In the land of choice: Privatized reality and contractual vulnerability
Privatization has made ours the age of markets and contracts. Long gone are the days in which only businessmen were engaged in contracting. Areas of life that once were governed by public norms are increasingly subjected to private ordering and, as a result, to the dynamics of the market. Thus, any inquiry that seeks to understand the relationship between privatization and vulnerability ought to include the question of what awaits the vulnerable subject at the end of the road, in a privatized world and under a contractual regime. 2 The neoliberal state offers a very limited answer to this question due to the fact that, for the most part, it ignores the problem of vulnerability. Individual adults who contract are framed as exercising their autonomy and freedom of choice. They are presumed to be equal to each other, and the role of the state vis-à-vis their contracts is intentionally reduced to supplying enforcement services upon demand. Accordingly, any measure of response to vulnerability clearly falls outside the mandate of the neoliberal state and is conceptualized as an inappropriate intervention in the working of the free market. Since privatization imposes contractual relationships on all members
of society – stronger and weaker alike – this neoliberal paradigm exposes vulnerable subjects to grave risks.