This article examines the relationship between genre and neoliberalism through a reading of a novel about a diasporic Singaporean trying to land a position with the “largest company in the world.” Following a discussion of how Hwee Hwee Tan's novel Mammon Inc. comments on Singapore's socioeconomic restructuring after the 1997 Asian financial crisis, the article argues that attention to genre provides a framework through which to understand how the internalizing of neoliberal values becomes a matter of personal fulfillment and self-improvement. Tan's novel dramatizes neoliberal subject formation in Singapore today and can be described as a “coming-of-career” novel, or the story of becoming an economically viable subject in a globalized economy through the pursuit of a professional career. Through a reading of Mammon Inc., the article discusses the significance of age identity and age relations for neoliberal ideology. The novel highlights the manner in which professional careers are conflated with notions of life and the ways they are posed as a corrective to youth. Although the coming-of-career narrative is limited to discussions of privileged and upwardly mobile subjects, there is potential to think about the genre more generally. This article proposes that theorizing the neoliberal bildungsroman might present an opportunity to better historicize neoliberalism.
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Cheryl Narumi Naruse; Hwee Hwee Tan's Mammon Inc. as Bildungsroman; Or, the Coming-of-Career Narrative. Genre 1 April 2016; 49 (1): 95–115. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00166928-3429261
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