Performativity and the Disability Category: Solving The Zero Theorem

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This article explores critically the relationship between capitalist performativity and the disability category. It draws on Jean-François Lyotard’s analysis of postmodernity to define ‘performativity’ as the principle of performance enhancement governing the world of contemporary technocapitalism. The analysis then traces the historical development of the disability category in the 20th and 21st centuries and explains its complex interlinking with performativity. Special attention is paid to the impact of neoliberalism since the 1980s that includes both the disability category’s administrative shrinking and its market-based expansion. These theoretical and historical reflections are supplemented by a reading of Terry Gilliam’s movie The Zero Theorem. The conclusion discusses some possibilities for resisting performativity, suggested by the disability studies perspective espoused in the article.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages14
JournalCritical Sociology
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 1 Oct 2018


  • capitalism
  • disability studies
  • Jean-François Lyotard
  • neoliberalism
  • performativity
  • postmodernity
  • technology
  • Terry Gilliam


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