Homo œconomicus: A Key for Understanding Late Modernity Narcissism?


This paper describes the form that narcissism takes in contemporary society in the light of Homo œconomicus – a concept developed by philosopher Foucault to describe a key figure of late modernity: the entrepreneur of himself whose core values are utility (every action must be directed towards production) and optimization (what costs more than it produces is a dead branch to be cut). Homo œconomicus is the subject of so-called “achievement society.” Its imperative is summed up in the formula “You can!” that generates heavy constraints because it is introjected as “If I can, then I must!,” and self-coercion is more fatal than hetero-coercion because no resistance can be put up against oneself. He is also the subject of the “society of the spectacle” in which a part of the world represents itself in front of the rest of the world and shows itself to be superior to it. The spectacle is not simply a set of images, but a type of social relationship between people mediated by images, generating alienation from oneself and from the Other. Using Homo œconomicus as a grid for understanding contemporary pathological forms of narcissism, I describe the values and the life-world of narcissistic persons including the ways they experience time, space, others, and their own body. I finally suggest a therapeutic of this form of existence based on the recognition of its value-structure.