Real Virtuality: Power and Simulation in the Age of Neoliberal Crisis


  • Emil André Røyrvik SINTEF Technology and Society, Norway
  • Marianne Blom Brodersen Department of Social Anthropology, Norwegian University of Science and Tech-nology (NTNU), Trondheim, Norway



Neoliberalism, managerial rationality, neo-management, hyperreality, financialization, economic crisis, simulation, surveillance, transparency


Departing from a discussion of transformations in the premises of managerial rationality and “managementality” as a pacemaker of the (post)modern social order, as it is steeped in economic crisis, the paper critiques and extends Baudrillard’s constructs of “simulation” and “hyperreality” to illuminate significant developments in the global culture complex of neoliberalization. With empirical illustrations of superfinancialization, transparency and surveillance, the paper explores converging patterns of how models of “neo-management” are created by and constructs new post-political and simulated social worlds. The paper concludes that a key feature of the contemporary “managementalities” that orchestrate and give rise to major models of the neoliberal culture complex, is their capacity for constructing new simulated, yet ontologically distinct, spaces that lie beyond the power of representation. We conceptualize this ontological space as “real virtuality”. The templates of neo-management not only constantly “conquer new land” and subsume it under simulated hyperrealities, they actively “create new lands” with differential ontological statuses of varying gravity.


Alexander, Kern, Rahul Dhumale & John Eatwell (2005): Global Governance of Financial Systems: The International Regulation of Systemic Risk, New York, Oxford University Press.

Anderlini, Jamil (2008): “Prudence Guides China’s outlook”, Financial Times, 24 September.

Andersen, Ketil Gjølme (2005): Flaggskip i fremmed eie: Hydro 1905–1945 [Flagship in foreign hands: Hydro 1905–1945], Pax Forlag.

Baudrillard, Jean (1981): For a Critique of the Political Economy of the Sign, St. Louis: Telos Press.

Baudrillard, Jean (1976/1993): Symbolic Exchange and Death, London, Sage Publications.

Baudrillard, Jean (1981/1994): Simulacra and Simulation, Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press.

Berle, Adolph A. & Gardiner C. Means ([1932] 1991): The Modern Corporation and Private Property, New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers.

BIS (Bank for International Settlements) (2009): “BIS Quarterly Review” (June).

Boltanski, Luc & Eve Chiapello (2007): The New Spirit of Capitalism, London: New York, Verso.

Brenner, Neil, Jamie Peck & Nik Theodore (2010): “Variegated Neoliberalization: Geographies, Modalities, Pathways”, Global Networks, 10:2, 182-222.

Hudson, Michael (2000) “Capital, Capital Everywhere – How to Invest it Wisely?” Report to the Norwegian Shipowners’ Association, 2000: (accessed 2012-11-26).

Carrier, James G., & Daniel Miller (eds.) (1998): Virtualism: A New Political Economy, Berg Publishers.

Clegg, Stewart & David Courpasson (2004): “Political Hybrids: Tocquevillean Views on Project Organizations”, Journal of Management Studies, 41:4, 525-47.

Clegg, Stewart, Martin Harris & Harro Höpfl (2011): Managing Modernity. Beyond Bureaucracy? Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Clegg, Stewart, Martin Kornberger & Tyrone Pitsis (2004): Managing and Organizations: An Introduction to Theory and Practice, London: Sage.

Clemons, Steve (2009): “2 Cows Economics”, The Washington Note, 06 February 2009: (Accessed 2012-11-26).

Cloke, Jon (2009): “An Economic Wonderland: Derivative Castles Built on Sand”, Critical Perspectives on International Business, 5: 1/2, 107-119.

Comaroff, Jean & John L. Comaroff (eds) (2001): Millennial Capitalism and the Culture of Neoliberalism, Duke University Press.

Courpasson, David (2000): “Managerial Strategies of Domination: Power in Soft Bureaucracies”, Organization Studies, 21:1, 141-61.

Dalton, Melville (1959): Men Who Manage: Fusions of Feeling and Theory in Administration, New York: Wiley.

Davies, Gavyn (2011) “The World’s Economic Centre of Gravity”, Financial Times, 23 March 2011: (accessed 2012-11-26).

Drucker, Peter F. (1954): The Practice of Management, London: Heinemann.

Drucker, Peter F. (1993): Post-Capitalist Society, New York: HarperCollins.

Dufour, Dany-Robert (2008): The Art of Shrinking Heads: On the New Servitude of the Liberated in the Age of Total Capitalism, Cambridge: Polity Press.

Foley, Stephen (2011) “What Price the New Democracy? Goldman Sachs Conquers Europe”, The Independent, 18 November, 2011: (accessed 2012-11-26).

Foucault, Michel (1979): Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, New York, Vintage.

Foucault, Michel (1980): Power/Knowledge: Selected Interviews and Other Writings 1972–1977, Ed. C. Gordon, Brighton: Harvester Press.

Geelmuyden, Niels Christian (2005): “Pungen på vektskålen”, Bergens Tidende, 16 October 2005.
Goffman, Erving (1961): Asylums, Penguin.

Hannerz, Ulf (2007): “The Neo-liberal Culture Complex and Universities: A Case for Urgent Anthropology?” Anthropology Today, 23:5, 1-2.

Harvey, David (1992): The Condition of Postmodernity: An Enquiry into the Origins of Cultural Change, Malden, MA.: Wiley-Blackwell.

Hardt, Michael & Antonio Negri (2009): Common Wealth, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Henwood, Doug (2005): After the New Economy, New York and London: The New Press.

Kallis, Giorgos, Joan Martinez-Alier & Richard B. Norgaard (2009): “Paper Assets, Real Debts: An Ecological-economic Exploration of the Global Economic Crisis”, Critical Perspectives on International Business, 5:1/2, 14-25.

Kellner, Douglas (Ed.) (1994): Baudrillard: A Critical Reader, Cambridge, MA.: Blackwell.

Kolko, Gabriel (2006a): “An Economy of Buccaneers and Fanatists: Weapons of Mass Financial Destruction.” Le Monde diplomatique (October).

Kolko, Gabriel (2006b): “Finansielle trolldomskunster”, Le Monde Diplomatique, 8 November 2006: (2012-11-26).

Krugman, Paul (2009): “How Did Economists Get It So Wrong?” The New York Times, 2 September.

Larsen, Tord (2010): “Acts of Entification: On the Emergence of Thinghood in Social Life.” In Human Nature as Capacity. An Ethnographic Approach, (ed.), N. Rapport, New York: Berghahn Books, 154-176.

Latour, Bruno (1996): Aramis, or the Love of Technology, Cambridge, MA.: Harvard University Press.

LiPuma, Edward & Benjamin Lee (2004): Financial Derivatives and the Globalization of Risk, Duke University Press.

Maddison, Angus (2001): The World Economy: A Millennial Perspective, Paris, OECD Development Center.

Minsky, Hyman (1996): “Uncertainty and the Institutional Structure of Capitalist Economies.” Working paper no. 155, Jerome Levy Economics Institute, April.

Perez, Carlota (2002): Technological Revolutions and Financial Capital: The Dynamics of Bubbles and Golden Ages, Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.

Poon, Martha (2012): “Why does Finance Need an Anthropology? …Because Financial Value is a Reality”, Cultural Anthropology, Theorizing the Contemporary, ‘Finance,’ May.

Reed, Michael (2011): “The Post-Bureaucratic Organization and the Control Revolution”, in Clegg, S. et al. (eds), Managing Modernity. Beyond Bureaucracy? Oxford: Oxford University Press, 230-56.

Reinert, Erik S. (2007): How Rich Countries Got Rich… and Why Poor Countries Stay Poor, London: Constable.

Røyrvik, Emil A. (2011): The Allure of Capitalism. An Ethnography of Management and the Global Economy in Crisis, New York and Oxford: Berghahn Books.

Schinasi, Garry J. (2005): Safeguarding Financial Stability: Theory and Practice, International Monetary Fund.

Shenhav, Yehouda A. (1999): Manufacturing Rationality: The Engineering Foundations of the Managerial Revolution, New York: Oxford University Press.

Shenkar, Oded (1996): “The Firm as a Total Institution: Reflections on the Chinese State Enterprise”, Organization Studies, 17:6, 885-907.

Sørhaug, Tian (2004): Managementalitet og autoritetens forvandling: Ledelse i en kunnskapsøkonomi, Bergen: Fagbokforlaget.

Sørhaug, Tian (2007): “Først og Sist”, NRK, 2 March 2007.

Stone, Lawrence (1977): The Family Sex and Marriage in England 1500-1800, London: Penguin Books.

Suskind, Ron (2004): “Without a doubt”, The New York Times, 17 October.

Swyngedouw, Erik (2005): “Governance Innovation and the Citizen: The Janus Face of Governance-beyond-the-State”, Urban Studies, 42:11, 1991-2006.

Whyte, William H. (1956/2002): Organization Man, University of Pennsylvania Press.

Wolin, Sheldon S. (2008): Democracy Inc.: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism, Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press.

Wray, L. Randall (2009): “The Rise and Fall of Money Manager Capitalism: A Minskian Approach”, Cambridge Journal of Economics, 33, 807–828.

Zizek, Slavoj (1999): The Ticklish Subject: The Absent Centre of Political Ontology. London: Verso.

Zuboff, Shoshana (1988): In the Age of the Smart Machine, New York: Basic Books.




How to Cite

Røyrvik, E. A. and Blom Brodersen, M. (2013) “Real Virtuality: Power and Simulation in the Age of Neoliberal Crisis”, Culture Unbound, 4(4), pp. 637–659. doi: 10.3384/cu.2000.1525.124637.



Theme: Objectification, Measurement and Standardization