributions to Psychoanalytic Anthropology.

Jean-Michel Rabaté, a Senior Curator at Slought Foundation, is Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of Pennsylvania since 1992, and has authored or edited twenty books on Modernism, Bernard, Joyce, Pound, Beckett, Lacan, Derrida, psychoanalysis and literary theory.