In this instalment of the wonderful RSA Animate series, Renata Salecl talks about the dynamics of choice in modern societies. The Idle Ethnographer talked about this a few months ago and it’s a fascinating issue – the structural, cultural and personal aspects of choosing are so much more complex than certain views of human nature are willing to admit. Yet social and economic policy so frequently rests on laughably one dimensional views of human nature.

What are the consequences of this? Could more adequate, less truncated, understandings of what we are aid social transformation? As Salecl puts it ‘the ideology of choice … actually prevents social change’. If so are academics in a place to provide them or, when they clash with the ideological needs of neoliberal society, will they simply be disregarded? Even though she may be overestimating the potential which changing social understandings of human nature holds for social transformation, she’s surely correct that the fixation on the individual (as a corollary of the ideology of choice) hinders political critique and collective action. A point Zygmunt Bauman has been making for a long time.

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