Skip to main content
Kent Academic Repository

The unbearable lightness of neoliberalism: Monsters, ghosts, and the poetics of neoliberal infrastructures

Mavelli, Luca (2024) The unbearable lightness of neoliberalism: Monsters, ghosts, and the poetics of neoliberal infrastructures. Political Geography, 111 . Article Number 103108. ISSN 0962-6298. (doi:10.1016/j.polgeo.2024.103108) (KAR id:105873)


This article advances the concept of neoliberal infrastructures as the ghostly carriers of neoliberalism by drawing together two distinct research trajectories: the political critique of neoliberalism and the poetics of infrastructure. The framework of the argument is Kundera's famous dilemma in The Unbearable Lightness of Being: Should we approach life with heaviness or lightness? While lightness may be tempting, the only way for us to be ‘real’ is to confront the ‘heaviness’ of things. The article argues that Kundera's construct unwittingly underpins recent critiques that, by confronting the ‘heaviness’ of neoliberalism (its crises, exploitation, and violence), frame it as a ‘monster’. The risk of this characterization, I contend, is to portray neoliberalism as an almost autonomous force, thus neglecting our involvement in its reproduction. Reversing Kundera's logic, I suggest that for us to be ‘real’ we also need to confront neoliberalism's lightness (its seduction, fascination, and enchantment) and thus understand it as a haunting presence, not merely as an oppressive monster. To advance this view, I discuss the notion of hauntology in the context of Mercato Mayfair, a deconsecrated London church turned glamorous community market. Building on the poetic dimension of the infrastructural turn and reflecting on how neoliberalism has established itself through processes of urban restructuring and spatial transformation, Mercato Mayfair is explored as a neoliberal infrastructure. Neoliberal infrastructures are theorized as lived spaces encompassing people, materials, symbols, histories, affects, and desires in which we enable and give life to the unbearable and ghostly lightness of neoliberalism.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1016/j.polgeo.2024.103108
Uncontrolled keywords: neoliberalism; poetics of infrastructure; urban transformation; converted churches; hauntology; community; market; monsters and ghosts; neoliberal infrastructures; lived spaces
Subjects: J Political Science
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Politics and International Relations
Funders: University of Kent (
Depositing User: Luca Mavelli
Date Deposited: 07 May 2024 10:55 UTC
Last Modified: 07 May 2024 10:56 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

University of Kent Author Information

  • Depositors only (login required):

Total unique views for this document in KAR since July 2020. For more details click on the image.