Disabled Capitalists: Exploring the Intersections of Disability and Identity Formation in the World of Work

Dustin Galer


Many people with disabilities share the mainstream ethos that participation in the competitive workforce constitutes a primary feature of their identity. While unpaid work may fulfill the desire to be productive and provide a sense of purpose and contribution, the cultural imperative to achieve personal autonomy partly through material independence situates paid employment at the centre of personal identity formation. While disability activists struggle to carve out an empowered collective identity instilled with rights-based protections, many people with disabilities identify with the liberal individualism upon which participation in the capitalist labour market is largely based. Individuals with disabilities seek not simply to shrug off an identity defined by burden, but to claim an identity marked by self-fulfillment. Within the world of paid work, then, tension and compatibility co-exist regarding the nature and value of identity development for people with disabilities.


Keywords: disability, work, employment, identity, identity politics, disability activism


disability; work; employment; identity; identity politics; disability activism

Full Text:


DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.18061/dsq.v32i3.3277

Copyright (c) 2012 Dustin Galer

Volume 1 through Volume 20, no. 3 of Disability Studies Quarterly is archived on the Knowledge Bank site; Volume 20, no. 4 through the present can be found on this site under Archives.

Beginning with Volume 36, Issue No. 4 (2016), Disability Studies Quarterly is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives license unless otherwise indicated. 

Disability Studies Quarterly is published by The Ohio State University Libraries in partnership with the Society for Disability Studies.

If you encounter problems with the site or have comments to offer, including any access difficulty due to incompatibility with adaptive technology, please contact libkbhelp@lists.osu.edu.

ISSN: 2159-8371 (Online); 1041-5718 (Print)