A Global Critique of Neoliberalism? The Comparative Humans of New York and the World
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This article asks whether the popular web blog Humans of New York constitutes collective and ethical resistance to the everyday violence of neoliberalism in the era of late global capitalism. If neoliberalism is global and ubiquitous, I suggest that we must consider the ways in which resistance to it must also take on a dimension that transcends the nation-state, even as it is grounded in particular experiences and contexts. Following this line of thought, I ask whether a humanism of the kind that Humans of New York professes—one that assumes a universal humanity that spans the globe and whose rights take precedence over all other imperatives—can be one such form of global resistance. I explore HONY’s innovative form of collective storytelling as a vehicle for a humanism that has a different rationality than homo economicus at its core, for the humans that participate in and read Humans of New York orchestrate an arena within which they are defined in relation to the collective rather than individual self-interest. Then I move on to the extensions of the blog that cover the Humans of Iran and Pakistan, interviewing the inhabitants of countries that often function as a non-Western Orientalized other in mainstream American discourse. I ask whether Brandon Stanton, the author and photographer behind the blog, is able to mobilize the same kind of anti-neoliberal sentiments in these locations as he does in New York without flattening out cultural particularities and details. If not, what does this failure say about the limits and possibilities of forming a truly global humanist social movement, through storytelling, against neoliberalism and an increasingly predatory global capitalism? And can other spin-offs of the blog written from locations in the global south fulfill this function of a localized yet simultaneously global resistance instead?
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