Advertisement

Keeping It Real: Literary Impersonality Under Neoliberalism

  • Daniel HartleyEmail author
Chapter
Part of the New Comparisons in World Literature book series (NCWL)

Abstract

This chapter argues that the impersonality of historical capitalism is best conceived as an uneven combination of socio-cultural processes of depersonalization and (re-)personalization. It is within this purview of the longue durée that I shall locate the specific configuration of impersonal and personal forces in the period known as ‘neoliberalism.’ I shall argue that neoliberalism constitutes a combined and uneven world-systemic project operating through multiple socio-cultural “personae” (from homo œconomicus to “wageless life” [Denning]), unified by a counter-revolutionary project of Restoration whose aim was to negate the “passion for the real” [la passion du réel] that characterized much of the twentieth century (Badiou). I shall use these extended sociological and philosophical elaborations as a framework within which to read two key contemporary works of world-literature: S. J. Naudé’s The Alphabet of Birds (2015) and Rachel Kushner’s The Flamethrowers (2013). I interpret these works as attempts to inherit the “passion for the real” under conditions of neoliberalism. Both writers employ techniques of impersonality and depersonalization to carve out a fragile space of resistance and formalize hope in an ethico-political absolute. In doing so, they not only extend Badiou’s own reflections on the intrinsic limitations of the “passion for the real” (not least its intimate bond with violence and destruction) but also indicate potential blind spots in Badiou’s philosophical project itself.

Works Cited

  1. Alliez, Éric, and Maurizio Lazzarato. 2016. Guerres et Capital. Paris: Éditions Amsterdam.Google Scholar
  2. Anderson, Perry. 1984. Modernity and Revolution. New Left Review I/144: 96–113.Google Scholar
  3. Arruzza, Cinzia. 2014. Remarks on Gender. Viewpoint Magazine. URL: https://www.viewpointmag.com/2014/09/02/remarks-on-gender/. Last Accessed 9/10/17.
  4. Auerbach, Erich. 2003 [1946]. Mimesis: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature. Trans. Willard R. Trask. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  5. Badiou, Alain. 1999 [1989]. Manifesto for Philosophy. Trans. Norman Madarasz. Albany: State University of New York Press.Google Scholar
  6. ———. 2001 [1993]. Ethics: An Essay on the Understanding of Evil. Trans. Peter Hallward. London: Verso.Google Scholar
  7. ———. 2003 [1997]. Saint Paul: the Foundation of Universalism. Trans. Ray Brassier. Stanford: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  8. ———. 2005 [1998]. Metapolitics. Trans. Jason Barker. London: Verso.Google Scholar
  9. ———. 2007 [2005]. The Century. Trans. Alberto Toscano. Cambridge: Polity.Google Scholar
  10. ———. 2008a. The Communist Hypothesis. New Left Review 49: 29–42.Google Scholar
  11. ———. 2008b [2007]. The Meaning of Sarkozy. Trans. David Fernbach. London: Verso.Google Scholar
  12. ———. 2009 [2006]. Logics of Worlds. Trans. Alberto Toscano. London: Bloomsbury.Google Scholar
  13. ———. 2014. Images du temps présent: 2001–2004. Paris: Fayard.Google Scholar
  14. Balakrishnan, Gopal. 2009. Speculations on the Stationary State. New Left Review 59: 5–26.Google Scholar
  15. Barron, Jesse. 2013. Insurrection: An Interview with Rachel Kushner. Paris Review. URL: https://www.theparisreview.org/blog/2013/04/03/insurrection-an-interview-with-rachel-kushner/. Last Accessed 12/10/17.
  16. Basso, Luca. 2015. Marx and the Common: From Capital to the Late Writings. Leiden: Brill.Google Scholar
  17. Benanav, Aaron, et al. 2015. An Identical Abject-Subject? Endnotes 4: 276–301.Google Scholar
  18. Boltanski, Luc, and Ève Chiapello. 2005 [1999]. The New Spirit of Capitalism. Trans. Gregory Elliott. London: Verso.Google Scholar
  19. Brown, Wendy. 2015. Undoing the Demos: Neoliberalism’s Stealth Revolution. New York: Zone Books.Google Scholar
  20. Budgen, Sebastian. 2000. A New ‘Spirit of Capitalism’. New Left Review 1: 149–156.Google Scholar
  21. Carson, Rebecca. 2017. Fictitious Capital and the Re-emergence of Personal Forms of Domination. Continental Thought and Theory: A Journal of Intellectual Freedom 1 (4): 566–586.Google Scholar
  22. Chakrabarty, Dipesh. 1989. Rethinking Working-Class History: Bengal 1890 to 1940. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  23. Chanson, Vincent, Alexis Cukier, and Frédéric Monferrand, eds. 2014. La Réification: Histoire et actualité d’un concept critique. Paris: La Dispute.Google Scholar
  24. Dardot, Pierre et Christian Laval. 2013 [2009]. The New Way of the World: On Neoliberal Society. Trans. Gregory Elliott. London: Verso.Google Scholar
  25. Davis, Mike. 2006. Planet of Slums. London: Verso.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Dean, Jodi. 2016. Crowds and Party. London: Verso.Google Scholar
  27. Deleuze, Gilles, and Félix Guattari. 1983 [1972]. Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Trans. Robert Hurley, Mark Seem & Helen R. Lane. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
  28. Denning, Michael. 2010. Wageless Life. New Left Review 66: 79–97.Google Scholar
  29. Eagleton, Terry. 2003. Sweet Violence: The Idea of the Tragic. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  30. Esposito, Roberto. 2012. The Dispositif of the Person. Law, Culture and the Humanities 8 (1): 17–30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Finelli, Roberto. 1987. Astrazione e dialettica dal romanticismo al capitalismo (saggio su Marx). Rome: Bulzoni Editore.Google Scholar
  32. Fischbach, Franck. 2016 [2009]. Sans objet. Capitalisme, subjectivité, aliénation. Paris: Librairie Philosophique J. Vrin.Google Scholar
  33. Frankel, Joseph. 2017. Trump Seems to Support Bush’s AIDS Program for Now. The Atlantic. URL: https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2017/02/pepfar-global-gag-rule-trump/515961/. Last Accessed 8/10/2017.
  34. Fraser, Nancy. 2013. Fortunes of Feminism: From State-Managed Capitalism to Neoliberal Crisis. London: Verso.Google Scholar
  35. Friedrich, Hugo. 1956. Die Struktur der Modernen Lyrik. Hamburg: Rowohlt.Google Scholar
  36. ———. 1974. The Structure of Modern Poetry. Trans. Joachim Neugroschel. Evanston: Northwestern University.Google Scholar
  37. Haines, Christian P. 2017. The Impersonal Is Political: Adrienne Rich’s The Dream of a Common Language, Feminism, and the Art of Biopolitics. Cultural Critique 96: 178–215.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Hart, Matthew, and Alexander Rocca. 2015. An Interview with Rachel Kushner. Contemporary Literature 56 (2): 192–215.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Hartley, Daniel. 2017. Radical Schiller and the Young Marx. In Aesthetic Marx, ed. Samir Gandesha and Johan Hartle. London: Bloomsbury.Google Scholar
  40. Harvey, David. 2005. A Brief History of Neoliberalism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  41. Heinrich, Michael. 2012. Individuum, Personifikation und unpersönliche Herrschaft in Marx’ Kritik der politischen Ökonomie. In Anonyme Herrschaft. Zur Struktur moderner Machtverhältnisse, ed. I. Elbe, S. Ellmers, and J. Eufinger. Münster: Verlag Westfälisches Dampfboot.Google Scholar
  42. Huber, Matthew. 2013. Lifeblood: Oil, Freedom, and the Forces of Capital. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Jameson, Fredric. 1991. Postmodernism; or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism. Durham: Duke University Press.Google Scholar
  44. ———. 2002. A Singular Modernity: Essay on the Ontology of the Present. London: Verso.Google Scholar
  45. ———. 2009. Valences of the Dialectic. London: Verso.Google Scholar
  46. ———. 2012. Antinomies of the Realism-Modernism Debate. Modern Language Quarterly 73 (3): 475–485.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Jelly-Schapiro, Eli. 2019. Literature, Theory, and the Temporalities of Neoliberalism. In Neoliberalism and Contemporary American Literature, ed. Liam Kennedy and Stephen Shapiro. Hanover: UPNE.Google Scholar
  48. Kushner, Rachel. 2013. The Flamethrowers. New York: Scribner.Google Scholar
  49. Lukács, Georg. 1971 [1968]. History and Class Consciousness. London: Merlin Press.Google Scholar
  50. Marx, Karl. 1973 [1857–8]. Grundrisse: Foundations of the Critique of Political Economy (Rough Draft). Trans. Martin Nicolaus. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books.Google Scholar
  51. ———. 1976 [1867]. Capital: A Critique of Political Economy: Volume One. Trans. Ben Fowkes. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books.Google Scholar
  52. McClanahan, Annie J. 2017. Becoming Non-Economic: Human Capital Theory and Wendy Brown’s Undoing the Demos. Theory & Event 20 (2): 510–519.Google Scholar
  53. Monferrand, Frédéric. 2017. Le capital et son monde: contribution à une lecture ontologique du Capital. Revue Période. URL: http://revueperiode.net/le-capital-et-son-monde/. Last Accessed 9/10/2017.
  54. Moore, Jason W. 2015. Capitalism in the Web of Life: Ecology and the Accumulation of Capital. London: Verso.Google Scholar
  55. ———., ed. 2016. Anthropocene or Capitalocene? Nature, History, and the Crisis of Capitalism. Oakland: PM Press.Google Scholar
  56. Naudé, S.J. 2015 [2011]. The Alphabet of Birds. Trans. S.J. Naudé. London: And Other Stories.Google Scholar
  57. Noys, Benjamin. 2010. The Persistence of the Negative: A Critique of Contemporary Continental Theory. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Postone, Moishe. 1993. Time, Labor, and Social Domination: A Reinterpretation of Marx’s Critical Theory. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Powers, Nina, and Alberto Toscano. 2009. The Philosophy of Restoration: Alain Badiou and the Enemies of May. boundary 2 36 (1): 27–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Ram, Harsha. 2012. Futurist Geographies: Uneven Modernities and the Struggle for Aesthetic Autonomy: Paris, Italy, Russia, 1909–1914. In The Oxford Handbook of Global Modernisms, ed. Mark Wollaeger and Matt Eatough. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  61. Rancière, Jacques. 1999 [1995]. Disagreement: Politics and Philosophy. Trans. Julie Rose. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
  62. Sastry, Shaunak, and Mohan Jyoti Dutta. 2013. Global Health Interventions and the “Common Sense” of Neoliberalism: A Dialectical Analysis of PEPFAR. Journal of International and Intercultural Communication 6 (1): 21–39.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Scott, James. 1998. Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed. New Haven: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  64. Serfati, Claude. 2017. Le militaire: Une histoire française. Paris: Éditions Amsterdam.Google Scholar
  65. Sohn-Rethel, Alfred. 1978. Intellectual and Manual Labour: A Critique of Epistemology. London: Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Toscano, Albert. 2007. ‘European Nihilism’ and Beyond: Commentary by Alberto Toscano. In The Century, ed. Alain Badiou. Cambridge: Polity.Google Scholar
  67. ———. 2008. The Open Secret of Real Abstraction. Rethinking Marxism 20 (2): 273–287.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Toscano, Alberto. 2010. The Politics of Abstraction: Communism and Philosophy. In The Idea of Communism, ed. Costas Douzinas and Slazoj Žižek. London: Verso.Google Scholar
  69. Williams, Raymond. 1963 [1958]. Culture and Society: 1780–1950. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books.Google Scholar
  70. Wood, Ellen Meiksins. 1995. Democracy Against Capitalism: Renewing Historical Materialism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.DurhamUK

Personalised recommendations