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Work, power and performance: analysing the 'reality' game of The Apprentice

Couldry, Nick ORCID: 0000-0001-8233-3287 and Littler, Jo (2011) Work, power and performance: analysing the 'reality' game of The Apprentice. Cultural Sociology, 5 (2). pp. 263-279. ISSN 1749-9755

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Identification Number: 10.1177/1749975510378191


This article addresses the relationship between the British version of the reality television programme The Apprentice and the shifting working cultures of contemporary neoliberalism. It explores how the programme enacts, through ritualized play, many skills required by the ‘flexible’ work economy: emotional commitment, entrepreneurial adaptability, a combination of team conformity and personal ambition. In particular, it highlights how newly calibrated requirements of sociality, ‘passion’, and power-as-charisma are negotiated by the programme in relation to broader emergent norms of neoliberal governmentality. However, the article simultaneously argues against overly deterministic deployments of governmentality theory, suggesting it be both supplemented by other tools (media rituals and the affective role of passion), and reoriented back towards a Foucauldian emphasis upon the instability of power. This can, it argues, both enable the programme’s appeal to be more effectively understood and help us comprehend the spaces and places where neoliberal governmentality fails, wholly or partly, to be foregrounded.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2011 The Authors
Divisions: Media and Communications
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Date Deposited: 07 Jun 2013 09:42
Last Modified: 20 Oct 2021 00:45

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