Self, Self-Help, Alternative Health, Moscow, Neoliberalism
This article explores anthropological debates about the self and the role of self-help discourses in the production of neoliberal subjectivities in post-Soviet society. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork and in-depth life story narratives, I analyze these discourses from the perspective of participants in self-help groups, which serve as an entry point for examining the impact of neoliberal reforms and the expansion of consumer capitalism in post-Soviet society. I highlight the multiple ways people make sense of the discourses and the wide range of “cultural resources” they engage to create meaningful experiences within the constraints of the new social conditions. Blending concepts from East and West and selectively drawing from Soviet and post-Soviet ideals, the participants do not easily fit into theoretical or ideological frameworks. The social involvement and multiplicity of meanings within their narratives and practices call into question standard notions about the self-help sphere and indicate a serious challenge to the totalizing power of neoliberal formations within the post-Soviet context. In English, extended summary in Russian.