Master of Arts
In this paper, I investigate the relationship between late capitalism, economic subjection, and the power of the imagination. By reading Dave Eggers’s The Circle (2013) alongside Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower (1993) and Parable of the Talents (1998), I argue that contemporary dystopian fiction offers important insight into the late capitalist production of desire. Countering critics like Jill Lepore, I discuss how contemporary dystopia creates an anxiety for the future that inspires a sense of political urgency. Moreover, in some cases, contemporary dystopia can produce the imperative to not only imagine alternatives but also to mobilize communities around issues of social justice. Eggers models how capitalist ideologies seductively encourage subjects to voluntarily participate in their own economic subjection. Still, by eradicating all resistance to late capitalism within the narrative, Eggers creates a text that repeats the very problem that he identifies; namely, the lack of engagement with imagining alternatives to capitalism. In the end, Eggers’s text describes how it can seem that alternative economic systems are impossible even for those that recognize its violence and exploitation. Then, juxtaposing this novel with Butler’s work, I foreground the heterogeneity and diversity in contemporary depictions and experiences of economic injustice. Unlike The Circle, Parables offers a more hopeful vision of resistance, suggesting that modern political subjects can in fact create economic alternatives in the here-and-now, even under the hegemonic culture of late capitalism. Both of these novelists identify desires that lead political subjects to cling to late capitalist values, but only one offers an alternative that encourages readers to long for different forms of communities. Thus, by reading these two dystopian accounts of late capitalism together, I outline how desire operates within a specific political economy to limit the imagination, while also accounting for how radical visions of justice nevertheless emerge under these conditions.
Heidebrink-Bruno, Adam, "Imagining (in)Justice at the End of the World: Science Fiction, Subjection, and the Culture of Late Capitalism" (2018). Theses and Dissertations. 5663.
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