Post-postmodernism, or, The logic of just-in-time capitalism by Jeffrey Nealon
By Jeffrey Nealon
Post-Postmodernism surveys a large choice of cultural texts in pursuing its analyses—everything from the vintage rock of Black Sabbath to the post-Marxism of Antonio Negri, from issues of the company collage to the fare on the cineplex, from interpreting experimental literature to playing in Las Vegas, from Badiou to the undergraduate lecture room. Insofar as cultural nation-states of every kind have more and more been overcoded by way of the languages and practices of economics, Nealon goals to build a family tree of the yank current, and to construct a vocabulary for realizing the relatives among monetary construction and cultural creation today—when American-style capitalism, regardless of its contemporary battering, turns out nowhere close to the purpose of obsolescence. Post-postmodern capitalism is seldom overdue yet continuously simply in time. As such, it calls for an up-to-date conceptual vocabulary for diagnosing and responding to our replaced situation.
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Rather, in a 180-degree turnabout from the usual austere rhetoric of wartime, Uncle Sam now wants us to liberate our individual desires in the face of the axis of evil (defined primarily as anti-desire, anti-individual, fundamentalist repression): so we’re asked to consume, travel, refinance our mortgage at lower rates, buy durable household goods. Follow our personal desires; that’ll stick it to al-Qaeda. Indeed, when Led Zeppelin plays over Cadillac commercials and a Rolling Stones tour can be brought to you quite literally by the housing bubble (the Stones’ 2005 official tour sponsor was now-defunct AmeriQuest Mortgage), you have to assume that the cultural rebellion narratives of the ’60s, which often revolved around the liberation of an individual’s or group’s desire in the face of various social repressions, can now officially be pronounced dead.
Seeing that Caesar distrusts him and favors Maximus— or, worse, that Caesar intends to turn power over to the Senate—Commodus murders his father and ascends immediately to the role of emperor. Aside from the simple motivating force of Commodus’s lust for power, the audience can’t help noting that Commodus also grasps a complex historical truth: after the defeat of the Germanians, the old emperor has outlived c u l t u r e a n d e c o n o m i c s his usefulness. The skills of the father—assimilating and annexing land through warfare—are not the skills required for managing a vast transnational and multicultural empire.
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