Beyond Verticality and Horizontality: Arcological Thinking and the Neoliberal Subject

  • François Debrix


Over the past two decades, several critiques of neoliberalism have relied on a binary understanding of space to depict neoliberalism’s operations and objectives as well as to offer modes of mobilization and contestation against neoliberal politics and economics. For quite a few scholars, the challenge of neoliberal capitalism and the need to resist it can be summed up as an opposition between verticality and horizontality. In particular, this challenge, we are told, is what the contemporary subject of neoliberal politics (or what commonly has been referred to as the “neoliberal subject”) is faced with. While neoliberalism’s vertical structures, institutions, aspirations, and metaphors (building higher, accumulating wealth, raising one’s socio-economic profile, reaching for the top, elevating one’s competitive capacities, increasing one’s portfolio, etc.) confront the neoliberal subject with what often looks like an insurmountable neoliberal capitalist monolith, horizontality is presented as a somewhat new and often welcome, even if dispersed, spread out, and sometimes unrooted, “on the ground” mode of political organization, mobilization, and emancipation from contemporary forms of neoliberal capitalist growth.