The American Dream ethos: Neoliberal rationalities and the Tiny Home Lifestyle (THL) in the United States

Authors: Megan Carras*, University of Saint Andrews
Topics: Social Geography, Cultural and Political Ecology, Social Theory
Keywords: home, house, sustainability, neoliberalism, self governance, disciplinary power
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/14/2018
Start / End Time: 2:00 PM / 3:40 PM
Room: Bayside C, Sheraton, 4th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The primary objective of this chapter is to understand motivations for adopting the Tiny Home Lifestyle (THL). Empirical findings identified that most participants expressed the notion of freedom, being free from and free to, and/or aspects related to self-determination when asked about motivation for adopting tiny living and their experience of tiny living. Specifically, most dwellers were predominately motivated by financial freedoms. The goal of this chapter, then, is to understand how freedom and self-determination around these offerings came to be the expressed primary motivator for the adoption of the THL in order to interrogate the extent to which dwellers choose this lifestyle. These empirical findings are reviewed as they relate to the pursuit of the American Dream; a pro-capitalist ethos that has supported the foundational American values of freedom, self-reliance, individualism, and self-determination in order to promote personal responsibility and productivity (Cullen, 2003). I argue that this superior American Dream discourse is used to discipline individuals into self-reliance and normalise success. Under this ethos, traditional homeownership via the debt system is hegemonically used by the neoliberal agenda as a disciplinary mechanism, a form of managing or disciplining people through self-governing (Foucault, 1984; Rose, 1999; Centeno and Cohen, 2012; Gallagher, 2013; Smith, 2013; Chomsky, 2017). Therefore, I rely on the notion of disciplinary power and governing rationalities, specifically governing the individual, or the promotion of self-governance (Foucault, 1978/79; Rose 1999, 2008; Brown, 2015), as the lens through which to interrogate the profundity of the THL in this current neoliberal era.

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