Absent Rebels: Criticism and Network Power in 21st Century Dystopian Fiction

Gunter Narr Verlag 
Annika Gonnermann

Absent Rebels: Criticism and Network Power in 21st Century Dystopian Fiction focuses on the relationship between literary dystopia, network power and neoliberalism, explaining why rebellion against a dystopian system is absent in so many contemporary dystopian novels. Also, this book helps readers understand modern power mechanisms and shows ways how to overcome them in our own daily lives.

ISBN 978-3-8233-8459-5 www.narr.de Absent Rebels focuses on the relationship between literary dystopia, forms of critique, and neoliberalism. Advocating a new classification for dystopian novels, this book examines five contemporary dystopias by critically acclaimed and commercially successful authors such as Dave Eggers, Kazuo Ishiguro, Margaret Atwood and others and argues that the concept of ‘immanent criticism’ is best suited for analysing these texts: contrary to classical dystopian fiction, these novels do not feature resistance but confront their audience with absent rebels - powerless protagonists wound up in network structures beyond their control. Band 85 Annika Gonnermann Absent Rebels: Criticism and Network Power in 21 st Century Dystopian Fiction Annika Gonnermann Absent Rebels Band 85 Layout 3 BuchTitelBild_128,5x49_RZ.indd 1 BuchTitelBild_128,5x49_RZ.indd 1 02.09.20 14: 52 02.09.20 14: 52 18459_Umschlag.indd 1,3 18459_Umschlag.indd 1,3 24.03.2021 16: 48: 56 24.03.2021 16: 48: 56 Absent Rebels herausgegeben von Anja Bandau (Hannover), Justus Fetscher (Mannheim), Ralf Haekel (Leipzig), Caroline Lusin (Mannheim), Cornelia Ruhe (Mannheim) Band 85 Annika Gonnermann Absent Rebels: Criticism and Network Power in 21 st Century Dystopian Fiction Zugleich Dissertation an der Universität Mannheim Gedruckt mit freundlicher Unterstützung der Geschwister Boehringer Ingelheim Stiftung für Geisteswissenschaften in Ingelheim am Rhein und des Förderungsfonds Wissenschaft der VG Wort. © 2021 · Narr Francke Attempto Verlag GmbH + Co. 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I. 11 II. 23 1. 23 2. 30 3. 38 3.1. 47 3.2. 55 III. 79 1. 82 2. 90 3. 101 4. 112 IV. 121 1. 125 2. 135 3. 146 4. 154 Contents Introduction: Dystopia Today . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . The Dystopian Genre . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Genre, Etymology, and Definition of Utopian, Eutopian, and Dystopian Fiction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . The History of Dystopian Fiction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Context, Criticism, and Rahel Jaeggi’s Critique of Forms of Life (2014) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Classical Dystopian Fiction, State Totalitarianism, and ‘External Criticism’ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Contemporary Dystopian Fiction, Neoliberal Capitalism, and ‘Immanent Criticism’ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ‘Crowd-Founded’ Dystopia: Dave Eggers’ The Circle (2013) . . . . . . . . . . Corporate Dystopia - The Rise of the Circle . . . . . . . . . . . . . . “Don’t You See That It’s All Connected? ”- The Company and Network Standards . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Network Standards - The Circlers’ Loss of Identity and Longing for Recognition . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . “They Have Offered No Alternative” - The ‘Eutopian’ Monopoly of the Circle . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . The Totalitarian Face of Neoliberalism: Margaret Atwood’s The Heart Goes Last (2015) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . “Jobs for All! ” - The Eutopian Facade of Neoliberalism . . . . . “The Right Choice(! ? )” - Involuntary Decisions Within Neoliberal Networks . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . The Banality of Dystopia - Totalitarianism as Product of the Free Market . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . “I Need to Help Fix This” - The Impossibility of Thinking beyond Neoliberal Capitalism . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . V. 161 1. 165 2. 175 3. 183 4. 189 VI. 203 1. 209 2. 224 3. 234 4. 243 VII. 257 1. 259 2. 271 3. 281 4. 291 VIII. 299 IX. 313 Feeding Neoliberal Capitalism: M. T. Anderson’s Feed (2002) . . . . . . . . . Conceptionariums and Air Factories - The Commodification of Life and Nature . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . “I Did Not Get the Job” - Network Standards, Neoliberal Capitalism, and the Feed . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Trendy Riot Gear & Evil Corporations - The Absence of Resistance . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . “Hope Was Looking off to the Side” - The Inefficiency of ‘External Criticism’ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Predatory Capitalism Throughout History: David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas (2004) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . From Empire to Corpocracy - The History of Capitalism . . . “Free Will Plays No Part in My Story” - Networks and Path Dependence . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . A “Cannibals’ Banqueting Hall” - Consumption and Its (Narratological) Limits . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . “Hydra” versus “A Multitude of Drops” - ‘Immanent Criticism’ as Compass for Reform . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Clones and Free-Market Capitalism: Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go (2005) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Our “Most Marketable Stuff ” - The Commodification of Life, Art, and Sex . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . “Tommy Had Brought All His Problems on Himself “ - Individuals Within Networks . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . The Logic Behind Rebellion - The Confusion of Voluntariness and Freedom . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . “That Frightened People” - The Failure of ‘External Criticism’ Dystopia, ‘Immanent Criticism,’ and its Eutopian Implications . . . . . . . . Bibliography . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6 Contents Thank You The PhD road is long and winding and cannot be travelled alone. Many people have contributed to this project in many different ways and I would like to thank all of them. My sincerest thanks go to … my supervisor Prof. Dr. Caroline Lusin, without whom I would never have embarked on let alone finished this journey; thank you for all the support, the kind words of encouragement whenever I needed them, the perfect work environment at the University of Mannheim and all your time and energy. I’m very proud to have been part of this team! … my parents Peter and Brigitte Gonnermann, my brother David Gon‐ nermann and my family, who encouraged me to choose this path and who have supported me through all these years of study. … Christian Christiani, for being there always. … Laura Winter, for all the hours of discussions we had about the right path to finishing our respective PhD projects. … Lisa Schwander, Sina Schuhmaier, Stefan Benz and Stefan Danter for being on this journey with me. … my colleagues at the Department of English Literature at the University of Mannheim: Prof. Dr. Christine Schwanecke for agreeing to co-supervise my project and Dr. Stefan Glomb for the intellectual input. A big thank you also goes to Barbara Magin, Anika Conrad and Dr. Philip Griffiths for their help and support. … my friends Lucy Thompson, Laura Winter, Anna Lobmüller, Lena Geugjes, Johanne Hintze and Jonas Hock for proofreading hundreds of pages. … to all the research assistants (Hiwis) in the English department, Mi‐ chèle Benker, Annika Röckle, Jasmin Schnell, Marnie Hensler, Ruxandra Teo‐ dorescu, Antonia Hahn, Lea Exner, Alisa Dörr, Corina Santacruz, Filiz Altinkilic and Hanna Hellmuth for all the hours they spent in front of the photocopying machine for me. … the Deutsche Akademische Austauschdienst ( DAAD ) for their support in the form of (research) scholarships. … the Geschwister Boehringer Ingelheim Stiftung für Geisteswissen‐ schaften and the VG Wort. … Franziska Oetinger from FENEBERG Design GmbH for the wonderful cover design. … Claudia Brendel from the University of Mannheim for helping me with the official requirements for finishing a PhD. … Kathrin Heyng and her colleagues from Narr Francke Attempto Verlag GmbH + Co. KG for their support during the publication process. … and Dr. Susanna Layh and Prof. Dr. Gregory Claeys for their support and guidance. 8 Thank You “We do not confront the world in a doctrinaire way with a new principle: Here is the truth, kneel down before it! We develop new principles for the world out of the world’s own principles.” Karl Marx quoted in Jaeggi, Critique 173 “The False, once determinately known and precisely expressed, is already an index of what is right and better.” Theodor W. Adorno, Critical Models 288 1 In September 2017, Hillary Clinton published her memoirs, in which she fuelled the ongoing comparison between Trump’s America and Orwell’s Airstrip One. She com‐ mented on Trump’s “war on truth” (in Siddiqui and D. Smith) by stating that “[a]ttempting to define reality is a core feature of authoritarianism […]. This is what happens in George Orwell’s classic novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, when a torturer holds up four fingers and delivers electric shocks until his prisoner sees five fingers as or‐ dered” (ibid.). See also Survive and Resist: The Definitive Guide to Dystopian Politics (2019) by Amy L. Atchison and Shauna L. Shames. I. Introduction: Dystopia Today If you are not already a little interested and open-minded with regard to social and political questions, and a little exercised in self-examination, you will find neither interest nor pleasure here. (H. G. Wells, A Modern Utopia, A Note to the Reader 8) In January 2017, George Orwell’s nearly 70-year-old classic Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949) rose once again to the top of Amazon’s best-seller list (cf. Alter; also Kakutani). While this fact in itself is not surprising, since Orwell’s master piece “must be among the most widely read books in the history of the world“ (Gleason and Nussbaum 1) and has always had a stable readership, the timing is startling. Prompted by statements about ‘alternative facts’ uttered by Kellyanne Conway, spokeswoman to the 45 th President of the United States of America, Donald J. Trump, dystopia rose back into the spotlight, having been rediscov‐ ered by authors, filmmakers, and the general public apparently as a reading aid to decipher and make sense of our current socio-cultural reality. 1 Other dysto‐ pias were also ‘rediscovered’ as analytical tool for a social diagnosis of our time. The 2017 series adaption of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale (1985), for instance, immediately received positive critical attention (including an Emmy win) for its blunt and terrifying description of religious devotion gone astray, with its visuals (red gown and supersize white bonnet) immediately adopted by the #Metoo movement and the defenders of abortion rights for women in both the United States and abroad. Fittingly, in the very same year, novels by Orwell, Atwood, and Erik Larson were distributed free of charge by an anonymous phi‐ lanthropist as a means of education and “fight[ing] back” (Kean). While dystopia has always enjoyed a canonical place among Western literature and a loyal reader base, it is now firmly back on the agenda for literature, the media, and the public. 2 Mark Hillegas argues along the same lines in his The Future as Nightmare (1967) when observing that the ongoing popularity of dystopian fiction since Orwell’s times is a clear indicator of social unrest and “one of the most revealing indexes to the anxieties of our age” (3; cf. also Booker, Literature 4). 3 Although many critics and fans alike often refer to Orwell’s masterpiece as “1984,” technically speaking, this title is incorrect. The title of the novel is to be spelled out, namely, Nineteen Eighty-Four. Consequently, any references to Orwell’s novel in the incorrect version will be marked with “[sic! ]”. According to Darko Suvin’s ‘radically less perfect principle,’ dystopia is defined as the construction of a particular community where sociopolitical institutions, norms, and individual relationships between people are organized according to a radically less perfect principle than in the author’s community; this construction is based on estrangement arising out of an alternative historical hypothesis. (reformulated based on “Theses” 188 f., emphasis in the original) These literary and radically less perfect communities always appear at the “great whirlpool periods of history“ (Suvin, Metamorphoses 7) 2 and react to “explicit or immanent socio-political defects” of the present (cf. Zeißler 9). Keith M. Booker agrees, stating that “the modern turn to dystopian fiction is largely attributable to perceived inadequacies in existing social and political systems” (Impulse 20). Dystopia’s function, then, can be adequately described as formulating a warning “that if certain social trends go unchecked, the future will exhibit certain specific undesirable qualities” (Zaki 244; cf. also Tuzinski 88). It offers a “diagnosis, a warning, a call to understanding and action, and - most importantly - a mapping of possible alternatives” (Suvin, Metamorphoses 12). As has been argued, classical dystopian fiction has recently attracted more interest from readers and scholars alike, as “[i]n this fake news, post-truth era, books like #TheHandmaidsTale, 1984 [sic! ] 3 and Brave New World have been our guiding lights” as @Penguin UKB ooks tweeted (my emphasis). Yet although Or‐ well’s, Huxley’s, and Zamyatin’s satires on the current political tendencies of their times offer timeless lessons about totalitarianism, human rights, and the vindication thereof, it seems startling that an 21 st century audience should try to make sense of their 21 st century reality with the help of novels written over half a century ago, i.e. which are the “product[s] of the terrors of the twentieth century” (Moylan, Scraps xi). Since dystopias are always children of their time, their historical socio-political background must be considered. The dystopian novels written in the 1940s and 50s deal with fears and anxieties characteristic of post-war societies, influenced by the experience of state totalitarianism: Or‐ well’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, for example, “provid[es] some of the best known 12 I. Introduction: Dystopia Today images and ideas of post-World War II Western culture” (Booker and Thomas 193; cf. also Atchison and Shames 36). Likewise, We by Yevgeny Zamyatin (1920) and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World (1932) can be read as historic documents produced by a specific zeitgeist: while the former is “very much about certain ominous trends that Zamyatin sensed in the postrevolutionary society of Soviet Russia” (Booker, Impulse 19), the latter is “directed at excesses that were already brewing in Huxley’s contemporary world” (ibid.). They warn and educate their contemporaries about what they have identified as problematic. Classical dys‐ topian fiction is defined by its focus on state totalitarianism and the dangers associated with that: surveillance, oppression, torture, and human rights viola‐ tions. Therefore, the celebration of classical dystopian fiction as a subversive and revolutionary genre is startling, since these classical texts have long lost the ability to really shock anyone in the 21 st century (despite the renewed interest in Big Brother et al.). As Guardian journalist Damien Walter observes Dystopian visions used to present dire warnings of futures to come, now they seem more like pale reflections of reality. Today dystopia is just another category of light entertainment, a marketing niche for ebooks which even has its own channel on Net‐ flix. Is this because we no longer have anything to fear? Or have our dystopian night‐ mares simply become reality? (“Reality TV”) Concluding with the horrifying observation that “there are thousands of content consumers quite happy with Big Brother,” Walter’s article hits a nerve. People apparently love Big Brother. Moreover, they have turned Orwell’s sinister symbol of constant surveillance and oppression into a source of entertainment. Named after Orwell’s omnipresent dictator, the TV series Big Brother caused serious international outrage upon its first broadcast in the late 1990s (cf. Meier; cf. also Kammerer 104). Today, the series has a stable place in the repertoire of light TV entertainment and airs worldwide. Usually featuring a group of (ce‐ lebrity) participants locked into a house for a certain amount of time, the series and the eponymous Big Brother narrator-figure invite audiences to 24 / 7 access into the life of the candidates (cf. R. J. Thompson and S. Allen), thus perverting the original intention of Nineteen Eighty-Four. This paradoxical interpretation of Orwell’s classic (celebrated base for resistance and, simultaneously, inspira‐ tion for the commercial exploitation of the audience’s voyeuristic potential) de‐ stabilizes the entire genre’s claim to represent an innovative source of critique about contemporary society. Our familiarity with Big Brother, and the resulting weakening of the warning effect arise from the wearing out of genre materials due to the many uniform 13 I. Introduction: Dystopia Today 4 In a 2018 article in The Guardian, Paul Walker-Emig claims that even in Cyberpunk “[t]he future has looked the same for almost four decades” ever since William Gibson published his Neuromancer (1984) and Ridley Scott turned Philip K. Dick’s story Do An‐ droids Dream of Electronic Sheep? (1968) into Bladerunner (1982). Walker-Emig argues that “cyberpunk still looks like it did in the 80s” and laments the “creative block” that has prevented authors and filmmakers to imagine an alternative future away from neoliberalism, “which successfully foreclosed the imagining of alternatives.” He argues in favour of a new utopian science fiction that refuses to accept the status quo cemented by neoliberal globalism. 5 See also “Contemporary Dystopian Fiction, Neoliberal Capitalism, and ‘Immanent Criti‐ cism.’” dystopias written and read ever since the publication of Nineteen Eighty-Four, We, and Brave New World, which have served as templates and models other writers structured their radically less perfect societies on. Concomitantly, Chris‐ topher Ferns criticises the dystopian genre for its repetitiveness (cf. 130), while Ursula Heise laments the loss of topicality since these “visions of the future serve mostly to reconfirm well-established views of the present” (“Matter”). The result is that the genre has become standardised and that current bestsellers are “far from unsettling their readers” (ibid.). As Joanna Russ explains, when writers work in the same genre, i.e. use the same big scenes or ‘gimmicks’ or ‘elements’ or ‘ideas’ or ‘worlds’ (similar locales and kinds of plots lead to similar high points), they are using the same fantasy. Once used in art, once brought to light as it were, the effect of the fantasy begins to wane, and the scene embodying it begins to wear out. (“Wearing” 47) One could therefore get the impression that dystopian fiction has neglected one of the “commonplaces of the history of art” (ibid.), namely “that art changes when society changes” (ibid.). Readers, especially those interested in the dia‐ logue between literature and culture expect the former to tackle and illuminate pressing social and political issues. Not only since the so-called ethical turn in the 1990s, literature should again “engage[…] earnestly with real-world problems” (cf. Gibbons). Yet, the literary production of dystopias seems to have declined that wish: the great majority of works - besides Cyberpunk 4 and the Critical Eutopia / Dystopia as a progressive version of classical dystopian fiction - has missed the opportunity to adapt to the reality of the 21 st century. As a conse‐ quence of our familiarity with popular tropes of science fiction, “these visions of the ‘new world’ no longer shock us, they do not strike our sensibilities” (Galt‐ seva and Rodnyanskaya 294). 5 By now, we have grown accustomed to Big Broth‐ er’s observing gaze - or as Jessica Winter pointedly maintains, “we are become Big Brother” (“Happens”). 14 I. Introduction: Dystopia Today 6 In “Reflections on What Remains of Zamyatin’s We” (2003), Darko Suvin states that due to changed extraliterary circumstances, Zamyatin’s novel has forfeited its relevance. Suvin argues “that the central emotional and notional axis indicated by [the novel], the opposition of positive individuality to negative collectivity of State centralization, doesn’t seem relevant anymore: both of its poles are by now untenable” (“Reflections” 59). He thus arrives at a similar conclusion as Moylan, thereby adding to the discourse about the datedness of classical dystopian fiction. Yet it is not only illogical to celebrate classical dystopian fiction as a “fruitful, constructive form of resistance” as it is currently done by booksellers, readers, and critics alike (cf. Kean) despite the apparent uniformity of the genre, but also dangerous. Literary scholars like Tom Moylan criticise, for instance, classical dystopian writing for its oversimplification of the current socio-economic and political reality: The critical logic of the classical dystopia is […] a simplifying one. It doesn’t matter that an economic regime drives the society; it doesn’t matter that a cultural regime of interpellation shapes and directs the people; for social evil to be named, and resisted, is nothing but the modern state in and of itself. Even as late as Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, the state-run fire company that burns books and executes readers is fore‐ grounded, not the processes of the reification and commodification that characterize the controlled society of Bradbury’s America. (“Moment” 136) Moylan thus accuses dystopian fiction of having long ignored relevant processes of social, economic, and political dimensions, while having barked up the wrong ‘state’ tree. For him, criticism of state has been misguided for it ignores the basic living conditions in the West and around the globe. Similarly, Christine Lehnen comments on the changed reality in her survey Defining Dystopia (2015) and claims that at least in the West, “[t]otalitarian regimes have become so rare that it is surprising to find them so often in the new ‘young adult dystopian literature,’ particularly because it is read […] by young people who were born after 1990 and have never had any experience let alone contact […] with totalitarian gov‐ ernments” (131). Lehnen is right to identify the obvious paradox here: although totalitarian governments have largely disappeared from the socio-cultural re‐ ality of Western readers, they are still to be found at the centre of Western dystopian writing. 6 In this respect, Zygmunt Bauman diagnoses the shortcom‐ ings of this type of dystopian fiction as follows: We are naturally inclined to spy out in the contemporary arrangements of power a new and improved rendition of old and basically unchanged panoptical techniques. We tend to overlook the fact that the majority of the population has no longer either 15 I. Introduction: Dystopia Today 7 The following example by Peter E. Firchow perfectly illustrates the approach not to take, i.e. how we should not think about dystopian literature: “[t]hese days, no matter what one might think of our devotion to consumerism, one can still say that, comparatively speaking, it is fortunate that O’Brien - or whatever name an equivalent contemporary sadist might be operating under - is more likely to be found playing some virtual-reality chainsaw video game than conducting electric shock sessions in Room 101” (117 f.; cf. also Crouch, Welt 51). Dystopia should precisely not be consumed as an escapist, worst-case scenario with readers being grateful that ‘comparatively speaking’ their reality did not turn out as malevolent as its literary projection thereof but as a starting point for social reform. 8 Dystopian imageries, metaphors, and typical plot elements, which used to warn readers, are now exploited for economic purposes: in 2017, Budweiser broadcast a commercial for its beer, especially tailored for the Chinese market. It follows the paradigms of dys‐ topian fiction set by Nineteen Eighty-Four et al. to the letter. The audience is introduced to a bleak, grey world defined by the uniformity of its members living in a skyscraper. Tides start to turn once the female protagonist ‘awakens’ after drinking a Budweiser (a parody of the emancipation process): now she enjoys the power to break free and join “the Rebellion” - a bunch of partying kids on the top floor. Angela Doland sum‐ marises the ‘message’ of the campaign as follows: “[i]n this dystopian Sci-Fi film from Budweiser, beer can set you free.” Similar campaigns have been launched by Apple for the introduction of its Macintosh in 1984 (alluding directly to Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, cf. Taube) or by Taco Bell in 2015 (cf. Griswold): “[t]apping into Cold War-era propaganda imagery along with Orwellian and ‘Hunger Games’ themes” (Mor‐ rison), the marketing office of the fast food empire gave Big Brother the painted clown face of Ronald McDonald in order to advertise their new breakfast menu. the need or the chance to be dragged through the drilling fields of yore. (Globalization 49) Having identified the wrong point of attack, i.e. dystopia’s continued focus on state structures and totalitarianism, Bauman continues to accuse dystopia of complicity. 7 He insists that not posing the right questions, i.e. not addressing the most urgent issues, results in an escapist attitude legitimising the status quo: “not asking certain questions is pregnant with more dangers than failing to answer the questions already on the official agenda, [since] asking the wrong kind of questions all too often helps to avert eyes from the truly important issues” (ibid. 5; cf. also Schmeink, Biopunk 67). In this respect, the classical dys‐ topian genre is doing its audience a great disservice, since a great deal of dys‐ topian fiction can be accused of “not asking certain questions.” Young adult dys‐ topias like Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games (2008) are enormously successful yet ignore the fact that the basis for dystopian fiction has changed. Big Brother and his alternative facts are no longer a source of fear or warning. 8 On the contrary: “[w]e have met Big Brother, and he is us” (Grossman). This leads Ulf Abraham to conclude that “these works of fiction seem rather old-fashioned and 16 I. Introduction: Dystopia Today 9 See Susan Buck-Morss’ Dreamworld and Catastrophe (2000) for an elaboration on the question how economics and politics came to be viewed as two separate dimensions of human life. 10 See also Stiglitz 323, Csicsery-Ronay 220, Jung 13, 87, Hardt and Negri, Dasgupta, and Castells. out-of-date. One could get the impression that dystopia - in itself the prede‐ cessor of historical [e]utopia - is already outdated” (125, own translation; cf. also Haufschild and Hanenberger 51). The prevailing mood in both Western academic and public discourse seems to suggest that the continued interest of classical dystopian fiction - with its focus on political entities - is anachronistic for totalitarianism has disappeared from the socio-cultural reality of most Western readers. In fact, neoliberalism and globalisation have been gnawing away at the power and influence of Western nation states for decades. 9 Many sociologists, political scientists, and journalists have analysed the descent of the nation-state, tracing its loss of in‐ fluence and attributing the decline of nation states to an ever more powerful economic system fashioned according to the imperatives originated within ne‐ oliberal capitalism. 10 For David Held (“Regulating Globalization,” 2000), the re‐ configuration of national and international politics has started with the emer‐ gence of supranational structures and globalisation (cf. 396). He diagnoses that the “fate of peoples are determined increasingly by complex processes that stretch across […] borders” (ibid. 395). Reluctant to speak of the decline of nation states, Held asserts that while globalisation transforms the nature of national power, states remain powerful players of international standing. King and Kendall offer a moderate opinion on this topic, stating that although the modern Western state has lost its power monopoly, it will also maintain its relevance: Globalization, for example, with the growth of worldwide financial integration in finance, currency, capital and other markets, and the virtually instantaneous move‐ ment of huge private funds between territories, threatens domestic and popular dem‐ ocratic power. Multilateral and international governance regimes, and the rise of so‐ cial, cultural and legal issues around human rights and ecology especially, also raise questions about, if not actually the demise of the nation state, then certainly the severe attenuation of its authority. (239) Yet, others disagree: Ulrich Seeber argues that “economic globalization makes national structures increasingly superfluous” (“Nation” 56), while Anderson and Cavanagh embellish their opinion on the perceived decline of the nation state with impressive examples: “General Motors is now bigger than Denmark; Daim‐ 17 I. Introduction: Dystopia Today 11 See also Saskia Sassen’s “The State and Globalization” (2003), 244 f. 12 See David Harvey’s A Brief History of Neoliberalism (2005) for a survey of the history of neoliberalism. 13 Following Alessandra Boller, this work is going to evaluate dystopian fiction as a genre transcending national boundaries (cf. 1). Since these more recent dystopian novels oc‐ cupy themselves with developments beyond the state, an interand transnational ap‐ proach is not only logical, but also imperative in order to comment on the similarities in style and content these novels exhibit. lerChrysler is bigger than Poland; Royal Dutch / Shell is bigger than Venezuela; IBM is bigger than Singapore; and Sony is bigger than Pakistan” (3), concluding that “[t]he 1999 sales of each of the top five corporations (General Motors, Wal-Mart, Exxon Mobil, Ford Motor, and DaimlerChrysler) are bigger than the GDP ’s of 182 countries” (ibid.). The picture Anderson and Cavanagh paint is likely to be even more drastic today. After all, the world of 1999 had not yet seen the rise of global giants like Facebook, Google, and Co., today’s most prominent global and financial players, continuing to replace the power of states (cf. Grosser). 11 To summarise, independent of political opinion or perspective, scholars agree that nation states “weakened by networks of money, power and information” (Ben-Refa’el and Sternberg 13) inevitably give way to global move‐ ments beyond their influence - the results being that “the life conditions of most citizens are deteriorating” (ibid.). 12 As Darko Suvin diagnoses, “[w]e have gone through - the globe is still going through - a change of Leviathans that rule and subsume us” (“Reflections” 52). These new Leviathans (a term Suvin borrows from Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan from 1651) are a “corporate capital substitute” (ibid. 58), global actors in a network of financial and economic ties, which have challenged the state’s monopoly of power - in real life and in dystopian litera‐ ture. This analysis aims to identify precisely this shift, from state totalitarianism to free market capitalism, in the focus and the agenda of the dystopian genre. It concentrates on five dystopian texts in particular which have reacted to Suvin’s new Leviathans, put them at the hearts of their dystopian realities, and thus have attempted to update the dystopian genre accordingly. These contemporary texts (all published after the year 2000) are especially progressive and subversive and push the boundaries established by classical dystopian fiction: Dave Eggers’ The Circle (2013), Margaret Atwood’s The Heart Goes Last (2015), M. T. Ander‐ son’s Feed (2002), David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas (2004), and Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go (2005). 13 Next to the fact that all of these novels do no longer feature a traditional state and its representatives as antagonist but concentrate on free market capitalism as the source and origin of the dystopian world, they also surprise readers with the violation of further genre hallmarks. Noteworthy 18 I. Introduction: Dystopia Today is the absence of rebels in all these novels, meaning that these texts omit the traditional subplot of resistance: rebellion against a dystopian system is either non-existent or side-lined to the margins of the narrative and thus into ineffec‐ tiveness. Furthermore, despite their differences in terms of genre, target audi‐ ence, style and length, these five novels can be placed on a continuum which nicely shows the progress which has been made within the genre and how far dystopian fiction has deviated from the traditional core as exemplified by Nine‐ teen Eighty-Four et al. To do so, the analysis will start with the novel closest to the typical dystopian schema (Eggers’ The Circle) and conclude with the novel which has trodden almost entirely new paths (Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go). The initial impetus that has prompted this project was to offer an analysis of the effects the absence of rebels has on these narratives; to investigate the text-internal and cultural potential the changes listed above have on dystopian fiction; and to explore the complex relationship between the genre of dystopia and the formulation of criticism and alternatives. I will argue that by delving into the absence of rebels and dissidents, and thus by shrinking away from ap‐ plying a simplistic black and white pattern of good and bad, these texts force readers to leave the well-trodden (analytical) paths of classical dystopian fiction and thereby try to rejuvenate the genre. Furthermore, written in the context of the latent Fukuyamaist notion of the ‘End of History’ and Mark Fisher’s ‘capi‐ talist realism,’ they do not offer ready-made intradiegetic alternative worlds and solutions (as classical dystopian fiction does), but urge readers to explore the possible alternatives to the dystopian world presented to them on their own. Moreover, they map out the contradictions of contemporary neoliberal capi‐ talism and thereby voice a critique based on ecological and ethical implications, highlighting the system’s destructive consequences for the planet and its human population. Ultimately, they modify and change the paradigms of the genre on a content level to be a more accurate reflection of the 21 st century than the reflections of Orwell or Huxley - despite their timeless character - could ever be. Very few researchers have yet paid attention to this new kind of dystopian fiction. The focus of critical research still lies on the reproduction of knowledge about classical dystopian fiction rather than examining the radical modifications of the genre. In general, most researchers limit their corpora of research to works of fiction produced before the year 2000. In his comprehensive work Die anti-utopische Tradition (2001). Stephan Meyer recapitulates the motif of the rebel and its defining quality for dystopian fiction by looking at novels published before the 1950s, thereby ignoring a vast proportion of the canon. Equally ex‐ tensive but equally limited (in this case, to fiction written before 1980) is M. Keith 19 I. Introduction: Dystopia Today Booker’s survey Dystopian Literature (1994). Moreover, Booker states that “[v]ir‐ tually any literary work that contains an element of social or political criticism” (3) can be classified as dystopian, including works like James Joyce’s Dubliners (1914). His anthology thus deteriorates into a rather oversimplified account of the genre, lacking a clearly defined scholarly access to dystopian fiction. Also restricted to the classics and descriptive rather than analytical is Julia Hachtel’s Die Entwicklung des Genres Antiutopie (2007), which pays attention to Huxley’s Brave New World and Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, among others. While David Stock (Modern Dystopian Fiction and Political Thought, 2019) focuses on the intriguing history of dystopia and critique, he reduces his approach to books written half a century ago, with Katharine Burdekin’s (alias Murray Burdekin’s) Swastika Night (1940) as his most recent object of study. David Lorenzo uses dystopian classics to reflect critically on political beliefs and ways of life in his Cities at the End of the World (2014), yet equally limits his area of research to classical dystopian fiction. While the encyclopaedic surveys by Mark Bould (The Routledge Companion to Science Fiction, 2010), Gregory Claeys (The Cambridge Companion to Utopian Literature, 2010), M. Keith Booker and Anne-Marie Thomas (The Science Fiction Handbook, 2009) or Edward James and Farah Mend‐ lesohn (The Cambridge Companion to Science Fiction, 2003) offer a thorough in‐ troduction to the classics of the genre, they focus on the canon, providing an introductory basis for those starting out in the field of research on utopian fic‐ tion. Eckart Voigts-Virchow and Alessandra Boller are one step ahead. They in‐ clude contemporary dystopian fiction in their study Dystopia, Science Fiction, Post-Apocalypse - Classics - New Tendencies - Model Interpretations (2015) such as Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go or Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games. However, they blur the generic definitions of post-apocalyptic fiction and dys‐ topia too much when they refer to Cormac McCarthy’s apocalyptic nightmare The Road (2006) as ‘post-apocalyptic dystopia.’ The same is true for Worlds Gone Awry. Essays on Dystopian Fiction (2018) edited by Han, Triplett, and Anthony. While both Alessandra Boller in Rethinking ‘the Human’ in Dystopian Times (2018) and Elena Zeißler in Dunkle Welten (2008) have correctly identified the need for a new classification of dystopian fiction by advocating a focus on newer works of dystopian fiction such as Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam trilogy (2003-2013) or even post-colonial dystopias such as Albert Wendt’s Black Rainbow (1992), the latter’s structuralist approach remains unconvincing. Zeißler’s classification system differentiates, for instance, between feminist and postmodern dystopias, thereby ignoring the fact that these two categories might be applied at the same time. Christine Lehnen (Defining Dystopia, 2015) also 20 I. Introduction: Dystopia Today attempts to redefine the genre. Having identified the generic boundaries as being too narrow and arguing for a re-negotiation of the genre characteristics, she opts to build her reader-oriented classification on the premise whether the di‐ dactic appeal is fully recognized by the audience - a rather broad and uncritical classification since almost any literature can be described as ‘offering a warning’ ever since Horaz defined its general function as ‘prodesse et delectare.’ Enlightening, however, is the collection of essays published by Raffaella Bac‐ colini and Tom Moylan in Dark Horizons (2003). They critically engage with new developments of the genre outside the paradigm of state criticism. Tom Moylan is one of the first scholars to describe a paradigmatic change in dystopian fiction. His essay “State, Agency, and Dystopia in Kim Stanley Robinson’s Antarctica and Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Telling” (2003) should serve as a rudimentary basis for the current project; it describes the transition from a state-focused critique to criticism focused on neoliberal capitalism, globalisation, and net‐ work-thinking, which shape the society at the beginning of the 21 st century - tendencies progressive dystopian fiction undoubtedly reacts to. Also, Moyan’s work on the ‘critical utopia’ has undoubtedly influenced the ideas presented in this book. While research usually focuses purely on the content of dystopian writing, the meta-analysis of forms of critique has thus far largely escaped scholarly attention. This is the reason why the following thesis has a second aim (besides offering an explanation for the absent rebels and tracing the change from state totalitarianism to free market capitalism dystopia): it will analyse the prevailing modes of formulating critique within dystopian fiction in general. The basis for this differentiation is to be found in Rahel Jaeggi’s Kritik von Lebensformen (2014; Critique of Forms of Life, trans. 2018), a philosophical enquiry into what constitutes ‘the good life.’ Her terminology offers the subtle nuances necessary for categorising the process of voicing critique and is thus perfectly suited for a detailed look at how dystopian fiction approaches the socio-cultural reality of the 21 st century. Moreover, tracing the use of Jaeggi’s ‘external criticism’ and ‘immanent criticism’ in classical dystopian fiction and contemporary dystopian fiction respectively, this analysis will draw attention to a genealogical change in the formulation of critique within the dystopian canon. Connecting Jaeggi’s ‘immanent criticism’ and David Grewal’s ‘network power’ (Network Power, 2008), this analysis will examine the nature of power - a hallmark of dystopian writing - within free market capitalism. I will treat the dialectics between per‐ ceived freedom and actual freedom (‘voluntariness’) as a yardstick for deci‐ phering oppression within seemingly free neoliberal societies, and offer an ex‐ 21 I. Introduction: Dystopia Today planation for how and where coercion originates in systems that lack a Machiavellian centre of power. After the introduction of both the etymology and history of dystopian fiction in “The Dystopian Genre,” the chapter “Context, Criticism, and Rahel Jaeggi’s Critique of Forms of Life (2014)” will link classical dystopian fiction with ‘external criticism’ and demonstrate how this model is well suited to criticise structures like totalitarianism. In a second step, the analysis will juxtapose the tradition of classical dystopian writing to the texts produced at the beginning of the 21 st century, ending with the observation that ‘external criticism’ is replaced by ‘immanent criticism’ within certain novels. By elaborating on the observation that the socio-cultural reality of the 21 st century has changed dramatically (key developments include globalisation, neoliberal capitalism, and the resulting de‐ cline of the nation state), this analysis shall demonstrate how the construction and literary focus of selected contemporary dystopias published since the year 2000 has changed accordingly. Having set the necessary analytical parameters, the project will continue with the theoretical section which begins with the analysis of the five dystopian novels in question. By analysing the dystopian novels by Dave Eggers, Margaret Atwood, M. T. Anderson, David Mitchell, and Kazuo Ishiguro, this book aims to provide a critical approach to recent dystopian fiction that transcends its traditional genre boundaries. Afterwards, this study will conclude with a re-contextualisation of contemporary dystopian fiction within the wider framework of the utopian genre, introducing the terminology of ‘blueprint dystopias’ versus ‘iconoclastic dystopias,’ before discussing the eutopian potential within the dystopias defined by their absent rebels. 22 I. Introduction: Dystopia Today II. The Dystopian Genre In order to comprehend the changes and generic modifications this work will examine, it is vital to understand the dystopian genre, its terminologies, as well as its complex history and intertextual relationships. This chapter will therefore provide a short introduction to dystopian fiction and a brief overview of the most important topics and themes, forms and functions of the dystopian genre before attempting to clarify the confusion associated with the terms ‘utopia,’ ‘eutopia,’ and ‘dystopia.’ The chapter “Context, Criticism, and Rahel Jaeggi’s Critique of Forms of Life (2014)” will then conclude this section by introducing Rahel Jaeggi’s taxonomy of criticism, which provides the theoretical backbone necessary to structure not only the brief introduction to the three canonical novels by Orwell, Huxley, and Zamyatin but also the more extensive analysis of contemporary dystopian writing. 1. Genre, Etymology, and Definition of Utopian, Eutopian, and Dystopian Fiction [T]here must be a link between the forms of literature and the ways in which, to quote Erich Auerbach, ‘we try to give some kind of order and design to the past, the present and the future.’ (Kermode 93) Ever since Aristotle dichotomised literature into tragedy and comedy, literary studies have faced the challenge of generic analysis (cf. K. Williams 137). Even though genres are merely an artificial, constructed set of conventions and based on random categorisation, they and their boundaries are “obviously important,” as Zymner puts it crudely (7, own translation). In a similar manner, Darko Suvin argues (1) that no field of studies and rational inquiry can be investigated unless and until it is at least roughly delimited; (2) that there exist literary genres, as socioaesthetic and not metaphysical entities; (3) that these entities have an inner life and logic of their own, which do not exclude but on the contrary presuppose a dialectical permeability to themes, attitudes, and paradigms from other literary genres, science, philosophy, and everyday socioeconomic life; (Metamorphoses 16) 14 See also Suvin, Metamorphoses 17, and Zymner 7. In an equal manner, Fredric Jameson goes on to define genres as “essentially literary institutions, or social contracts between a writer and a specific public, whose function is to specify the proper use of a particular cultural artifact” (quoted in Moylan, Impossible 30). This social contract Jameson introduces has more than only one side to it: “like all genre fiction” (Russ, “Wearing” 46), dys‐ topia is subject to certain rules and regulations, meaning that it “is a compro‐ mise” (ibid.) between generic conventions, reader expectations, and the writers’ urge to create something new. Properties of genres are, according to Ansgar Nünning and Astrid Erll, “elements of cultural memory and as such belong to the common knowledge of societies, which individuals acquire through social‐ ization and culturalization” (17), meaning that readers have a fine sense for genre literature and concomitant elements. These conventions may not be underesti‐ mated since they “steer the reading process” (Wesseling quoted in ibid.) and therefore the expectations of readers. Of course, one must always keep in mind that genres are contingent con‐ structs, that is, cognitive maps based on artificial categories created by literary scholars. However, as Richard Taylor states, “[w]ith a clear understanding of existing categories a student of literature is better able to recognise essential characteristics and place individual works in relation to others of the same kind” (40). 14 Emphasising the “essential characteristics” of genres, this quote presup‐ poses a normative understanding of genres. Yet, scholars should be aware that there can never be a ‘right’ or ‘truthful’ definition of any genre, since genres are always the product of cultural discussion (cf. Zymner 10). Every new addition to an existing genre stimulates a dialectical process of renegotiating genre boundaries. As Suvin maintains, “[l]iterary genres exist in historically precise and curious ecological units, interacting and intermixing, imitating and canni‐ balizing each other” (Metamorphoses 21). Genres are therefore to be understood as abstract organisms that adapt to their environments and are subject to change, re-evaluation, and modification with every new work of fiction that is added to an existing canon (cf. Abraham 43). The canon must therefore offer “durable frames of reference [to] accommodate change: the variations in plot, character‐ isation or setting in each imitation inflect the audiences’ generic expectations by introducing new elements or transgressing old ones” (Maltby quoted in K. Williams 137 f.), yet stay true to a more abstract generic core. Utopian writing is born at the crossroads of various genres: it is related, first and foremost, to both Science Fiction and post-apocalyptic writing, exchanging stock features, character constellations, as well as themes and symbols and 24 II. The Dystopian Genre 15 This is especially true in the context of dystopian writing, where authors often wel‐ comed the opportunity to mix different genres like the adventure novel, satire, fable etc. (cf. Firchow 11). thereby increasing the difficulty to differentiate between the genres. 15 To achieve maximum precision in the analysis of current dystopian fiction, it is vital to initiate this project with an exploration of the factors that distinguish the three genres, before clarifying the generic convention surrounding the concepts ‘utopia,’ ‘eutopia,’ and ‘dystopia.’ This necessary but difficult categorisation pro‐ vides the basis for a nuanced investigation into the agenda of contemporary dystopian fiction. Utopia, Science Fiction, and Post-Apocalypse With his observations that dystopias appear “often in connection with science fictional and / or apocalyptic scenarios” (79), Rüdiger Heinze hints at the great generic confusion surrounding utopia’s relationship to science fiction - a nexus Darko Suvin captured under the term ‘literature of cognitive estrangement.’ Often dismissed as trivial and unserious literature, Suvin explores in Metamor‐ phoses of Science Fiction the ways in which science fiction is “capable of achieving profound and probing insights into the principal dilemmas of political life” (Paik 1). He differentiates between naturalistic and estranged fiction, extending from the “ideal extreme of exact recreation of the author’s empirical environment to exclusive interest in a strange newness” (Suvin, Metamorphoses 4). Conse‐ quently, he groups together those genres working within the mode of estrange‐ ment (a device similar to the Brechtian Verfremdungseffekt) calling it “an or‐ ganon […] for exploring the novum” (cf. ibid. ix). This is where utopia, “both an independent aunt and a dependent daughter of sf ” (Suvin, “Theses” 188; cf. also Paik 3), comes together with science fiction. Both provide “a shocking and dis‐ tancing mirror above the all too familiar reality” (Suvin, Metamorphoses 54). At the same time, science fiction and utopia are as fully “opposed to supernatural or metaphysical estrangement as [they are] to naturalism or empiricism” (ibid. 7), thereby erecting a barrier to other genres such as the Fantastic and the Gothic. Furthermore, both, utopia and science fiction, are interested in the present al‐ though they are set in the future (cf. Gold quoted in Amis 64). As close as utopian writing is to its “niece and mother” science fiction, so undoubted is its kinship to another future-oriented genre, namely post-apoca‐ lyptic fiction (cf. Schoßböck 61; also Berger 9). Dystopia has much in common with post-apocalyptic fiction since both adapt, shape, and express fears and anxieties and “put forward a total critique of any existing social order” (Berger 7). Yet, apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic narratives mainly focus on the “imag‐ 25 1. Genre, Etymology, and Definition of Utopian, Eutopian, and Dystopian Fiction 16 In the new millennium, the genre seems to have found once more fertile soil: fears and anxieties concerning “the globalized economy intensified by the end of the Cold War; the international recognition of the menace of anthropogenic global warming; the at‐ tacks of 9 / 11 and the subsequent War on Terror; the growing disavowal within intel‐ lectual circles of postmodernity” (Hicks, Apocalyptic 2) continue to inspire writers of post-apocalyptic fiction. ination of disaster” (Sontag quoted in Booker and Thomas 53); or to be more precise, natural and man-made phenomena that bring mankind to the brink of extinction. Eckart Voigts talks about the disclosing quality of (post-)apocalyptic fiction, hinting at the original meaning of the Greek word ‘ἀποκαλύπτω’ (‘apo‐ kalypto,’ meaning ‘to uncover,’ cf. “Introduction” 5; cf. also Ketterer 5). Just like the biblical Book of Revelation, commonly referred to as ‘The Apocalypse,’ post-apocalyptic fiction often indulges in portrayals of Ulrich Beck’s ‘icons of destruction,’ “[n]uclear disaster, genetic engineering and ecological catastrophe” (Beck quoted in Lindner 374). Widely thought to have originated with Mary Shelley’s bleak last man standing narrative The Last Man (1826), post-apoca‐ lyptic fiction has particularly flourished in the nuclear age and after (atomic) pollution threatened the environment. 16 Despite having been already declared dead, post-apocalyptic fiction still appeals to audiences around the world (cf. Mousoutzanis 461; cf. also Horn 12 ff.) - especially on screen: while post-apoc‐ alyptic novels are again found on international best-seller lists (e.g. Emily St. Mandel’s Station Eleven, 2015; Octavia Butler’s The Parable of the Sower, 2000; or Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, 2007), it is first and foremost TV -series like The Walking Dead, (2010-), blockbuster movies like The Day After Tomorrow (2004, directed by Roland Emmerich) or I am Legend (2008, directed by Francis Lawrence) and computer games such as The Last of Us (Naughty Dog, 2013) or - most recently - Cyberpunk 2077 ( CD Projekt RED , 2020) that fascinate millions of fans. Striking, however, is that most post-apocalyptic fiction - other than dystopian fiction, for instance - does not work directly within the mode of extrapolating from the present. As Susanna Layh observes, most end time narratives from the late 20 th century do not establish clearly identifiable causal-logical links between the preand post-apocalyptic society, but rather rely on general themes such as diseases and pandemic viruses as well as natural disasters such as earthquakes, flooding, or meteoric impacts (cf. 181). Thereby they ignore the search for ex‐ planations how the present could possibly turn into this future and thereby force the reader to direct her attention away from the search for causality towards 26 II. The Dystopian Genre 17 According to Frank Kermode, apocalyptic thinking is popular due to its narrational qualities. The universal end of all things provides a narrative end to the human tale of existence. In fact, throughout history “man has always thought of his own age as the dark before the dawn” (Ketterer 11), demonstrating the need for closure: “[a]nd of course we have it now, the sense of an ending. It has not diminished, and is as endemic to what we call modernism as apocalyptic utopianism is to political revolution” (Kermode 98). The sense of an ending of the human existence can thus be read as an anthropological necessity, providing humans with an end for their own narrative of existence, thus helping them to construct a coherent sense of being in the world - one reason of many why every age is defined by a certain mood of doom: “[w]e are ready, therefore, to accept all manner of evidence that ours is a genuine end” (ibid. 96). 18 See also Kumar, Utopianism 1, and Zeißler 15. the diagnosis of human relationships after the catastrophe (ibid.; see also Schoßböck 65, 85-96). 17 Despite their difference in interest and objective, post-apocalyptic fiction and dystopias are often mixed up and mistaken for each other, especially in the context of mainstream media. Even Margaret Atwood, acclaimed author of dys‐ topian and post-apocalyptic fiction, conflates the two genres: in an interview, she once said “[a]ll dystopias are telling you is to make sure you’ve got a lot of canned goods and a gun” (Interview with Higgins), thereby falsely attributing some sort of eschatological quality to dystopian fiction. Kunkel tries to formulate the differences between the two genres by hinting at the nature of the future described: on the one hand, “[t]he end of the world or apocalypse typically brings about the collapse of order; dystopia, on the other hand, envisions a sinister perfection of order. […] dystopia is a nightmare of authoritarian or totalitarian rule, while the end of the world is a nightmare of anarchy” (“Dystopia” 90, em‐ phasis in the original). He thus correctly identifies the nature of “order” in the two respective societies as the defining element. Defining Utopia, Eutopia, and Dystopia Although most people seem to have an intuitive understanding about the rela‐ tional characteristics of eutopian and dystopian writing, these concepts are no‐ toriously difficult to pin down in practice. This is due to two reasons in partic‐ ular: their linguistic status as neologisms, and their generic co-dependency. In order to approach a reliable definition of dystopia, it is advisable to begin by analysing the etymological connection between eutopia and dystopia, starting with the former: ‘utopia’ has entered the English language as a book title, namely Thomas More’s Utopia, published in 1516. Originally used as a word play with the Greek language and its English pronunciation, i.e. between ‘ou-topos’ (no place) and ‘eu-topos’ (good place; cf. Seeber, Selbstkritik 55), 18 the word has mi‐ 27 1. Genre, Etymology, and Definition of Utopian, Eutopian, and Dystopian Fiction 19 Interestingly, More did not originally plan on using the word ‘Utopia.’ As Fátima Vieira recounts, More originally preferred the Latin ‘Nusquama.’ While semantically equiva‐ lent to ‘utopia’ (‘nusquam’ translates to ‘nowhere,’ ‘in no place,’ ‘on no occasion’), ‘nus‐ quam’ differs in one fundamental aspect: “if he had called his imagined island Nus‐ quama, he would simply be denying the possibility of the existence of such a place” (4), thus reducing the deliberate multi-referentiality of the concept. 20 To complicate matters, More’s neologism has started a life of its own in different dis‐ ciplines and areas of research. Political and social sciences, philosophy, as well as history and anthropology have made use of it and consequently added different layers of meaning (cf. Blaim 1; also Levitas, “For Utopia” 26). Today, the word ‘Utopia’ or ‘utopian’ is to be found in various contexts and disciplines that have altered its original meaning: Susanna Layh observes that the only consensus between the different disciplines using and working with the term ‘utopia,’ is that there is no consensus about a generally accepted and defined meaning (cf. 20). Seeber even goes so far as to speak of an infla‐ tionary extension of the term (cf. Selbstkritik 56). It has come to stand for the opposite of reality (cf. in ibid.), “social dreaming” (Fitting, “Short History” 126), or is used as a synonym for “fanciful, unrealistic, impractical” (Sargent 22). 21 For a detailed discussion on possible terms see also Hartmut Weber’s Die Außenseiter im anti-utopischen Roman (1 f.), and Dunja M. Mohr’s Worlds Apart? Dualism and Trans‐ gression in Contemporary Female Dystopias (29 f.). grated from one individual work to denominate the entire genre (cf. Assheuer 45; also Weber 5). 19 Since its beginnings, utopia has commonly been used within literary studies to denote the description of an ideal society fashioned according to the views and opinions of its author. 20 By contrast, dystopia is a much younger term. It was first documented in 1868, when John Stuart Mill used the term in a speech to the House of Commons (cf. Shiau). Its morphological structure, “dys” meaning “bad, abnormal, and diseased” (Vieira 16), and “topos” meaning place, yet is like Thomas More’s original neologism. While the term utopia / eutopia has generally been accepted as proper termi‐ nology, scholars still debate about the appropriate denomination of its darker twin: numerous terms compete its supreme use within literary studies. Inter‐ estingly, these terms still use the neologism ‘utopia’ as their root (cf. Vieira 3). Konrad Tuzinski offers his readers a collection of the following terms, ‘pessi‐ mistic utopia,’ ‘apocalyptic utopia,’ ‘inverted utopia,’ or ‘Groteskutopie,’ before eventually settling for the term ‘devolutionary utopia’ himself (cf. 6 f.); Peter Fitting records the use of ‘negative utopia’ as well as ‘anti-utopia’ (cf. “Short History” 126), while Elena Zeißler summarises the last 50 years of dystopian research and confusion of terminology by gathering even more possible terms - among them ‘Gegenutopie,’ ‘Mätopie,’ or ‘Cacotopia’ (cf. 15). 21 Yet, Zeißler, eventually, settles for the term ‘dystopia,’ thereby following an emerging con‐ sensus within utopian scholarship. ‘Dystopia’ is not only recognised by a ma‐ jority of readers and researchers alike but also “denotes a broader concept, al‐ 28 II. The Dystopian Genre 22 The term ‘anti-utopia’ needs a moment of special attention in this context. Generally used for “that large class of works, both fictional and expository, which are directed against Utopia and utopian thought” (in Baccolini and Moylan, “Introduction” 5), its morphological construction hints at its opposition to the word ‘utopia’ (Sargent 9). As Ruth Levitas argues in “For Utopia: The (Limits of the) Utopian Function in Late Cap‐ italist Society” (2007), “[a]nti-utopianism involves an active denial of the merits of imagining alternative ways of living, particularly if they constitute serious attempts to argue that the world might or should be otherwise” (30). It differs thus insofar from dystopia as that it takes an oppositional stance to the genre of eutopian writing in itself, questioning the legitimacy of such an endeavour in the first place (cf. Angenot 129). lowing criticism of utopia, but also [deals] directly […] with contemporary social evils and posits thus an independent term far less linked with utopia / eutopia” (Mohr, Worlds 28 f.) - an advantage that other concepts lack for they are mor‐ phologically too close to the original neologism. Increasingly, ‘dystopia’ has become the standard term. This consensus is re‐ flected in the research by the most influential dystopian scholars, who all settle on the term, when attempting to define the genre boundaries. In Scraps of the Untainted Sky (2000), Tom Moylan defines dystopia according to its alignment to “militant pessimism [and] resigned pessimism,” whereas anti-utopia is de‐ fined by “despair” (157). However, he is careful not to give the impression of constructing a binary opposition between utopia and anti-utopia. Moylan argues for a continuum which stretches between the two poles - with dystopia being the “literary form that works between these historical antinomies and draws on the textual qualities of both subgenres” (ibid. 147, emphasis in the original). Whereas Moylan defines ‘dystopia’ as a hybrid structure, Lyman Tower Sargent reserves the term for a clear category of works. In “The Three Faces of Uto‐ pianism Revisited” (1994), he writes that ‘positive utopia’ is defined as “a non-existent society described in considerable detail and normally located in time and space that the author intended a contemporaneous reader to view as considerably better than the society in which that reader lived” (9), whereas ‘dystopia’ is defined as “a non-existent society […] intended [to be viewed] as considerably worse” (ibid.). Rejecting the idea of perfection as a definitional category because “there are in fact very few eutopians that present societies that the author believes to be perfect” (ibid.), he claims that the defining characteristic for his categories ‘eutopia,’ ‘dystopia,’ ‘utopian satire,’ ‘anti-utopia,’ and ‘critical utopia’ is authorial intention - while being aware that one can never be abso‐ lutely sure about it - and diminishes the readers’ role in assessing the text. 22 Although both Moylan and Sargent offer convincing definitions for both ‘eu‐ topia’ and ‘dystopia,’ this analysis follows the hands-on definitions offered by Darko Suvin, who constructs a taxonomy based on his ‘radically different’ prin‐ 29 1. Genre, Etymology, and Definition of Utopian, Eutopian, and Dystopian Fiction 23 See also Tuzinski 181, Moylan, Scraps 150, Zeißler 23, and the definition by Voßkamp 16. ciple. He defines utopia as “the construction of a particular community where socio-political institutions, norms, and individual relationships between people are organized according to a radically different principle than in the author’s community” (Suvin, “Theses” 188, my emphasis), thereby reserving ‘utopia’ as a categorial denominator that includes both eutopian and dystopian writing. He then goes on to differentiate between ‘eutopia,’ “organized according to a radi‐ cally more perfect principle than in the author’s community” and ‘dystopia,’ “or‐ ganized according to a radically less perfect principle” (ibid. 189). Yet again, the category of dystopia can be subdivided into ‘anti-utopia,’ a form that is “explic‐ itly designed to refute a currently proposed eutopia” (ibid.), formulating a counter statement concerning utopias, and ‘simple dystopia,’ a more “straight‐ forward dystopia, that is, one which is not also an anti-utopia” (ibid.). Suvin thus bases his taxonomy of dystopias on the question whether they explicitly attack eutopian fiction or not, thereby providing the most suitable theoretical frame‐ work for this project. 2. The History of Dystopian Fiction The Golden Age is the most unlikely of all the dreams that have been, but for it men have given up their life and all their strength, for the sake of it prophets have died and been slain, without it the peoples will not live and cannot die. (Dostoevsky, A Raw Youth 501) Utopian fiction is a highly self-reflexive genre aware of its rich, dense tradition, its canonised conventions, and its modes of production and reception. To un‐ derstand this genre, it is imperative to comprehend its intrageneric connections, relations and criticism as well as its long tradition reaching back to the very roots of Western philosophical thought, both in the form of Greek philosophy and Judeo-Christian spiritual writings (cf. Han, Triplett, and Anthony, “Intro‐ duction” 3). 23 It permeates “a sense of [its] own specific tradition [i. e.] by the writer’s consciousness of what has gone before” (Ferns 16 f.). Yet, as Bernd Schulte-Middelich asserts, not only authors are expected to be versed in the canonised conventions of the genre but readers are subject to the same high demands (cf. 40): utopian writing expects its audience to be well read in the tradition and history of both subforms, eutopia and dystopia. In order to fully grasp the rich allusions and ongoing intertextual debate about the nature of the 30 II. The Dystopian Genre 24 Due to its long-standing history, eutopian dreaming and hoping might be considered an anthropological constant (cf. Houston; cf. also Firchow 1; also Atchison and Shames 7). In his opus magnum The Principle of Hope (1954-59), the German philosopher Ernst Bloch argues that “nobody has ever lived without daydreams” (3). Insisting on the teachability and perfectibility of daydreams into concrete proposals for changing the world, Bloch’s work calls for social and political activism - both in a concrete sense and as an intellectual endeavour - allowing us “to envisage the real, historical possibility” (Moir 204) of changing the world for the better. Insisting on the “unfinishedness of the material world” (Levitas, “Hope” 14), The Principle of Hope has to be read as “a phe‐ nomenological exploration of what [Bloch] called our ‘anticipatory consciousness’” (Moir 201). Hoping becomes a universal, cognitive exercise for a modern everyman. Equally, Cosimo Quarta and Daniele Procida argue that hope catapults humans “beyond purely sensible data” (159). Oscillating between the notion of speculation about the not-yetness of a potential future and informed expectation, hope “is the distinguishing mark par excellence [for humans], from which all the others derive, including, perhaps, even that of sapiens” (ibid. 160, emphasis in the original). Concomitantly, they offer an alternative term, which they find more adequate: homo utopicus (see also Booker and Thomas 75, Seeber, Wandlungen 4, Schulte-Middelich 40, and Zeißler 15). 25 See also Levitas, “For Utopia” 33 ff. radically different community, to borrow Suvin’s words once more, readers are advised to start their research at the beginning of the tradition (cf. Villgradter and Krey 353 f.). Dating back to 380-370 BC , Plato’s Politeia, a philosophical tractate written in the form of a Socratic dialogue, is one of the first fictional texts dedicated to the description of an ideal society that should secure a peaceful and perfected co-existence of all citizens of the state (cf. Pfister and Lindner 17; also Ferrari and T. Griffith xxiii.) 24 This society is governed by so called ‘Guardians,’ an “enlightened elite of specially trained, philosophically minded thinkers” (Booker and Thomas 75) tasked to watch over the strict moral and conduct rules introduced to foster a radically more perfect society: “there is no end to suffering […] for the human race, unless either philosophers become kings in our cities, or the people who are now called kings and rulers become, in the truest and most complete sense of the word, philosophers” (Politeia 175). Offering thoughts on the distribution of wealth, the institutionalisation of freedom, and the avoidance of oppression, Plato’s Politeia has been classified both as a work of moral and political philosophy (cf. Ferrari and T. Griffith xxiii), which continues to inspire political philosophy, ethics, and of course, utopian writing to this day. Despite its roots in ancient Greece, eutopia’s modern formulations constitute “an extension of the Enlightenment belief that the judicious application of reason and rationality could result in the essentially unlimited improvement of human society” (Booker, Impulse 4). 25 Thomas More’s already mentioned fic‐ tional travel report Utopia (clearly written in the tradition of Plato’s Politeia, cf. 31 2. The History of Dystopian Fiction 26 See Kumar, Utopianism 2 and Seed, Sci Fi 74. 27 Passages on eugenics, for instance, continue to spark discussions among readers and researchers alike, since they highlight the “potentially problematic nature of all pro‐ grammatic [e]utopian visions” (Booker and Thomas 75). Ferrari and T. Griffith, for in‐ stance, admit that some might view Plato’s writing as a “prescient charter for fascism” (xxiii). Utopia also is insofar comparable to Plato’s text as that it creates the identical Booker and Thomas 75) is thus usually considered to be the origin of eutopian writing. Reviving the tradition at the beginning of the 16 th century, Thomas More invents the character Raphael Hythloday (i.e. speaker of nonsense) to describe an ideal state system, lecturing his intraand extradiegetic audience on the ideal construction of a given society in terms of governance of citizens, distribution of wealth, or warfare (a badly hidden critique of England’s society in the 16 th century; cf. Assheuer 45). 26 Some ideas still resonate with contemporary readers, for instance More’s revolutionary claim that everyone should be provisioned with basic supplies, foreshadowing the current discourse about social welfare and benefits: “where all things be common to every man, it is not to be doubted that any man shall lack any thing necessary for his private uses, so that the common store, houses and barns, be sufficiently stored” (Utopia 119). Moreover, his plea to introduce proto-communism in the rudimentary form of “equal and just distribution of things” can rightfully be seen as revolutionary for his times (cf. Grace 186 f.; also Bruce xxi), challenging Christian doctrines and monarchy itself, and still attracts considerable attention within contemporary debates about the introduction of a universal basic income. Yet, despite their origin as eutopias, both texts, Plato’s Politeia and More’s Utopia introduce a rather restrictive system of governance, annihilating indi‐ vidual preferences and imposing restrictions on nearly every aspect of human life, such as working and leisure time, marriage and even eugenics in order to secure a peaceful and functioning co-existence of all citizens (cf. Utopia 89 f.). Plato, for instance, writes that “the best of either sex should be united with the best as often, and the inferior with the inferior, as seldom as possible” (quoted in Petzold 333). Passages like these of course scare off 21 st -century readers be‐ cause they read like an instruction of livestock breeding and are hard to stomach for an audience familiar with the atrocities committed in the 20 th century. The reason these texts are still being read is only because of the “historical-space-time of [the] text’s inception” (Suvin, “Theses” 189, emphasis in the original), granting them a certain benefit of doubt: although they have (partially) aged badly, they are still recognisably intended as explorations of radically more per‐ fect communities and have inspired generations of writers to follow their ex‐ ample. 27 32 II. The Dystopian Genre unease for readers of the 21 st century. By neglecting humanist ideals and human rights and instead foregrounding a utilitarian, almost totalitarian focus on the ‘greater good’ for society, contemporaries hesitate to classify Plato’s, and More’s work as thoroughly eutopian in nature. Lyman Tower Sargent stresses the historical contextuality and the fact that each eutopian or dystopian piece of writing is subject to specific cultural eval‐ uations depending of the time of its origin: “Fashions change in [e]utopias; most six‐ teenth-century eutopias horrify today’s reader even though the authors’ intentions are clear. On the other hand, most twentieth-century eutopias would be considered dysto‐ pias by a sixteenth-century reader and many of them would in all likelihood be burnt as works of the devil (5; cf. also Claeys and Sargent).” This discussion on the inherent dystopian nature of each eutopian proposal has a long tradition. Karl Popper, for in‐ stance, famously warned in The Open Society and its Enemies (1945) that the eutopian endeavour is fundamentally dystopian at its heart. As Claeys summarises Popper’s po‐ sition, “the desire to create a much improved society in which human behaviour was dramatically superior to the norm implies an intrinsic drift towards punitive methods of controlling behaviour which inexorably results in some form of police state” (“Ori‐ gins” 108; cf. also Levitas, “Pragmatism” and Seeber, “Handeln” 188). In his writing, Karl Popper links eutopia to oppression, claiming that the “[e]utopian impulse was itself inherently dystopian” (Claeys, “Origins” 108). Equally, Isaiah Berlin warned in his The Crooked Timber of Humanity (1959) that eutopia will inevitably “try […] to foist an artificial order on a reluctant humanity […] trying to fit human beings, like bricks, into a preconceived structure” (45). Also, in the 21 st century, Jay Winter employs the term “major utopians” to refer to those who “murdered millions of people in their efforts to transform the world” (Dreams 1). Ultimately, eutopia and dystopia seem to be a matter of perspective and agenda, which complicates its multifaceted generic relationship even further. The poet Max Beerbohm catches this paradox most fittingly in his short poem “In a Copy of More’s (or Shaw’s or Wells’ or Plato’s or anybody’s) Utopia”: “So this is utopia, is it? Well - / I beg your pardon; I thought it was Hell” (Beerbohm quoted Sargent 1). See also Alexander Neupert-Doppler’s brief survey on utopia’s relationship to the Critical Theory, “Critical Theory and Utopian Thought” (2018). Nowadays, More’s Utopia is recognised as the starting point of the develop‐ ment of various imaginary state descriptions, which have approached the phe‐ nomenology of the perfect city / state / community in their own respective ways, tainted by socio-cultural developments of their time of origin (cf. Weber 5; also Murphy, “Eutopia” 478). Customarily thought to be the most immediate reaction towards More’s work is Francis Bacon’s New Atlantis (1627) (cf. Pfister and Lindner 15). Regarded as a worthwhile addition to the canon, the unfinished text by the founding father of empirical science is characterised by a scientific ap‐ proach to social and political problems and the imagination of “new sciences and technologies yet to become reality” (Mohr, “Eco-Dystopia” 283). It has been called “one of the most optimistic imaginative projections of the beneficial im‐ pacts that science and technology might have on human society” (Booker, Im‐ pulse 5) because of its undivided focus on ethics and technology changing life for the better (cf. Murphy, “Eutopia” 479). “Bacon projects a highly specialized, 33 2. The History of Dystopian Fiction 28 See Seed, Sci Fi 74 and Tuzinski 39 f. unequal but affluent and efficient social order” (R. Williams 99; cf. Erzgräber, Utopie 14) into his eutopia set on an isolated island reminiscent of Arcadia. His city is governed by a benign king, Solamona, who “was wholly bent to make his kingdom and people happy” (New Atlantis 165). Favouring the arts and sciences, the king founded the island’s first university: Ye shall understand (my dear friends) that amongst the excellent acts of that king, one above all hath the pre-eminence. It was the erection and institution of an Order or Society which we call ‘Salomon’s House’; the noblest foundation (as we think) that ever was upon the earth; and the lanthorn of this kingdom. It is dedicated to the study of the Works and Creatures of God. (ibid. 167) Envisioning the structure and ideals of a modern university, Bacon celebrates the future as a world based on rationale and scientific discovery, devoted to the improvement of life. His fragment closes with a list of benefits science can pro‐ vide, promising the production of “[a]rtificial minerals and cements” and “new foods,” but also “[t]ransplanting of one species into another,” and even the “pro‐ longation of life” itself (ibid. 185 f.). Again, passages like these show how close eutopia can be to dystopia - in this example, to nightmarish genetic experiments that exhibit an almost Frankensteinian dimension. Yet this uncritical belief in the positive results of the application of scientific logic starts to crumble when the “maelstrom of the nineteenth century would dramatically transform speculative fiction” (Hammond, Cold War 4). The end of the 19 th century witnesses the ideological and literary deconstruction of eutopia as a concept (cf. Murphy, “Eutopia” 479). 28 What is usually referred to as ‘dys‐ topian turn’ denominates the slow process of ‘replacing’ eutopian with dysto‐ pian writing, that is a switch in popularity. While influential eutopias were, of course, still being written during that time - Edward Bellamy’s futuristic time travel tale Looking Backward: 2000-1887 (1888) must be mentioned here - it is the 19 th century that witnesses the rise of what Tom Moylan calls “literary uto‐ pia’s shadow”: dystopia “emerged as a literary form in its own right in the early 1900s“ (Scraps xi). In Erewhon (1872) for instance, - an anagram of “nowhere” and intertextual reference to More’s Utopia - Samuel Butler warns that “not all [e]utopias can be trusted” (Houston). His novel criticises the use of technology and banishes machines “altogether because of their tendency to tyrannize the men who made them” (Booker, Impulse 6). Oscillating between an eutopian and dystopian mode, the anonymously published novel criticises Victorian society, the Church, and Darwinian theories of evolution (cf. Hug 55). Yet, the rise of 34 II. The Dystopian Genre 29 Researchers and critics alike often take great pains to trace the literary relationships between three works of dystopian fiction, wondering, ‘who stole what from whom’? Orwell, for example, has been ‘accused’ of having worked ideas from Zamyatin’s We into his own novel, alongside others such as the relatively unknown What Might Have Been (1907) by Ernest Bramah (cf. Kimber). Ultimately, this question remains irrelevant for the current project, which considers all three novels as equally ground-breaking and genre-defining. dystopia is connected to two other names: H. G. Wells and his belief in social improvement and the satires thereof by E. M. Forster (cf. Seeber, “Handeln” 190). In fact, Forster’s short story “The Machine Stops” (1909) depicts the fate of a degenerate human race living underground in isolation, entirely dependent on an omnipotent, God-like machine that runs the entire planet (cf. N. Wilkinson and Voigts 90): By [Vasthi’s] side, on the little reading-desk, was a survival from the ages of litter - one book. This was the Book of the Machine. In it were instructions against every possible contingency. […] Sitting up in the bed, she took it reverently in her hands […] Then, half ashamed, half joyful, she murmured ‘O Machine! O Machine! ’ and raise the volume to her lips. (“Machine” 8 f.) Criticising the “homogenisation of culture and elimination of personal freedom in totalitarian systems” (N. Wilkinson and Voigts 91), Forster’s text predicts a degenerative state humans find themselves in once they have transferred their agency to machines, thereby introducing topics that are to define the dystopian genre in the coming decades. In fact, Forster’s legacy has been stressed by var‐ ious scholars. Acknowledging his pioneer work, Tom Moylan asserts that “For‐ ster wrote against the grain of an emergent modernity” (Scraps 111; cf. also Zeißler 33) and based on Forster’s critical evaluation of humanity’s use of tech‐ nology and detachedness of humans from nature, Graham J. Murphy claims that Forster’s short story “has the strongest claim to being dystopia’s originary text” (“Dystopia” 473). In short, with the dawn of the 20 th century, it is the genre of eutopia that continues to lose “popularity and political efficacy” (Murphy, “Eu‐ topia” 481) to its darker twin. While Forster remains a pioneer of the genre, dystopia’s success story is as‐ sociated with the names of three other writers: George Orwell, Aldous Huxley, and Yevgeny Zamyatin, whose respective texts have been identified as the ‘high priests’ of dystopian fiction. 29 To this day, these titles are “still inseparably con‐ nected to the term dystopia” (Boller 3). Moreover, Tom Moylan argues that as the socialist state or the consumer society claimed to have achieved [e]utopia, the more radical critique that the genre is capable of escaped into the mountains of neg‐ 35 2. The History of Dystopian Fiction 30 Cyberpunk, according to Booker and Thomas, is marked by its setting in “near future worlds in which technology (especially computer-based virtual reality technology) has advanced significantly, but in which these advances have done little to solve the sorts of social, political, and economic problems that were already prevalent in the 1980s” (10), hence the inclusion of ‘cyber.’ According to Lars Schmeink, cyberpunk explores the idea of “the body becom[ing] a prison of the consciousness and technology becom[ing] a means of escaping the ‘meat’” (“Cyberpunk” 222; cf. also Schmeink, Bio‐ punk 21). Therefore, topics cyberpunk concerns itself with mirror the 1980s socio-eco‐ nomic situation (cf. Baccolini and Moylan, “Introduction” 2): they “portray powerful, predatory multinational corporations, extensive technical and bureaucratic means of mind and body control, and highly sophisticated, potentially uncontrollable, and gen‐ erally privately owned inventions in robotics, genetic engineering, nanotechnology, and cyberspace” (Stillman 366; cf. Mauruschat). Fredric Jameson even considers cyber‐ punk to be “the supreme literary expression if not of postmodernism, then of late cap‐ italism itself ” ( Jameson quoted in Schmeink, Biopunk 22, emphasis in the original). The phenomenon is said to have started with William Gibson’s Neuromancer and Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner (1991). Neal Stephenson’s 1992-novel Snow Crash, is already con‐ sidered to start the chapter of ‘postcyberpunk’ (cf. Booker and Thomas 10). 31 The term ‘critical utopia’ was introduced by Tom Moylan in his exploration of dystopian fiction in Demand the Impossible (1986). It describes a “growing [self-reflexive] category of [e]utopias that present a good place with problems and that reflect critically on the utopian genre itself ” (Sargent 8; see also Moylan, Impossible 10; and Levitas and Sar‐ gisson 15), meaning that these works of fiction usually maintain “a dystopian impulse” within [e]utopia (Heinze 68; also Baccolini and Moylan, “Introduction” 3). Ultimately, these novels are prepared to reflect critically on the negative potential inherent to their radically different society, while still clinging to the conviction that an [e]utopian ideal is achievable and that readers should “keep looking for alternatives” (Vieira 18; cf. also ativity and re-emerged as the dystopia, the narrative that images a society worse than the existing one. In the great narrative works of Zamyatin (We), Huxley (Brave New World), Orwell (1984) [sic! ], and others, [e]utopian figures of hope were transmuted into an attack on present social systems which claim to be already existing [e]utopias. (Impossible 8 f.) Once dystopia had been established as a literary form, it “took its place in the narrative catalogue of the West and developed in several forms throughout the rest of the century” (Baccolini and Moylan, “Introduction” 1). Authors and di‐ rectors from all over the globe such as Kurt Vonnegut, Ray Bradbury, Ur‐ sula K. Le Guin, Joanna Russ, William Gibson, Ridley Scott, Margaret Atwood, Marge Piercy, Don De Lillo, Anthony Burgess, Philip K. Dick, Octavia E. Butler - to mention only the most prominent names -, continued to develop and enhance the dystopian genre, whose boundaries and conventions had been established back in the 1940s and 1950s (cf. Schmeink, “Cyberpunk” 223), moulding new sub-genres of dystopia, such as Cyberpunk 30 or the ‘critical utopia’ 31 and thus developing the genre further. 36 II. The Dystopian Genre James 225; and Seed, “Cyberpunk” 69). Similarly, Lyman Tower Sargent diagnoses the emergence of a phenomenon called ‘critical dystopia,’ i.e. fiction that “retain[s] from the critical [e]utopia the need both to be socially critical and to-re-evaluate the utopian tradition” (Stillman 366; cf. Moylan, Scraps 188). Similar to ‘critical eutopia,’ ‘critical dystopias’ maintain a glimpse of eutopian potential in their depiction of dystopia (cf. Heinze 68; also cf. Varsam). Their strength, to use Moylan’s words, lies not in the fleshing out of an eutopian world but “in the very act of portraying a [e]utopian vision itself ” (Impossible 26). They “‘blur’ the received boundaries of the dystopian form and thereby expand rather than diminish its creative potential for critical expression” (Moylan, Scraps 189). Examples include the works of Marge Piercy (He, She and It, 1991), Ursula K. Le Guin (The Dispossessed, 1974), or Joanna Russ (The Female Man, 1975). 32 See also Fitting, “Utopia” 140, and Zeißler 9. 33 See also Fraunholz, Woschech, and Hänseroth 22, and Matter 147 f. 34 The dominance of dystopian fiction does not automatically translate into the irrelevance of eutopian writing. Krishan Kumar writes that “[e]utopia has been in and out of fashion at various times in its 500-year existence; but it has shown remarkable resilience as a form and way of thinking” (Utopianism vii). Yet, the new millennium has seen a weak‐ ening of the eutopian impulse, a “temporary eclipse,” so to say (ibid.; cf. also Murphy, “Eutopia” 482). The “optimists have seemed less persuasive, generally unable to nullify the vogue for Apocalypticism” ( Jacobson). It is startling that despite its humanistic appeal and Ernst Bloch’s proclamation of the principle of hope being an anthropological constant, the literary production of the 21 st century so far has been defined by an es‐ chaton-mood of impending doom. The most influential eutopia dates back to the 1970s: Ernest Callenbach’s famous eco-eutopian novel Ecotopia: The Notebooks and Re‐ ports of William Weston (1975). 35 See Voigts and Boller for the remarkable economic success of YA-dystopian fiction: “dystopia is currently ‘hyped’ […] as the ‘next big thing’ in young adult narratives” (411). While Voigts and Boller praise the YA-dystopian novel for its “educational value,” i.e. its agenda to direct attention, to say it in the words of Kumar, “to alternative and better ways of living” (Utopia 104), Kay Sambell asserts that the genre has to be modified dramatically to suit the tastes of young readers and their guardians, concluding that “perhaps the predominantly admonitory content and form of the dystopian novel is not as conducive to the aims of children’s writers as so many authors appear to believe” (“Change” 174). Usually YA-dystopias need to modify the genre paradigms heavily. In order to be less bleak and brutal, for instance, “remarkably few [novels] unequivocally depict the utter defeat of their child protagonists” (ibid. 172). Contrary, to classical dys‐ topian fiction, which excludes hope from the fictional universe (by killing off the pro‐ tagonist or depicting a world in chaos and despair), YA-dystopias usually re-introduce From the 1960s to the present, dystopias have enjoyed an unbroken and “re‐ markable popularity” (Voigts, “Introduction” 1): 32 Murphy states that “there can be little doubt that the dystopia thrived in the twentieth century and continues to show its health in the new millennium” (“Dystopia” 477), 33 while Fredric Jameson asserts that “ours is a time when Anti-Utopia reigns supreme“ (quoted in Moylan, Scraps 139). 34 Old classics and newly written Young Adult novels ( YA ) conquer the world’s best seller lists. 35 As Kunkel writes, “[e]very other 37 2. The History of Dystopian Fiction the idea of ‘hope’ not only through happy endings, but also through the child-char‐ acter - a figure that (not only since William Wordsworth and the Romantic Period) tends to culturally incorporate the idea of hope, survival, progress, and the notion of literally having a future. 36 See also Booker, Impulse 3, 15, 174, Tuzinski 84, C. Howells, “Dystopian Visions” 161, and Theall 256. month seems to bring the publication of at least one new so-called literary novel on dystopian or apocalyptic themes and the release of at least one similarly themed movie” (“Dystopia” 90). While Rüdiger Heinze states that “dystopian visions in general have […] never gone out of fashion” (79), their boom is nev‐ ertheless remarkable. Christopher Ferns compares our obsession with dystopias to the interest of the Renaissance in eutopia: “dystopian fantasy has become in the modern era almost a myth in its own right […] and as such it continues to flourish” (15), while Jan Hollm states that the contemporary “description of post-apocalyptic horrors and the destruction of humankind are clearly linked to the catastrophe-inducing way of life in industrialised, globalised society at the beginning of the 21 st century” (381). What makes dystopia so fascinating is its ability to capture cultural anxieties and voice them in literary terms, so that it acts as a mouthpiece and tool of diagnosis and critique for social, political and economic developments. 3. Context, Criticism, and Rahel Jaeggi’s Critique of Forms of Life (2014) To measure the life ‘as it is’ by a life ‘as it might or should be’ is a defining, constitutive feature of humanity. The urge to transcend is nearest to a universal, and arguably the least destructible, attribute of human existence. (Bauman, “Utopia with No Topos” 11) Critique, in the words of Tom Boland, is an integral part of what defines human beings; he writes that critique is “part of our cultural history, a tradition which constitutes us as thinkers” (Spectacle 1). Dystopia partakes in this long-standing tradition since it can be classified first and foremost as a literary expression of criticism. 36 The novels dedicated to the socio-cultural analysis of the status quo serve as a “mouthpiece for social critique” (N. Wilkinson and Voigts 95), meaning that they criticise socio-political developments of their time of origin and are in turn shaped by political, economic, religious and ethical discourses of their re‐ spective contexts. Yet, while these novels are eager to paint the future in the bleakest colours possible, they are equally careful to establish causal-logical 38 II. The Dystopian Genre 37 See also Ferns 109 and Tuzinski 4. 38 See also Lehnen 11, Meyer 26-34, Erzgräber, Utopie 134, and Weber 13, 20. 39 The writers themselves are very aware of this dimension to their novels and often comment on the ‘message’ in their works. H. G. Wells for example wrote in his A Modern Utopia (1905): “Our business here is to be [eu]topian, to make vivid and credible, if we can, first this facet and then that, of an imaginary whole and happy world. Our deliberate intention is to be not, indeed, impossible, but most distinctly impracticable, by every scale that reaches only between to-day and to-morrow” (15). 40 H. G. Wells argued along the same lines, writing in “The So-called Science of Sociology” (1906) that “the creation of Utopias - and their exhaustive criticism - is the proper and distinctive method of sociology” (quoted in Levitas, Method xi). references linking back to their authors’ respective reality (cf. Sargent 27). 37 As Terry Eagleton claims, they are “really devices for embarrassing the present” (“Utopias”). 38 Each futuristic nightmare is thus in fact a moral enquiry into the state of affairs of the present, highlighting the weaknesses of the socio-cultural reality via extrapolation. This technique has been analysed by Darko Suvin, who frames it under the concept of ‘cognitive estrangement’ (cf. Metamorphoses 4 ff.). This approach is best summarised as “a reflecting of but also on reality,” which forces readers to adopt an estranged perspective on the familiar. It constitutes a form of cognitive analysis that tends “toward a dynamic transformation rather than toward a static mirroring of the author’s environment” (ibid. 10). As Chris‐ topher Ferns claims, dystopian fiction posits a society which - however outlandish - is clearly extrapolated from that which exists. […] [T]he dystopian writer presents the nightmare future as a possible destination of present society, as if dystopia were no more than a logical conclusion derived from the premises of the existing order, and implies that it might very well come about unless something is done to stop it. (107) Fundamentally, dystopias exhibit a mirroring quality, reflecting the devolu‐ tionary tendencies of their time (cf. Tuzinski 32). 39 Suvin goes one step further still and declares that “there is little point in discussing utopias as separate entity, if their basic humanistic, this-worldly, historically alternative aspect is not stressed and adopted as one of their differentiae genericae” (Metamorphoses 42, emphasis in the original). Utopian writing - as an exercise in fictional soci‐ ology - then always has a clear connection to the present, although it is mostly set in the future (cf. Bauman, Freedom 89). 40 Formulating criticism, however, is only one of two functions dystopian nar‐ ratives usually exhibit. When Han, Triplett, and Anthony argue “that some as‐ pect of critique is at least implicit within all types of dystopian works” (“Intro‐ duction” 4), it is vital to remember that these books are never a neutral inquiry 39 3. Context, Criticism, and Rahel Jaeggi’s Critique of Forms of Life (2014) 41 The didactic dimension of dystopian fiction has often fuelled discussions about the literary merit of the genre per se. The influential utopian scholar Krishan Kumar has positioned himself in this debate by stating that “[v]ery few [e]utopias stand out as great works of literature [since] [t]he didactic purpose overwhelms any literary aspi‐ ration” (Utopia 25; see also Ferns 6) while others have valued dystopian fiction precisely because of its socio-political dimensions (cf. Booker Impulse; Ferns 109, and Broich 367). 42 See also Hammond, “Twilight” 664 and Lorenzo 6. into the states of things, but actually burdened with normative standards circling around the question of the good life. It is therefore imperative “to recognise the partiality of theoretical and political positions” (Pinder 257) to be found in dys‐ topian writing. Dystopias are always defined by their didactic warning func‐ tion; 41 both Christine Lehnen and David Lorenzo even consider the warning effect a prescriptive feature of their genre definitions; dystopias are narratives that “serve as warnings regarding the future of contemporary society” (Lorenzo 6), and “can be seen as the epitome of literature in its role as social criticism” (Booker, Literature 3). They are the product of vigilant social analysts con‐ structed as a warning, a “prophetic vehicle, the canary in a cage, for writers with an ethical and political concern” (Baccolini and Moylan, “Introduction” 2). Re‐ ferring back to the “sociopolitical tendencies that could, if continued, turn our contemporary world into the iron cages portrayed in the realm of [e]utopia’s underside (ibid.), 42 dystopian fiction is always meant as a normative criticism of the socio-cultural and historical characteristics of the time of its own origins. Yet, while many critics take this circumstance for granted, no study has yet attempted to classify the use of criticism in dystopian fiction. It is therefore worthwhile to investigate the construction of critique in these novels as such an analysis would allow the reader insights into the hidden agenda of a given text. Without a thorough examination of the criticism employed, the warning function of dystopian fiction might vanish into thin air. Suitable for this endeavour is Rahel Jaeggi’s taxonomy of criticism, which provides a fruitful template for the analysis of dystopian fiction on a non-content level, illuminating the narrative structures and elements and opening them up for analysis. Her Kritik von Lebensformen (2014, trans. Critique of Forms of Life, 2018), originally written as an attempt to return the critical theory of the Frank‐ furt School to the attention of philosophical and social analysis, thematises modes of criticism, the good life, and the seeming impossibility of criticising 21 st -century life styles without resorting to a patronising, prescriptive, often westernised discourse of how individuals should live. She disagrees with the liberal notion and “widespread relativism which maintains [that] we are in no position to criticise particular cultures or societies or ways of life” (Wilding), 40 II. The Dystopian Genre insisting that we must continue to criticise one another based on the criteria of how successful certain life forms are in terms of problem-solving. Jaeggi claims that if a certain form of life is obviously no longer able to process arising prob‐ lems sufficiently, critique is not only justified but imperative. By delineating a discourse which is not defined by content but rather discussing forms of life abstractly, Jaeggi manages to venture forth against “ethical abstinence,” i.e. against a laissez-faire mentality (cf. Jaeggi, Critique 1-3), while simultaneously refraining from partaking in a patronising Western discourse. Her inquiry into forms of life and what constitutes the ‘good life’ (cf. Are‐ ntshorst 274) introduces an innovative taxonomy of criticism that is also directly applicable to dystopian fiction. Understanding criticism as an initiative and “impetus for transforming a (social) formation based on reasons” (Critique 84), Jaeggi establishes a meta-language to critically evaluate the formation of criti‐ cism. Her taxonomy differentiates between ‘external,’ ‘internal,’ and ‘immanent criticism.’ The most basic form of criticism with the most obvious result is what Jaeggi terms ‘external criticism.’ This form imposes external standards onto an item or construct, questioning it in its entirety by championing an alternative to the status quo. The two - reality and alternative - are usually mutually ex‐ clusive and cannot be reconciled, meaning that the critic aims to overcome the original target of criticism (cf. ibid. 177). As Jaeggi writes, external criticism applies an external normative standard to an existing society. This standard is external in the sense that it is supposed to be valid regardless of whether it already holds within an existing community or an existing social institutional struc‐ ture and of whether it is ‘contained’ in a given state of affairs, and it judges the given situation according to whether it satisfies this standard. Criticism in this case aims to transform, supersede, or reorient what is given on the basis of norms that are brought to bear on it from the outside. (Critique 178) Intending to harvest the power of external criticism, the critic is defined by her reluctance to share the norms and values esteemed in the given society and thus chooses to distance herself from that society (cf. ibid.). While Jaeggi herself does not illustrate her argument, it is an easy task to conceive of one oneself: the West criticising the role of women in Arab countries externally, for instance, is a relevant and highly debated example in the context of post-colonial criticism and the supposed moral superiority of the West. Jaeggi goes on to introduce her next category, which she terms ‘internal crit‐ icism’ - a category related to an everyday understanding of critique and fre‐ quently used to detect inherent contradictions. This form of criticism assumes that “although certain ideals and norms belong to the self-understanding of a 41 3. Context, Criticism, and Rahel Jaeggi’s Critique of Forms of Life (2014) particular community, they are not actually realized within it” (ibid. 179). Jaeggi introduces examples to make her point clear: the Christian community which preaches the gospel yet rejects refugees; or a CEO who champions women’s rights in public, yet favours male employees when hiring new staff (cf. ibid. 179 f.). Contrary to external criticism, which imposes its standards externally, ‘internal criticism’ rests on the conviction that “the standard of criticism resides in different ways in the matter itself.” (ibid. 180, emphasis in the original) Criti‐ cism grows out of promises made but not kept, general principles, or norms that might have been proclaimed, however which are not (fully) realised by the community. Internal criticism is at its heart a conservative technique, advocating the re-establishment of certain norms and practices by illuminating “an incon‐ sistency either between assertions and facts, between accepted norms and prac‐ tices, between appearance and reality, or between claim and realization” (ibid.). It does not champion an alternative system, but rather results in upholding of the status quo (cf. ibid. 182) - the source of its persuasiveness and power. Jaeggi argues that this type of criticism is employed regularly, for it demands very little effort. Its “practical and pragmatic advantages” (ibid. 183, emphasis in the orig‐ inal) lie in the fact that this type of criticism merely reminds the community of what they signed up for in the first place: “[n]o one, we assume, can wish to remain in an internal contradiction” (ibid.). Essentially, critic and the object of criticism are part of the same in-group since they belong to a community that has already accepted certain norms and values. Jaeggi’s third and most ambitious type of criticism is subsumed under the term of ‘immanent criticism.’ Similar to internal criticism, this mode appeals to a normative yardstick already inherent in the object / person they want to criti‐ cise. This form of criticism is thus “not conducted from an imagined Archime‐ dean point outside of the reality to be criticized“ (ibid. 190) like external criticism. But, as Jaeggi claims, immanent criticism is “normatively stronger” than external or internal criticism for it “find[s] the new world through criticism of the old one” (190). As Hans Arentshorst summarises, [i]mmanent criticism differs from both these approaches because it starts from the problems and [inherent] contradictions of a life-form. In this sense it is more nega‐ tivistic and formal than internal criticism: it is not interested in recovering certain values, but it wants to contribute to the transformative potential of a life-form by raising consciousness about its internal problems and contradictions. In this sense, immanent criticism is context-dependent, since it analyzes the internal problems and contradictions of a life-form, but it is also context-transcending because it aims at the transformation of the current life-form in order to overcome its problems. (273) 42 II. The Dystopian Genre 43 Of course, Jaeggi does not advocate the existence of an absolute truth. Her immanent criticism is decidedly less informed by ideological deliberations especially when com‐ pared to the mechanisms of external criticism and internal criticism. Assuming that the standards set by the object of criticism are “contradictory in themselves” ( Jaeggi, Critique 190, emphasis in the original), immanent criticism, then, anchors its method within the criticised reality itself, encountering it (ide‐ ally) without any ideologically framed preconceived ideals. It is therefore a new type of criticism due to its inherent objectiveness. 43 It does not “merely proceed from the critic’s subjective critical intention” (ibid. 191 f.) but creates parameters for the object of criticism to criticise itself. Fundamentally, immanent criticism is only possible in constellations, in which “the object of criticism […] has suc‐ cumbed to a crisis of itself ” (ibid. 192). Immanent criticism operates thereby to a certain degree outside of any ideology, since it refrains from approaching the object of criticism with preconceived normative standards. Applying a theoretical framework, the critic’s task is to - so to speak - ‘detect’ a crisis: “the crisis qua crisis of the objects (as a problem lying in the social relations) must always be analyzed and uncovered in the first place at the the‐ oretical level” (ibid.). Therefore, it is imperative to frame the criticism theoret‐ ically: “[w]hereas internal criticism is a mundane procedure that is applied in one way or another in a variety of situations, immanent criticism is guided by theory” (ibid. 191). Immanent criticism constructs links and connections be‐ tween two seemingly unrelated phenomena and thus originates in the school of thought of dialectics as popularised by Georg Friedrich Wilhelm Hegel in Phe‐ nomenology of Spirit (1807) and Science of Logic (1813). This philosophical method “relies on a contradictory process between opposing sides” (Maybee), that is to say, observing two seemingly antithetical concepts, such as life and death. Upon closer inspection, however, Hegel argues that binary distinctions are dissolved into a continuum, in which one concept embodies the other: life depends on death (in the form of digestion, consumption); death does not exist without life (cf. R. Winter); conceptual boundaries merge and flow into another until they are declared invalid and shown to spring from one origin. Jaeggi’s immanent criticism docks onto Hegel’s idea of ‘positive Vernunft.’ This mode of criticism refuses to remain caught in dichotomous patterns. On the contrary, the aim of immanent criticism is to decipher when and how con‐ cepts flow into each other, showing “that there is a connection here at all, and in doing so to distinguish the two (‘separated’) moments as part of this connec‐ tion, which as a result is marked by a contradiction” ( Jaeggi, Critique 198). Eventually, without immanent criticism and the use of theoretical analysis, cer‐ tain co-dependant phenomena might not become visible at all. Jaeggi calls them 43 3. Context, Criticism, and Rahel Jaeggi’s Critique of Forms of Life (2014) 44 See Daniel Bell’s The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism (1976), in which he analyses the apparent contradiction and inconsistency of late capitalism to rely on diligent workers (irrespective of their individuality) to produce its commodities, while fostering an environment of laissez-faire consumerism that encourages people to explore their individual self. As Bell writes, “[w]ithin this framework, one can discern the structural sources if tension in the society: between a social structure (primarily techno-economic) which is bureaucratic and hierarchical, and […] a culture which is concerned with the enhancement and fulfilment of the self and the ‘whole’ person” (14). These related phe‐ nomena arise out of and because of capitalism yet are inherently contradictory. 45 See Nancy Fraser and Rahel Jaeggi’s Capitalism: A Conversation in Critical Theory (2018) for a detailed discussion about the role of markets in capitalist societies. ‘genuinely immanent problems,’ shortcomings arising out of the inconsistencies of a system. Contrary to problems that have their cause externally (a people suffers from starvation because of a draught) or internally (a people suffers from starvation because they struggle with the climatic conditions and fail to make adequate provisions in form of food reservoirs etc.; cf. ibid. 165 ff.), these prob‐ lems are a direct result of systematic inconsistencies and only perceivable by thinking consequently in dialectics. These problems arise because of and out of a given form of life and are therefore to be analysed according to the standards of immanent criticism (cf. ibid. 167 f.). 44 Fleshing out her ideas, Jaeggi introduces Karl Marx’ critique of bourgeois society, arguing that his criticism of capitalist society relies on the technique of immanent criticism. Criticising the capitalist system, Marx points out the im‐ manent inconsistencies of the system. He talks about the ‘laws of motions,’ for instance, the paradox of social relations within free-market capitalism: while the system encourages people to cut off their social ties and propagates indi‐ vidual responsibility within the market in order to prosper from rags to riches, it paradoxically relies fundamentally on the safety net that is constituted by the social unit of the family. 45 Mark Fisher has summarised the points made by Marx quite concisely: The values that family life depends upon - obligation, trustworthiness, commitment - are precisely those which are held to be obsolete in the new capitalism. Yet, with the public sphere under attack and the safety nets that a ‘Nanny State’ used to provide being dismantled, the family becomes an increasingly important place of respite from the pressures of a world in which instability is a constant. The situation of the family in post-Fordist capitalism is contradictory, in precisely the way traditional Marxism expected: capitalism requires the family (as an essential means of re-producing and caring for labor power; as a slave for the psychic wounds inflicted by anarchic so‐ cial-economic conditions), even as it undermines it (denying parents time with chil‐ 44 II. The Dystopian Genre 46 As Theodor W. Adorno elaborates in Minima Moralia (1951) and Dialectic of Enlighten‐ ment (published by Adorno and Horkheimer, 1944), the negation of the negated (in Adorno’s double sense of the word), cannot simply translated into a mathematical equation: the negation of the false will not automatically create the positive (as in mathematics where two minuses make a plus). However, it is a start to a long-term project, which departs from the false and which will eventually lead to the good if humanity - weary of totalities - manages to allow for diversity, power-free discourses and acceptance of the non-identity. Since it is beyond the scope of this book to delve dren, putting intolerable stress on couples as they become the exclusive source of affective consolation for each other). (32 f.) Immanent criticism, then, approaches the item on display supported by the help of theory in the above example, a Marxist reading of bourgeois society. Ultimately, the aim of any criticism is a transformation of the status quo. While external criticism always argues from a normative point of view, meaning it needs an alternative for its very existence and function, internal criticism can draw its persuasiveness from the criticised object itself, simply by holding it to claims previously made. Immanent criticism does not immediately offer a ready-made alternative because it “is oriented less to the reconstruction or re‐ demption of normative potentials than to the transformation of existing condi‐ tions in ways that are facilitated by the immanent problems and contradictions of a particular social constellation” ( Jaeggi, Critique 190 f., emphasis in the orig‐ inal). This means, at first glance, immanent criticism is not overly productive in terms of alternatives. It might therefore disappoint those social reformers looking for ways to radically challenge the big picture and search for new models for society as a whole. But Jaeggi argues that we must reconsider our conception of ‘alternative.’ Immanent criticism produces an alternative ex negativo and should be thought of as transformative criticism: “the transformation process is suggested by the situation itself to a certain extent; it is prefigured in the situa‐ tion, even if it exceeds the latter” (ibid. 209). For this most ambitious type of criticism, the performative gesture of critique suffices. Assuming that the criti‐ cised community can transform, immanent criticism does not need to spell out an explicit alternative to function successfully, for it “construes the crisis-prone contradiction that confronts it and confronts us not only as necessary but also - in contrast to the procedure of internal criticism - as productive” (ibid.). Jaeggi asserts that “the possibility of resolving [the contradiction] follows from criti‐ cism of the deficient state itself ” (ibid.). To cite the words of Theodor W. Adorno: “[t]he False, once determinately known and precisely expressed, is already an index of what is right and better” (Critical Models 288). 46 Knowing what we do not want prefigures what is desirable: dystopia prefigures eutopia. 45 3. Context, Criticism, and Rahel Jaeggi’s Critique of Forms of Life (2014) into more details, see Nico Bobka and Dirk Braunstein, “Theodor W. Adorno and Neg‐ ative Dialectics” (2018) and Adorno-Handbuch: Leben - Werk - Wirkung edited by Klein, Kreuzer, and Müller-Doohm (2011). 47 The term ‘ideology’ needs clarification in this context. Originally used to define a set of illusions “which mask the real relations of history in a false consciousness” (in the Marxist sense of the word; cf. Moylan, “Locus of Hope” 162), the term has undergone somewhat of a redefinition. I employ the term in alliance to Tom Moylan to refer to a given “sign system held in a given period of history, with the ideology of the dominant group / class taken as the general ideology of all who are not consciously in opposition” (ibid.). It is to be understood as the “lived experience of people” (ibid.), which they articulate on a daily basis. Basis of Criticism Character Role of Theory External criticism Contradiction be‐ tween external standard and existing practices Constructive Normative theory as ‘judge’ Internal criticism Contradiction in the sense of inconsistency between internal ideals and reality Reconstructive None Immanent criticism ‘Dialectical’ contra‐ diction within the constellation, crisis Transformative Necessity of analysis to demonstrate con‐ tradiction in crisis Fig. 1: Rahel Jaeggi - Models of Criticism (excerpt, cf. 213); With her taxonomy of criticism, Jaeggi has provided the necessary tool for an‐ alysing the difference between classical and contemporary dystopian fiction. Applying her terms, the following analysis will show that progressive contem‐ porary dystopian fiction relies on immanent criticism, whereas classical dysto‐ pian fiction is connected to external criticism. This, as will be argued, is due to the change in focus and object of critique: from totalitarianism to neoliberal free market philosophy. In order to trace this shift, the following two sub-chapters will focus on what I call classical dystopian fiction, its focus on totalitarianism, and its use of external criticism. I will trace the function of critique within the classical fiction by Orwell, Huxley, and Co. before comparing their approach to the different methods and styles of contemporary dystopias and their immanent criticism strategy targeted at a neoliberal market ideology. 47 46 II. The Dystopian Genre 48 The relevant aspects of the respective quotes (p. 38 ff. in this document) have been italicised by me in order to highlight the political dimensions of the definitions. See also Atchison and Shames 32 ff. 49 The list of definitions underlining dystopia’s association with investigations into to‐ talitarian state structures continues: dystopias has been defined as “a particular state or community[,] its theme [being] the political structure of that fictional state or com‐ munity” (Negley and Patrick quoted in Moylan, Impossible 32) and as a description of a “non-existent state which should be viewed with revulsion based on its negative char‐ acteristics” (Haufschild and Hanenberger 7, own translation). Dystopias are “political fantasies that set out to stigmatize some particular party as an incarnation of evil” (Stableford, “Ecology” 269) and describe the “nightmare of a totalitarian state extrapo‐ lated from contemporary developments” (Seeber, “Frau” 170, own translation). As Erika Gottlieb summarises, the most salient characteristics of dystopian fiction are, that “[a]ll these works are political satires, projections of the fear that their writers’ own society in the West […] could be moving towards a type of totalitarian dictatorship” (7). As 3.1. Classical Dystopian Fiction, State Totalitarianism, and ‘External Criticism’ Whoever aspires to the articulation of final absolute truth about man and society has already planted the seed of tyranny. (Milovan Djilas quoted in Gottlieb 33) According to Fredric Jameson “[u]topia has always been a political issue” (Ar‐ chaeologies xi). Although he concedes that this nexus constitutes “an unusual destiny for a literary form,” many definitions support exactly this classical con‐ nection, building their attempts to demarcate the genre through an analysis of content. Raymond Williams, for instance, concentrates on the nature of the so‐ ciety presented in dystopian works, before categorising the novels accordingly (cf. 95). Others have worked with the same mechanism to uncover a clear focus of the genre: dystopia’s traditional occupation is the topic of state power, and the abusive structures of authoritarian and totalitarian governments (cf. Suvin’s definition). Dystopia has been defined as “a fictional portrayal of a society in which evil, or negative social and political developments, have the upper hand,” dealing with “the quasi-omnipotence of a monolithic, totalitarian state de‐ manding and normally exacting complete obedience from its citizens” (Claeys, “Origins” 107). 48 The genre “articulates a specifically political agency” (Moylan quoted in Donawerth 30) and “describe[s] a variety of aspects and with some consistency an imaginary state or society” ( J. Max Patrick quoted in Sargent 7). Accordingly, it has been described as a “draft of a state, based on a certain ideology […] [typically] an authoritarian, omnipotent state structure, which will triumph over individualism” (Layh 155, own translation), warning “of state structures, which reduce the individual to a marionette without will and con‐ sciousness” (Zeißler 9, own translation). 49 47 3. Context, Criticism, and Rahel Jaeggi’s Critique of Forms of Life (2014) Kunkel conclusively writes, “in most basic political terms, [dystopia is] a nightmare of authoritarian or totalitarian rule” (“Dystopia” 90). Stating that dystopia is usually about totalitarianism (cf. Müller), some scholars even go so far as to claim that utopia and its negative counterpart are synonymous to the political or state novel (cf. Löffler 7; also Tuzinski 32). 50 See Sargent 7, also Blaim 231, J. Winter, Dreams 5, Pfister and M. Lindner 13, and Erz‐ gräber, Utopie 13 for more information on the relationship between eutopia, the concept of space and place, and the state. See also Andre Hammond’s Cold War Stories (2017) on British dystopian fiction written from 1945 to 1990. This focus on the state as object of investigation is grounded in two aspects. Firstly, dystopia’s state preoccupation results from its close generic connection to eutopia, which “is inextricably linked to modernity and to the state-form” (cf. Tally Jr. 3). 50 Secondly, according to Tom Moylan, this focus on politics has its roots in the origins of the genre, which “begins to sharpen as the modern state apparatus (in the Stalinist Soviet Union, Nazi Germany, social democratic wel‐ fare states, and right-wing oligarchies) is isolated as a primary engine of alien‐ ation and suffering” (Scraps xii). This focus on totalitarian states is evident in the classics of the genre, or the works of the “the big three” (Beauchamp 58), Huxley, Orwell, and Zamyatin, which “relied on a totalistic state to control time and space, history and memory, experiences and possibilities” (Stillman 377). Some 50 years after their publication they continue to define the genre’s standards and self-understanding (cf. Zeißler 9). Classical dystopian fiction traditionally works within the parameters of ex‐ ternal criticism. Its focus on totalitarianism and state policies predestines an external criticism approach that supports an alternative way of living. As a first step, these novels usually flesh out the totalitarian world in all its gruesome details, smattered with scenes of surveillance, hardship, violence, famine, war, indoctrination, public hangings or torture. Implying that these worlds are merely the logical conclusion of the current state of affairs, these novels warn that totalitarianism is just around the corner unless we change things now - a horrific image for readers whose cultural memory stores two world wars and the times thereafter. As Friedrich and Brzezinski argue, totalitarianism is defined by characteristics that deter and repel: a single, simplistic ideology encom‐ passing all aspects of existence; a single mass party typically led by one indi‐ vidual turned dictator, supported by a fanatic hard-core following; a system of police control and surveillance, terrorising the public; and a centrally directed economy (cf. 9f). In The Origins of Totalitarianism (1951), Hannah Arendt elab‐ orates on this analysis by stressing the consequences for the individual: “[t]ota‐ litarian domination […] aims at abolishing freedom, even at eliminating human spontaneity in general” (405; cf. also Voigts, “Totalitarian” 54). In order to con‐ 48 II. The Dystopian Genre 51 The term ‘liberal’ in this context is not to be confused with liberalism or ‘liberal’ in the economic sense, but rather employed in the sense of ‘humanist’ and ‘Jeffersonian,’ i.e. referring to the US-American politician Thomas Jefferson and following the ideals of the Enlightenment. It is to be understood as in alignment with the ideas of the political left, criticising totalitarian, conservative tendencies. 52 See also C. Bradford et al. 4 and Mühlig-Hesse 5. 53 This narrative device has often led to questions about the literary quality of both eu‐ topian and dystopian fiction: novels like Nineteen Eighty-Four have often been accused of oversimplification of character, reduction of plot, and deficient narrative structures (cf. Erzgräber, “Brave New World” 215; see also Enzensberger 64). While one might give the critics credit for stating facts - after all dystopian fiction is not known for its deep psychological character portraits à la Henry James or Virginia Woolf - Northrop Frye was among the first to take the wind out of the critics’ sails. According to him, it is demn totalitarian societies, the great majority of dystopian novels advertises libertarian socialist ideas, 51 that is to say, ideals informed by a militant anti-to‐ talitarianism, in the form of humanistic maxims such as individuality, creativity, and freedom as expressed by both negative and positive freedom rights (cf. Ja‐ coby, Imperfect xiii). 52 As Terry Eagleton argues, alternative universes “have been largely the product of the left” (“Utopias”) and Ken Macleod even states that “the political philosophy of sf [and dystopia] is essentially liberal” (231). Darko Suvin, one of the most renowned science fiction scholars of all time, calls these works of fiction “Jeffersonian” (“Bust”), meaning that they demand the right to life, liberty, and happiness. Indeed, Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, Huxley’s Brave New World, and Zamyatin’s We clearly champion a libertarian perspective in the face of totalitarianism and state control and demand the introduction of a more liberal ideology based on humanist notions. External criticism here equals the substitution of totalitarianism (object of critique) by democracy (externally im‐ posed standard). Dystopia’s means of libertarian criticism are of a narrative nature; show‐ casing the most despicable features of totalitarianism, these novels and their critique are often wrapped up in a didactic set-up that leaves little if any room for ambiguity. Classical dystopian texts resort to a handful of genre character‐ istics that have proven to work well in a didactic context: the character structure of both main character and antagonist, the distribution of sympathy, a plot structure based on hegemony and resistance, and the location of hope (usually) outside of the text. Usually, dystopian fiction employs an easily recognisable template in terms of character constellations. These novels usually include two (usually male) characters embodying the contradictory systems, thus using protagonist and antagonist as mouthpieces for certain abstract ideas and principles, personifying concepts and mental attitudes and not realistic people (cf. Zeißler 32). 53 Orwell’s 49 3. Context, Criticism, and Rahel Jaeggi’s Critique of Forms of Life (2014) illegitimate to accuse the dystopian novel of low literary merit and of violating the rules of the novel, since dystopia should not be categorised as a novel in the first place (cf. also Villgradter and Krey 350; and Seeber, Wandlungen 185). Frye prefers the classifi‐ cation of “Menippean satire,” which deals less with naturalistic people but “presents people as mouthpieces of the ideas they represent” (Criticism 309). Interestingly enough, critics already have attested a growing fictionalisation to the dystopian novel (cf. Pfister and Lindner 21) thus re-evaluating the literary quality of dystopian fiction and aligning it to the standards applied to the contemporary novel in general (cf. also “Contemporary Dystopian Fiction, Neoliberal Capitalism, and ‘Immanent Criticism’). O’Brien, Huxley’s Mustapha Mond, and Zamyatin’s Benefactor are ciphers for totalitarianism employed to make the abstract system tangible. In We, the Ben‐ efactor rules the One State with the tyranny of the community over autonomy and individual choice. In Brave New World, Mustapha Mond explains to the reader a world grounded in “eugenic engineering, behavioral manipulation, and the subordination of all humanity to the machine and the firm belief in science” (K. Schmidt 238); and Nineteen Eighty-Four is unmistakeably marked as a com‐ mentary on the reality of the year 1948, through the exchange of the last two digits (cf. Firchow 115), exemplifying what happens if the state’s ideology in‐ filtrates every aspect of private life: constant surveillance through telescreens, arranged marriages for the sole purpose of producing party members and the annihilation of memories, emotions and frankly, common sense, as best exem‐ plified by O’Brien’s absurd claim that two and two make five (cf. Nineteen Eighty-Four 286 f.). Just as the antagonists are placeholders for certain totalitarian ideologies and beliefs, so are the protagonists. Winston Smith, whose name, a combination of a common British last name (Smith) and the first name of Britain’s war hero Winston Churchill, marks him a modern everyman (cf. Voigts, “Totalitarian” 48), pleads for universal human rights: The Party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command. […] And yet he was in the right! They were wrong and he was right. The obvious, the silly, and the true had got to be defended. Truisms are true, hold on to that! The solid world exists, its laws do not change. Stones are hard, water is wet, objects unsupported fall towards the earth’s centre. With the feeling that he was speaking to O’Brien, and also that he was setting forth an important axiom, he wrote: Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four. If that is granted, all else follows. (Nineteen Eighty-Four 92 f., my emphasis) In this section, Winston clearly functions as an alternative to the system, per‐ sonifying a decidedly liberal, Jeffersonian approach to human life coupled with 50 II. The Dystopian Genre reason and science. He is stylised as the Party’s antonym, not only by his use of pronouns (“I” versus “them”), which clearly mark him as a rebellious outsider, but also on a metaphysical level. Exclaiming “they were wrong and he was right,” Winston opposes the ruling elite, viewing himself as a supporter of truth that had “to be defended.” His form of life is equated to the unchangeable laws of physics, “stones are hard, water is wet, objects unsupported fall towards the earth’s centre,” and therefore defined as infinitely more natural and thus more just than the Party and its proposed way of life. In this excerpt, Winston clearly works within the methods of external criticism. He first identifies the object of his critique, the Party, constructs an alternative to their way of life, and then invests all his energy into making his vision of human life a reality. Conse‐ quently, the larger part of the novel is dedicated to the depiction of Winston’s revolution, as he grows ever more suspicious of the Party until he eventually joins a resistance movement, ready to destroy the Party with the help of guerrilla tactics. Similarly, Huxley’s Savage functions as mouthpiece for a more libertarian perspective (cf. Troschitz 47). It is he who demands in a speech (not unlike the liberal, humanist appeal of Shylock in William Shakespeare’s drama The Mer‐ chant of Venice, 1605) the right to live a life undaunted by ideological delibera‐ tions and scientific modifications: ‘But I don’t want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness, I want sin.’ ‘In fact,’ said Mustapha Mond, ‘you’re claiming the right to be unhappy.’ ‘All right, then,’ said the Savage defiantly, ‘I’m claiming the right to be unhappy.’ (Brave New World 211 f.) Demanding “the right to be unhappy,” the Savage, too, functions as mouthpiece for an alternative way of life that stands diametrically opposed to what the leaders of the totalitarian One State have to offer (cf. Tripp 40 f.). The readers are presented with a clear dichotomy between the two approaches: God, i.e. spirituality, poetry, i.e. literature and arts, as well as freedom, goodness, and sin, i.e. emotions and consciousness - a cornucopia of positively connotated terms, which could be complemented by further associations such as beauty, passion, or friendship - are channelled into a libertarian form of life that stands opposed to an ideology that has robbed humans of their emotions, and thus of the quality that makes them human in the first place. The inner workings of this scene are similar to those in the paragraph quoted above from Nineteen Eighty-Four. Again, the dystopian dissident describes the totalitarian system in all its gory 51 3. Context, Criticism, and Rahel Jaeggi’s Critique of Forms of Life (2014) detail (cf. Brave New World 211), before sketching an alternative way of life ultimately declared to be superior. Given the two options, an educated reader should of course identify with the Savage and his ideas about moral integrity, humanism, and the good life. Mus‐ tapha Mond and his apparent rejection of seemingly all that is good offers no platform for sympathy - a narrative trick with which classical dystopian fiction ensures the propagation of its libertarian message. While dystopia usually asks “readers [to] judge the projected society by the standards of their own” (Ferns 109), those immersed in the text are seldom left on their own to decipher the ‘message’ or ‘lesson’ of the text. Dystopian fiction places enormous emphasis on the distribution of sympathy, guaranteeing that readers arrive at the desired conclusion. Condemnable practices are introduced by the state and its person‐ ifications (cf. Zeißler 76; also Hug 39); the antagonists are usually defined by their inhuman, almost fanatic belief in the totalitarian system and their ruthless endeavour to stabilise it (including murder, brain surgery, torture, war atrocities, etc.). As Ferns maintains, “the horrors of dystopia guarantee a sympathetic re‐ action on the reader’s part” (118). O’Brien, for instance, tortures Winston by tapping into his childhood trauma (rats), crushing him mentally and physically. Contrarily, acceptable behaviour is usually attributed to the protagonist, to whom readers are drawn. Sympathetic protagonists are defined by their intel‐ ligence, both intellectually and emotionally. D-503’s position, for instance, is unique within the totalitarian system due to his love interest with I-330 and her positive influence on him. Through her, he eventually accepts the Christian doctrine of humans having a soul before he is captured and ‘healed,’ that is, brainwashed. Equally, Winston and John seem to be the only characters capable of experiencing genuine emotions in the form of love, joy, or happiness, and are thereby established as unique reference points for the audience. While Winston discovers his appreciation for art and beauty in the form of a coral paperweight and antiques, John reads Shakespeare and advocates genuine emotions. Also, his distinguishing feature is his superior command of the English language. Tellingly, his language abilities are woven into his emotional intelligence; he is set apart by his refusal to refer to his mother by her first name in order to spare her the embarrassment of being called “mother” - a derogatory term in a society in which age, illness, and other bodily functions like pregnancies are deemed embarrassing or even revolting. Furthermore, he insists on true love and mo‐ nogamy - again something the Western reader can relate to while the polyga‐ mous inhabitants of the World State shrink away in dread. In summary, all three protagonists, Winston, D-503, and John are conceptually closer to the reader than any other character. The similarities in political views, cognitive capacities, 52 II. The Dystopian Genre 54 See also Gnüg 18 and Wilm 187. 55 The inclusion of the resistance narrative has often been used to ascribe to dystopias a greater literary potential than eutopias, where stasis, conformity, and consensus are not tainted by rebellious individuals. According to Claude Lévi-Strauss, “stories move from one stage to another by positing a conflict between two opposing elements or qualities that characters have to resolve. This clash of ‘binary oppositions’ organises the narra‐ tive” (quoted in K. Williams, Media Theory 141). Eutopia’s harmonic lecturing, however, has often been characterised as non-entertaining since narrative structures live from the inclusion of conflict (cf. also Stableford, “Dystopias”). and humanist education promote an identification process, which underscores the liberal, humanist ‘message’ of the texts. By identifying with them, the readers are encouraged to adopt the moral superiority of a libertarian ideology. This distribution of sympathy is further cemented by a plot full of suspense, driven by the question of whether the rebellious protagonist will succeed in (usually) his attempt at overthrowing the state. According to Raffaella Baccolini, dystopia is “usually built around the construction of a narrative [of the hegemonic order] and a counter-narrative [of resistance]” (“Womb” 293): the pro‐ tagonist “moves from apparent contentment into an experience of alienation and resistance” (Baccolini and Moylan, “Introduction” 5), 54 meaning that every protagonist of dystopian fiction is structurally designed within the narrative to critically assess the terrifying ‘harmonious’ stasis of totalitarian regimes. It is true to say that the subplot of resistance is usually considered the defining nar‐ rative trait as it guarantees both character development, action, and the projec‐ tion of its message. As Shellie Michael puts its simply but accurately: “audiences like rebels” (“Downsizing”). Therefore, the typical trajectory of the protagonist has grown into a quite customised plot: what starts as critically questioning single instructions soon grows into active rejection of the entire system, often in the form of rebellion of any kind. 55 The individual is positioned in opposition to a totalitarian state apparatus thus functioning as a symbol for a more liberal way of life (cf. Mohr, Worlds 32; also J. Schmidt 238). Accordingly, dystopian narratives are usually narratives of alienation, or even emancipation from a totalitarian structure and mode of living to finally achieve a more liberal life style achieved by rebelling against the status quo (cf. Moylan, “Moment” 136) - even if they (most of the time) show protagonists who fail. To summarise, dystopian narratives place an immense amount of trust in the hands of their readers. As Ferns describes, “in resisting the authoritarian aspi‐ rations of the State, dystopian dissidents may be seen as offering, at a narrative level, an embodiment of the reader’s own resistance to the closure and over-de‐ termination which so often characterises the traditional utopia” (22). These novels trust their readers with the responsibility of transforming the world for 53 3. Context, Criticism, and Rahel Jaeggi’s Critique of Forms of Life (2014) the better - even if their own protagonists have failed. It is the readers who are burdened with the task of fighting for a better future, having been repulsed by the dystopian totalitarianism, and having been drawn in by the alternatives to which the text alludes. After all, the fictional worlds of Nineteen Eighty-Four or Brave New World are not only dominated by bleak and terrifying totalitarian systems. While they may end hopelessly, they nevertheless provide a silver lining in the form of alternative communities, in which people structure their lives according to the novel’s libertarian agenda: the Savage Reservation, the Forests, the countries of the other superpowers. Totalitarian rule in dystopian fiction is finite; when Zygmunt Bauman wrongly claims that there is no alter‐ native present in neither Brave New World nor Nineteen Eighty-Four, he is misled by the fact that both novels only hint at alternatives to the system (cf. Freedom 92). Alternatives exist in the form of dissident protagonists or enclaves of eu‐ topia, advocating libertarian forms of life devoid of state regulations and com‐ munitarian ideologies. 54 II. The Dystopian Genre 56 More recent dystopian fiction is not alone in accounting for the ills and shortcomings of neoliberalism and capitalism. Crunch Lit, for instance, focuses on the aftermaths of the 2008 financial crash and elaborates on the significance of the financial markets on our daily lives (cf. Shaw, Crunch Lit 2015). Play writers, too, engage in the discussion, for instance, Lucy Prebble’s Enron (2012), which focuses on the eponymous US-Amer‐ ican energy company, which created spectacular revenue and then went bankrupt with a big bang, after they had been accused of accounting fraud (cf. Lusin). 3.2. Contemporary Dystopian Fiction, Neoliberal Capitalism, and ‘Immanent Criticism’ We can’t pluck up this ‘Sardinian’ from his specific unique political formation, beam him down at the end of the twentieth century and ask him to solve our problems for us. (Stuart Hall on Antonio Gramsci and his influence 161) Tom Moylan was among the first to diagnose a shift in focus in dystopian fiction towards a new target of criticism. He argues that “in the dystopian turn of the closing decades of the twentieth century, the power of the authoritarian states gives way to the more pervasive tyranny of the corporation. […] [Now] the corporation rules, and does so ever more efficiently than any state” (“Moment” 135 f.). A similar claim is brought forth in Dystopia: A Natural History (2016) by Gregory Claeys: “the spectre of totalitarian despotism dies out as the central target of dystopia by the 1980s. Taking its place, commonly, is corporate dicta‐ torship in various guises, with the privatization, marketization and monetization of all available resources, to the benefit of the wealthy” (495). What Moylan and Claeys try to capture in their reference to the corporation is a move away from totalitarian state domination to an all-encompassing market logic as it can be found in neoliberal capitalism. 56 In order to understand the generic changes the two scholars describe, which some novels of the dystopian genre are currently subject to, it is vital to look further afield. Having established external criticism as the modus operandi of classical dystopian fiction, the following chapter will demonstrate that some contemporary novels seem to stand in the tradition of critical utopia and to work only through the lens of immanent criticism. Since this shift is a complex phenomenon and requires a broad theoretical foundation, it is thus necessary to shed light on the socio-political reality of the 21 st century and its defining actors on a global stage (neoliberalism and globalisation), before attempting to show how these changes have started to affect dystopian fiction. Therefore, this chapter will first define the concept of neoliberalism and trace its influence on all levels of human life, before showing how this economic system has successfully colonised the realm of the possible, i. e. how we have come to think of neoliberal capitalism as the natural state of life. Drawing on 55 3. Context, Criticism, and Rahel Jaeggi’s Critique of Forms of Life (2014) 57 Although part of Jaeggi’s original model, ‘internal criticism’ will not feature in the analysis of neither classical dystopian fiction, nor contemporary dystopian fiction de‐ fined by their absent rebels. This has structural reasons, but is also due to the fact, that internal criticism is not suited for dystopian fiction in general: dystopia’s function is to warn that if certain trends to unchecked, the world will deteriorate into a nightmarish system, not to remind those in power what they signed up for in the first place. 58 See Stephen Metcalf ’s “Neoliberalism: The Idea that Swallowed the World” (The Guardian, 2017) for an excursion on the origin of the term ‘neoliberalism.’ 59 See Eagleton-Pierce 18; also Quiggin 143. 60 See also Barkan 446. Interestingly, Peck, Brenner, and Theodore add that neoliberalism must be thought of as an “unevenly developed and reproduced historical process” (5). They thereby raise the point that neoliberalism comes in various shapes and sizes that differ drastically across the world. the notions of Slavoj Žižek, Fredric Jameson, and Mark Fisher, this chapter will continue by explaining in detail why external criticism is not a suitable platform from which to criticise a social formation such as neoliberalism. Finally, this chapter will present the theoretical framework necessary to formulate imma‐ nent criticism in the first place, introducing David Grewal’s notion of ‘network power’ as one possible theoretical lens before continuing with the analysis of five informative and illustrative examples of contemporary dystopian fiction, which offer a critical reading of neoliberal capitalism. 57 Theorising Neoliberal Capitalism and Globalisation Neoliberalism - just like Fordism or Taylorism - is a historically bound forma‐ tion, that is to say, a specific manifestation of the current macro-economic, po‐ litical, and social system commonly referred to as capitalism (cf. Dörre 47). 58 Demarcating capitalism from earlier forms of socio-political and economic sys‐ tems such as feudalism, Ellen M. Wood defines capitalism in The Origin of Cap‐ italism (1999) as a movement starting approximately in the 16 th and 17 th century, “in which goods and services, down to the most basic necessities of life, are produced for profitable exchange, where even human labour-power is a com‐ modity for sale in the market, and where all economic factors are dependent on the market” (2). If capitalism is thus defined as a historical process, favouring market exchange (most notably in the form of wage labour) as the principal mode of societal regulation (cf. Best 500), neoliberalism can be thought of as capitalism’s logical, global extension, its current “stage” ever since the 1970s: 59 it is the “political, economic, and special arrangements within society that em‐ phasize market relations, re-tasking the role of the state, and individual respon‐ sibility. [It is] broadly defined as the extension of competitive markets into all areas of life” (Springer, Birch, and MacLeavy 2). 60 56 II. The Dystopian Genre 61 Benjamin Kunkel frames the connection between neoliberalism and globalization - arguably rather polemically - as “a world integrated under a total market […]. You called this tendency globalization if you liked it, neoliberalism if you didn’t” (“Dystopia” 89). 62 See Cahill and Konings for competing definitions of and approaches to ‘neoliberalism.’ 63 Although proponents of neoliberal capitalism have advocated for the downsizing of the state, arguing against big government and for the mechanisms of the free market, it has now become clear that “the neoliberal era gave birth to a whole host of new state reg‐ ulations and regulatory institutions - widespread privatization and deregulation not‐ withstanding” (Cahill and Konings). As many studies have shown, neoliberalism in its pure form has never and cannot exist for it is reliant on the state and its regulatory mechanisms: “at its heart is an awareness that its success is not in fact predicated on the realization of some [e]utopian state of non-intervention, whatever its official slo‐ gans might declare and however important promises to get the state out of people’s business are for its political legitimacy” (ibid.). This analysis therefore follows Cahill and Konings (Neoliberalism, 2017) as well as Wood (Democracy Against Capitalism, 1995) in rejecting “the notion that we can talk about politics and economics as if they were inherently different spheres of human activity” (Cahill and Konings), yet focuses on the seismic changes of power that changed the equilibrium of forces in favour of companies instead of states since the 1970s for the sake of analytical clarity. See also William Davies “The Neoliberal State: Power Against ‘Politics’” (2018). 64 According to David Harvey, commodification incorporates the idea that “everything can in principle be treated as a commodity” and that “a price can be put on [processes, things, and social relations], and that they can be traded subject to legal contract” with Moreover, neoliberalism connects the two phenomena globalisation and cap‐ italism (cf. Grewal 247). Commonly associated with the rise of neoliberalism, globalisation is defined as a specific set of socio-economic changes dating from the 1970s (cf. Eagleton-Pierce 17), which include, among others, the “interna‐ tional dispersal of production and consumption” and “rapid technological de‐ velopment, especially in communicative technology and a concomitant expan‐ sion of speculative capital and the dematerialization of value” (Connell 225). While globalisation had of course started centuries before (one might think of the British East India Trading Company, which promoted intercontinental trade as early as 1600), it is the specific nexus between neoliberalism and globalisation that is of particular interest to this analysis. Alain Touraine, too, connects the two phenomena on a fundamental level, stating that “[g]lobalization means the triumph of economic forces that are increasingly organized at the world level, while political, legal, and social agents retain very limited if any capacity to intervene at this level at all” (270), 61 thus commenting on the increasing divide between international and national power. 62 Neoliberalism denotes “a historical situation in which structure, politics and society have embraced the market as an ethics, as the universal determinant of life and human activity” (Nilges 162), 63 thereby substituting any other guideline for human behaviour. 64 Valuing market exchange as a universal standard, the aim of neoliberalism is to “maximiz[e] the 57 3. Context, Criticism, and Rahel Jaeggi’s Critique of Forms of Life (2014) the market working as an “appropriate guide - an ethic - for all human action” (Neo‐ liberalism 165). 65 See Nikolas Rose, “Tod des Sozialen” 73 ff. 66 See also David Harvey, Neoliberalism 19 and Stephen Metcalf “Neoliberalism: The Idea that Swallowed the World.” 67 Contrary to claims made by adamant critics of this theory, Fukuyama is of course not suggesting the end of history, i.e. “the continuation of ordinary causal events” (Sagar). Elaborating on the difference between history and the Fukuyamaist notion of History, Paul Sagar correctly points out that the latter term captures the “deep structure of human social existence” and addresses questions of metaphysical nature. Furthermore, Sagar succeeds in debunking those critics reading a triumphalist notion into Fukuya‐ ma’s work, calling such interpretations “gross misreading[s].” The End of History does precisely not celebrate a Western march of triumph but offers an informed diagnosis of societal ills, influenced by the Hegelian and Marxist notion reading history as tel‐ eological progress. reach and frequency of market transactions” (Harvey, Neoliberalism 3), seeking to “bring all human action into the domain of the market” (ibid.), - even those areas previously untapped. In short, neoliberalism has “become hegemonic as a mode of discourse” (ibid.), dominating in theory and practice the way we struc‐ ture our lives. The free market focuses not so much on macro-structures but zooms in on the individual: to say it in the words of Matthew Eagleton-Pierce, “the individual tends to acquire ontological priority over the collective” (19). Neoliberalism turns individuals into the homo oeconomicus, identifying them as the centre of all responsibility of action. 65 As Ralph Fevre writes in Individualism and In‐ equality (2016), in a neoliberalist setting, “people are expected to know their own minds, and be able to make plans, and take decisions, which help them to achieve personal objectives” (5). Moreover, as David Harvey adds, “[a] ‘personal re‐ sponsibility system’ […] is substituted for social protections (pensions, health care, protections against injury) that were formerly an obligation of employers and the state” (Neoliberalism 168). In a life free of state intervention (only as a last resort to stabilise markets), the market becomes the yardstick for social action, the individual within the market the architect of his or her own fortune - the basis for a American understanding of individualism (cf. Eagleton-Pierce 20). The promise: life will be better and free of coercive control. 66 Neoliberalism and the Colonisation of the Imagination: Mark Fisher’s ‘Capitalist Realism’ Francis Fukuyama’s notorious ‘End of History’ thesis has popularised the as‐ sumption that democracy and neoliberalism are the telos of human destiny. 67 In his dialectical, neo-Hegelian approach to history, understood as the process of 58 II. The Dystopian Genre 68 This widespread belief (that capitalism and democracy are allies) which has acquired almost the standing of a sociological axiom comes increasingly under scrutiny. States like China or Russia demonstrate that capitalism does not need democracy in order to flourish. As Colin Crouch asserts, capitalism even has come to be a threat to democracy: “first, modern capitalism is global, while democracy is mainly rooted at national and more local levels. Second, modern capitalism is driven by finance, which leads to in‐ creasing inequality. Yet, high levels of inequality threaten the operation of democracy” (“Market”). However and despite the evidence at hand conservative circles still maintain that capitalism and democracy go hand in hand, championing a discourse that celebrates the former as guarantee for freedom in the West. societies overcoming conflict (cf. Sagar), Fukuyama states that humanity has reached its telos by installing liberal democracies and the free market; it has produced an equilibrium of forces and the “best we were going to get” (ibid.). In Francis Fukuyama’s own words, “liberal democracy remains the only coherent political aspiration that spans different regions and cultures around the globe. In addition, liberal principles and economics - the ‘free market’ - have spread, and have succeeded in producing unprecedented levels of material prosperity” (xiii). 68 For better or worse, Fukuyama’s text has often been “read as the apologia for rampant capitalism” ( Jacobson), for it advocates the claim that democracy in combination with neoliberalism lacks an equivalent alternative but consti‐ tutes the epitome of history. Neoliberalism has been stylised as the most natural approach to human re‐ lations, being accepted even “at the level of the cultural unconscious” (Fisher 6). Mark Fisher has cultivated this assumption under ‘capitalist realism,’ a term created to refer “to the contemporary condition in which all social and political possibility is seemingly bound up in the economic status quo” (Shonkwiler and La Berge 2). He argues that “not only is capitalism the only viable political and economic system, but also that it is now impossible even to imagine a coherent alternative to it” (Fisher 2, emphasis in the original). Taking the view that neo‐ liberalism is the embodiment of the capitalist realist spirit par excellence, Fisher offers a rather bleak diagnosis: the economic sphere has successfully colonised the cognitive capacities of humanity, obscuring the very possibility of con‐ ceiving of alternative systems. Capitalism “is more like realism in itself ” (ibid. 4), impeding our capacity to conceive alternatives. As Ellen M. Wood comments somewhat sarcastically, “if capitalism is the natural culmination of history, then surmounting it is unimaginable” (Origin 8). Benjamin Kunkel, too, criticises this understanding, “neoliberal principles were ardently proclaimed by some people I knew and shruggingly accepted by most of the rest” (Utopia 6). Entire intel‐ lectual schools refuse to even consider alternatives to the status quo, dismissing them as “madness” (Žižek in an interview with O. Jones et al.) and condemning 59 3. Context, Criticism, and Rahel Jaeggi’s Critique of Forms of Life (2014) 69 On a side note, Margaret Thatcher and her British Conservative Party famously coined the phrase “there is no alternative.” Shortened to the acronym TINA, this phrase con‐ denses like no other the refusal to challenge capitalism’s hegemony: according to pol‐ iticians around the world, “[g]lobalized capitalism, so called free markets and free trade were the best ways to build wealth, distribute services and grow a society’s economy. Deregulation’s good, if not God” (Flanders). See also Marsh and Tant, “There is No Alternative: Mrs Thatcher and the British Political Tradition” (1989), and Stuart Hall’s The Hard Road to Renewal (1990) for an investigation of Thatcherism. 70 See also Levitas, “For Utopia” 31, Olsaretti, 1, and Johansen and Karl, “Introduction: Reading and Writing the Economic Present” 4. those who articulate them “as lunatic or terrorist” (Levitas and Sargisson 26). Thus, these schools successfully impede the search for alternative social sys‐ tems, defending free market capitalism as the natural order of things, and de‐ crying alternatives to neoliberalism as “no more practical than time travel” (Beckett). Doing so, they argue that “capitalism is the natural condition of hu‐ manity, that it conforms to the laws of nature and basic human inclinations, and that any deviation from those natural laws and inclinations can only come to grief ” (Wood, Origin 1). 69 It seems, neoliberalism has not only successfully conquered the realm of imagination. It has equally subsumed and become “part of our commonsense understanding of life” (Massey), 70 the effect being that it is regarded by some “as a necessary, even wholly ‘natural,’ way for the social order to be regulated” (Harvey, Neoliberalism 41). In the words of Stephen Metcalf, neoliberal capi‐ talism “has come to regulate all we practise and believe” (“Neoliberalism”) and now constitutes common sense. As Stuart Hall and Alan O’Shea have shown, common sense is so hard to refute since it is believed to be egalitarian in nature, accessible by everyone. It is not the privilege of a wealthy and educated elite, but rather “works intuitively, without forethought or reflection” (8) as the direct result of everyday experiences. Neoliberalism functions thus as the common denominator for both ordinary people and the state’s elite: Through sophisticated public relations, media manipulation and friends-inhigh-places the orthodoxy of corporate-led globalization has become the ‘common sense’ approach to running a country. […] The more our lives become entangled in the market the more the ideology of profit before people becomes accepted. (Ellwood 73) However, the argument based on ‘common sense’ creates a vicious circle, since common sense can “be profoundly misleading, obfuscating or disguising real problems under cultural prejudices” (Harvey, Neoliberalism 39). As Hall and O’Shea reveal, common sense is not external to human experience; on the con‐ 60 II. The Dystopian Genre trary it is discursively created by those who evoke it in the first place. This self-fulfilling prophecy, according to the authors, produces common sense as an effect (cf. 8 f.). Ultimately, it creates the impression that “modern capitalism is the outcome of an almost natural and inevitable process, following certain uni‐ versal, transhistorical, and immutable laws” (Wood, Origin 16) and is thus le‐ gitimately the one social formation that suits human character best. The (Im-)Possibility of Criticising Neoliberalism These factors listed above and the rise of neoliberal capitalism on a global scale produce a 21 st -century socio-cultural reality that contemporary dystopian liter‐ ature reacts to. Indeed, a great number of narratives published in the new mil‐ lennium have responded to this shift in power, identifying companies rather than states as primary objects of critique: bookshelves and cinemas abound in narratives that introduce the head of a corporation as the new ‘big bad.’ Dysto‐ pias like the TV -series Incorporated (created by A. Pastor and D. Pastor, 2016-17) or Ernest Cline’s novel Ready Player One (2011) present radically less perfect communities suffering from an omnipotent oligarchic billionaire CEO , terror‐ ising the population. Examples even date back to the 1950s, when Pohl and Kornbluth published The Space Merchants (1953), introducing the idea that em‐ ployees could owe their employer money for housing and food after having worked their hands to the bone for an entire month. Max Barry masterfully comments on the process, offering the following analysis in his dystopian satire Jennifer Government (2003): John Nike was reading a novel called The Space Merchants; it had been reissued and he’d seen a review in Fast Company. They called it ‘prescient and hilarious,’ which John was having a hard time agreeing with. All these old science-fiction books were the same: they thought the future would be dominated by some hard-ass, oppressive Government. Maybe that was plausible back in the 1950s, when the world looked as if it might turn Commie. It sure wasn’t now. (123) Dedicating a little more than 300 pages to the depiction of free market capitalism running amok, and introducing characters whose last name and therefore part of their identity is constituted by global economic players (“John Nike”), Barry’s novel belongs to a growing number of books that react to capitalism. Self-re‐ flexively, the passage comments on genre conventions as established by tradi‐ tional dystopian fictions (the reference to Pohl and Kornbluth’s The Space Mer‐ chants is spelled out explicitly), which warn of authoritarian state power. The novel itself, though, shows that the 21 st century is by no means comparable to 61 3. Context, Criticism, and Rahel Jaeggi’s Critique of Forms of Life (2014) 71 The principle of ‘methodological individualism’ postulates that “a proper explanation of a social regularity or phenomenon is grounded in individual motivations and be‐ haviour” (cf. Basu). Social phenomena can thus be traced back to the decisions of indi‐ viduals. In contrast, ‘methodological holism’ argues that events and crises are more than the sum of individual actions (cf. Rosa, Strecker, and Kottmann 19). the future envisaged by the classics, but that it differs significantly with regards to the target of criticism: global neoliberal capitalism. Despite their acknowledgment of capitalism as a growing problem, these novels and films are rather conservative in nature; they are content with a simple substitution process, adhering to the structures of classical dystopian fiction by simply replacing a totalitarian politician with a totalitarian CEO . This ma‐ noeuvre, however, can be no more than a “partial diagnosis” (Sandel 7). As the philosopher Slavoj Žižek has pointed out, these anti-capitalist critiques too often narrow down systemic criticism to individual sins like greed and corruption. John Nike, for instance, is cast in the role of the antagonist for he is willing to advertise the new Nike sneakers by increasing their ‘street credibility,’ having contract killers take aim at Nike’s own customers, creating the illusion that less wealthy individuals might resort to murder to get hold of these shoes. The sys‐ temic problems of free market capitalism are reduced to the failed morality of individuals, creating the impression that capitalism per se might work, if we only could eradicate individual flaws (cf. Becker, John, and Schirm 35) - a paradox Žižek considers too narrow a frame to attack capitalism, because the criticism often boils down to condemning pathological individuals. These novels thereby create the illusion that systemic problems (totalitarianism) could be overcome by, on the one hand, initiating a one man show rebellion or, on the other hand, by disposing of individuals like John Nike, who take sole responsibility for de‐ ficient structures. Instead of attacking the system, methodological individu‐ alism 71 will always accuse criminal individuals, who “abus[e] the system” (Fisher 69). Relying on the structures offered by methodological individualism, external criticism as employed by these examples limits its scope of critical analysis - a flaw that has already weakened the anti-capitalist argument of many novels. Further examples include, for instance, industrial novels such as Elizabeth Gas‐ kell’s North and South (1855), which solves its systemic problems of unemploy‐ ment, horrible working conditions, and growing economic inequality by having one factory owner undergo a Damascene conversion, re-discovering his Chris‐ tian ideals of charity and altruism (cf. Glomb). Žižek and others repudiate this analysis, claiming that “[w]e should move from this simple moralistic anti-cap‐ italism to more fundamental questions such as why people are pushed to act like that” (Žižek in an interview with Medeiros). Criticising the tendency to 62 II. The Dystopian Genre 72 Yet, Hollywood films seldomly do justice to the complex situation contemporary readers find themselves in capitalist societies. Instead of “undermining capitalist realism,” that is to say, Mark Fisher’s notion of the inevitability of capitalism as the dominant cognitive paradigm of the 21 st century, Hollywood’s “gestural anti-capitalism actually reinforces it” (12). Drawing from Robert Pfaller’s notion of ‘interpassivity,’ Fisher accuses these narratives of “perform[ing] our anti-capitalism for us, allowing us to continue to con‐ sume with impunity” (ibid.). They comfort the audience into believing that “[s]o long as we belief (in our hearts) that capitalism is bad, we are free to continue” (ibid. 13) our lives in a capitalist world order. burden one individual with the faults of systemic problems, as classical dysto‐ pian fiction usually does, Žižek advocates a macro-systemic approach concen‐ trating on the system. Adding to Žižek’s position is Jane Bennett’s refusal to cleave to a simplistic pattern of cause and effect, attributing blame for macro-systemic problems to individuals. She states that “[i]n a world of distributed agency, a hesitant attitude toward assigning singular blame becomes a presumptive virtue” (38), advocating a turn away from the methodological individualism of the 19 th and 20 th century towards a network theory of responsibility. 72 Dystopias that have replaced one totalitarian leader with another of a different shade do not attack neoliberal capitalism sustainably, but aim at buffing out the most disturbing aspects. Capitalism’s persistence has to do with the inability of ‘external criticism’ - arguably the most commonly drawn weapon, not only by the anti-capitalist dystopias mentioned in the last paragraph, but also in everyday discourse - to formulate critique adequately. This mode is subject to two internal problems and thus fails to attack constructs like neoliberal capitalism for yet again two reasons, upon which the following paragraphs will elaborate. Firstly, while the application of external criticism is a fairly simple procedure, its legitimisation proves to be more complex. External criticism is a technique not uncontested in its efficiency: on the one hand, criteria employed as basis for external criticism are random at best and arbitrary at worst. External criticism derives its maxims from axiomatic deliberations about what constitutes the ‘good life’ - however, external criticism works equally well for less humanist and noble endeavours than promoting positive and negative freedom rights. As Tom Boland correctly points out, this kind of “critique operates as a kind of translation of language, capable of rendering anybody else’s account in derogatory terms. […] These accusations can be directed against anything; businesses, unions, parties, social movements, communities, families, intimate relationships” (“Cacophony”). To‐ talitarianism might just as easily harness the potential of external criticism to distribute its ideology. On the other hand, it remains unclear which of the many ills suffered by contemporary society actually originate from a capitalist system 63 3. Context, Criticism, and Rahel Jaeggi’s Critique of Forms of Life (2014) 73 See Bini Adamczak’s Beziehungsweise Revolution (2017), in which she describes the fundamental paradox all revolutions suffer from, namely to create a new world by transgressing the ideological, practical, and theoretical boundaries of the old one: “[e]utopia is supposed to describe a future, which differs radically from the present; yet it is bound to describe said future from the [limited] perspective of the present” (45, own translation). According to Adamczak, this paradox can be mitigated by describing the inherent paradoxes of the now (“Das Paradox entschärft sich, je mehr die herr‐ schende Gegenwart als widersprüchliche analysiert wird,” 45). Immanent criticism with its focus precisely on describing and analysing the inherent paradoxes of a given society, is thus the only viable means to achieve eutopia. of production (cf. Jaeggi, “Drei Wege” 321). The concept of exploitation is a case in point: is it a capitalist problem, or is it a general one that happens to re-appear under capitalist rules of production (cf. ibid. 334)? An ethical or moral critique of free market capitalism brought forth by external criticism would first need to establish a normative basis before making a case. Secondly, external criticism does not necessarily strive for the best option - the criterium exhausts itself in searching for a better version (not the best), thus running into the danger of substituting one dystopian system with a slightly less dystopian system. Many classical dystopian fictions have been trapped in this fallacy, meaning they propagate one system without sufficient critical ex‐ amination. Christopher Ferns, for instance, has skilfully deconstructed the rev‐ olutionary potential inherent in Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, arguing that it reproduces the very same system it wants to abolish. He shows that the alter‐ native system the novel hopes to install via the figure of Winston Smith is but a pale shadow of the old one, thus reducing the subversive potential consider‐ ably. 73 Moreover, Ferns writes that “albeit from a different perspective, [classical] dystopian fiction re-enacts the triumph of an essentially masculine dream of order” (129). Ferns thus confirms the suspicion proclaimed by The‐ odor W. Adorno in his “Message in a Bottle,” published in Mapping Ideologies (1994), namely that [t]hose schooled in dialectical theory are reluctant to indulge in positive images of the proper society, of its members, even of those who would accomplish it. Past traces deter them; in retrospect, all social [e]utopias since Plato’s merge in a dismal resem‐ blance to what they were devised against. The leap into the future, clean over the conditions of the present, lands in the past. (42 f.) Commenting on the seeming impossibility of ideology-free critique, Tom Boland is correct in his assertion that “the very thing that is ‘unmasked’ is the tool of ‘unmasking’ itself ” (Spectacle 2). Any attempt to externally criticise a given so‐ ciety in order to propel an alternative is ultimately doomed to repeat the same 64 II. The Dystopian Genre 74 See also Ferns 129 and Claeys, “Origins” 107. mistakes over and over again. “Past traces” will always link the two concepts and thus deter the possibility for radical social change. Nineteen Eighty-Four, its dystopian relatives, and its application of external criticism can thus not be considered subversive or rebellious, changing society for the better. On the con‐ trary, classical dystopian writing is “formally and historically, structurally and contextually, a conservative genre” (Pfaelzer 61). 74 Or in the words of Fredric Jameson: “our wildest imaginings are all collages of experience, constructs made up of bits and pieces of the here and now [.] […] our imaginations are hostages to our own mode production (and perhaps to whatever remnants of past ones it has preserved)” (Archaeologies xiii). By demonstrating that classical dystopias are trapped within the same conceptual problems and shortcomings they seek to criticise, these novels sabotage their own self-imposed agenda. As Jean Bau‐ drillard and Arthur B. Evans write in Simulacra and Science Fiction (1991), sci‐ ence fiction is often “an extravagant projection of, but qualitatively not different from, the real world of production” (309, emphasis in the original). Inevitably, these constructs “wind up reproducing the conditions of society [they] seek to reform or replace” (Tally Jr. 20). Classical dystopia, then, is not necessarily the departure to better shores, but to places “in which our own ideological limits are the most surely inscribed” ( Jameson, “Progress” 148). It fails to truly provide an alternative since it is constrained by its own cognitive limits. Furthermore, the inefficiency of external criticism arises from capitalism’s systemic nature. Free market capitalism, other than totalitarianism with its monuments, headquarters and symbols of power, decidedly lacks centre and author. As Mark Fisher elaborates, it is difficult, if not nearly “impossible to accept that there are no overall controllers, that the closest thing we have to ruling powers now are nebulous, unaccountable interests exercising corporate irresponsibility” (63). Experiencing the capitalist system as almost Kafkaesque, as “unresponsive, impersonal, centerless, abstract and fragmentary” (ibid. 64), victims are left alone with their anger and frustration, unable to identify an addressee for their critique. As Fisher writes, “anger can only be a matter of venting; it is aggression in a vacuum, directed at someone who is a fellow victim of the system […]. Just as the anger has no proper object, it will have no effect” (ibid.). Zygmunt Bauman, too, diagnoses the centreless nature of modern capi‐ talist systems. In Liquid Modernity (2000), he argues that our time is character‐ ised by an absence of centres of power: If the time of systemic revolutions has passed, it is because there are no buildings where the control desks of the system are lodged and which could be stormed and 65 3. Context, Criticism, and Rahel Jaeggi’s Critique of Forms of Life (2014) 75 See Hardt and Negri’s Empire (2000); the two authors come to define power as a diffuse mechanism, which is no longer bound to national boundaries (cf. Balakrishnan). They state that “Empire is emerging today as the center that supports the globalization of productive networks and casts its widely inclusive net to try to envelop all power re‐ lations within its world order—and yet at the same time it deploys a powerful police function against the new barbarians and the rebellious slaves who threaten its order” (Hardt and Negri 20). Power is increasingly represented as a network, rather than a directional force. They thus argue alongside Grewal, who continues to develop our understanding of relationality and influence. 76 See Jameson’s Archaeologies of the Future (2005) for the better-known variation of that statement (199). 77 Fredric Jameson is not alone with this opinion. Peter E. Firchow (cf. 70), Beverley Best (cf. 497), and Baudrillard and Evans all argue along the same lines: “we can no longer imagine other universes” (cf. 310). As Robert Tally Jr. writes, “[i]n the era of globaliza‐ tion, any space ‘outside’ of the political economic system appears almost inconceivable” (11). captured by the revolutionaries; and also because it is excruciatingly difficult, nay impossible, to imagine what the victors, once inside the buildings (if they found them first), could do to turn the tables and put paid to the misery that prompted them to rebel. (5) No matter who sits at the world’s control desks, to speak metaphorically, sys‐ temic difficulties will always limit the possibility of reform. External criticism, which is essentially dependant on a recipient, i.e. on being direct at someone, will ultimately deflagrate without effect. Capitalism, it seems, is the ultimate, diffuse form of power decoupled from the individual and it thus remains almost impossible to criticise directly. 75 As David Harvey correctly notes, “[c]apital is a process and not a thing. It is a process of reproduction of social life through commodity production, in which all of us in the advanced capitalist world are heavily implicated” (Postmodernity 343). The absence of an external point of view - a moral high ground so to speak - makes the attempt to formulate external criticism equally futile. This dilemma is grounded in the fact that free market capitalism involves nearly everyone on this planet, rendering external criticism useless. Indeed, for external criticism to work, there must be an alternative at hand that can claim the moral high ground and substitute the first system. Yet, in the words of Fredric Jameson, “it seems to be easier for us today to imagine the thoroughgoing deterioration of the earth and of nature than the breakdown of late capitalism; perhaps this is due to some weakness in our imaginations” (Turn 50). 76 The entire left and the anti-capitalist movement lack - to use Jameson’s terminology - “cognitive mapping,” or, the ability to chart alternatives to the current situation (cf. “Map‐ ping” 356). 77 Despite the fact that “capitalism has always pulled out of its recur‐ 66 II. The Dystopian Genre 78 This is not to suggest that there are no alternatives at all to a capitalist world order (cf. Worth). Developments like sustainable cities and economic systems increasingly gain momentum, propelled by environmental activists or liberal intellectuals. Yet, these de‐ velopments remain micro-attempts of changing the system, yet not powerful enough to challenge the hegemony of capitalist thinking (see Harvey, Neoliberalism 187 f. for an excursion on movements challenging capitalism’s hegemony as well as R. J. White and C. Williams 603 f.). rent crises, but never without laying a foundation for new and even worse ones” (Wood, Origin 1), the system seems without alternative at the present moment for its dynamics and interwoven complexities seem particularly difficult to un‐ tangle: “[c]ontemporary globalized capital presents particular difficulties when it comes to mapping its dynamics and limits, such that imagining what might lie beyond it becomes even more challenging than in earlier stages of capitalist development” (Best 498). Moreover, Jürgen Habermas has diagnosed of a weakening in eutopian dreaming and potential in the face of the apparent inevitability of neoliberalism: “[t]oday it seems as if the [e]utopian energies have been used up, as if they had withdrawn from historical reflection. The horizon of the future has now nar‐ rowed itself and in doing so has fundamentally changed both the Zeitgeist and politics, at least in Western Europe. The future is occupied with the merely negative“ (2). Equally, Fredric Jameson speaks of “the Utopian problem,” the necessity of introducing a “vision of the future that grips the masses” (“Mapping” 355). The triumphant march of the post-apocalyptic narrative, and the mingling of dystopian and apocalyptic imagery and themes in novels such as Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake (2003), Cory Doctorow’s Walkaway (2017), Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, Kim Stanley Robinson’s “Science in The Capital” novels (2004-2007), or Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Windup Girl (2009) represent a case in point. Our imagination is able to conceive of the end of the world, the total destruction of the human race, yet not of an alternative to free market capitalism. With ideas and developments like universal basic income in their infancy, and alternative communities co-opted by ‘hipsters’ living the ‘Insta-life style,’ this dilemma is likely to continue for some time. 78 Under these circumstances, novels in general, and dystopias, struggle to maintain their integrity as channels of criticism. They are always products of a neoliberal market policy and are produced as commodities by publishing houses and marketing departments to satisfy consumer demand for the highly popular dystopian genre. Consequently, the novels cannot occupy the moral high ground per definitionem, usually attributed to external criticism, since they are the product of the very system they seek to criticise. As Mathias Nilges claims in 67 3. Context, Criticism, and Rahel Jaeggi’s Critique of Forms of Life (2014) the context of the American novel, for instance, bestsellers are “formally com‐ plicit with the logical structures of neoliberal capitalism and free market ideology, [and] appear[…] altogether unable to work through the hegemony of the market” (158). Quoting Walter B. Michaels, he writes that “the American novel today […] is entirely in the grasp of the market” (Nilges 158) and therefore unable to address the real problem, namely “the full subsumption of culture under capital” (ibid.). Echoing Horkheimer and Adorno’s argument on the cul‐ ture industry from Dialectic of Enlightenment (1944), Nigels ultimately declares the contemporary novel unfit to address the real issues of our time - the in‐ equalities caused by contemporary neoliberal capitalism. Walter B. Michaels agrees, stating for instance that the more unjust and unequal American society has become, the more we have heard about how bad, say, the Holocaust was. […] So maybe it’s time to forget about the Holocaust for a while and focus on the free market instead, to stop congratulating ourselves on being against genocide and to start questioning what it means to be for free trade. (“Going Boom”) Inevitably, these novels are products of the system they want to criticise in the first place and have thus weakened their own position to do so. Subversive fic‐ tion must be aware of these limitations and consider them in their own pro‐ duction of literature. Contemporary Dystopian Writing, ‘Immanent Criticism,’ and David Grewal’s Network Power (2008) Contemporary dystopias and changes in their style and structure make sense when read within the tradition of immanent criticism, employing this method as the narrative modus operandi. Externally, they seem to agree with Tom Bo‐ land, who laments the ineffectiveness of external criticism: “perhaps the remedy to the crisis of critique is not more or better or purified critique, but other ways of thinking” (“Cacophony”). As previously stated, immanent criticism is neither a straightforward matter of imposing one world view onto another (external criticism), nor is its aim to recover the underlying values and morals (internal criticism). In the tradition of the Critical Theory as brought forth by the Frank‐ furt School, immanent criticism is essentially diagnostic in nature: it requires neither an Archimedean point of reference outside a system, nor a direct recip‐ ient. Its transformational potential aims to solve the immanent paradoxes by making them comprehensible in the first place, rather than supplanting one system with another. It does not claim to know a solution to the problem but is 68 II. The Dystopian Genre 79 See also William E. Connolly (The Fragility of Things, 2013), Stephen Metcalf (“Neolib‐ eralism”), Alex Callinicos (Bonfire of Illusions, 2013, 2 f.) David Harvey (Neoliberalism, 65 and 181), and Peck, Brenner, and Theodore (“Actually Existing Neoliberalism,” 2018, 4 f.). restrains itself to analysing the systemic inconsistencies, and to develop reforms based on what it has identified as defective. In order to analyse said systemic inconsistencies, immanent criticism always relies on a theoretical framework necessary for illuminating the immanent con‐ tradictions of the respective object of critique. This theoretical framework is needed to trace the connections between two seemingly unrelated phenomena, which - upon closer inspection - are co-dependant and arise out of the same structures. As has already been mentioned, capitalism’s destructive attitude to‐ wards families and its simultaneous reliance on family structures to produce future workers and to create and maintain a recreative safe place for stressed workers to relax is a case in point (Fisher 32 f.). Another is neoliberalism’s claim to be the system which produces most freedom for everyone. The free market stylises itself to be the one social order, which has fulfilled the promises of civ‐ ilisation, having created free individuals that answer to no higher authority than to themselves (cf. Shonkwiler and La Berge 4 f.). Shunning any form of coercion and force (e.g. in the shape of enforced labour, cf. Dörre 23), 79 neoliberalism seems to achieve freedom to its “highest possible extent” (E. Olin Wright 50). As Serena Olsaretti paraphrases the advocates of the free market, “since the free market hosts only mutually advantageous and therefore non-coercive transactions, it is a realm in which freedom and voluntariness alike are respected” (141 f.). Con‐ sequently, as Johansen and Karl argue, neoliberalist thought claims to achieve as much ‘freedom’ for the individual as possible: [N]eoliberalism [is] an economic dogma and political rationale that holds that free markets and competition will produce the best outcomes for the most people. This tenet often presumes and produces scenarios of radical individualism and self-pro‐ prietorship that are predicated upon this competitive ethos. (3) In sum, neoliberalist rhetoric “with its foundational emphasis upon individual freedoms” (Harvey, Neoliberalism 41) uses freedom as key terminology, advo‐ cating neoliberalism as the prime engine of individual freedom and responsi‐ bility. The “assumption that individual freedoms are guaranteed by freedom of the market and of trade is a cardinal feature of neoliberal thinking” (ibid. 7), seemingly making the system more appealing. As Zygmunt Bauman writes, the individual is made “responsible for his or her actions” (Freedom 3) in modern Western free market capitalism, resulting in the individual obtaining “the whole 69 3. Context, Criticism, and Rahel Jaeggi’s Critique of Forms of Life (2014) and undivided responsibility for the action” (ibid. 2 f.). Indeed, the very name “free market” conjures associations with opportunity, choice, and free will, cul‐ minating in the claim that “the market implies not compulsion but freedom” (Wood, Origin 6). This notion of neoliberal capitalism, as the “guardian of liberty” (Metcalf) or as “perfection of freedom” (ibid. 16), is based on a process that Stuart Hall and Alan O’Shea have termed “individualisation of everyone” (12). Although advocates of neoliberalism argue that everyone “who lives in [a] neoliberal society is free to determine their fate” (Fevre 13; cf. also Mirowski 100), reality has proven the promises made to be deceptive at best and false at worst. Therefore the discussions around freedom within neoliberalism move centre stage, ever since Karl Marx argued in Das Kapital (1867) that “one of the historical conditions for capital’s eventual hegemony […] is the generalized ap‐ pearance that market exchange, as a formal and hence non-coercive social mechanism, replaces direct coercive control (founded on religious bond, feudal obligation, or absolutist prerogative)” (Best 505), fostering the illusion of au‐ tonomous, ‘free’ individuals. As David Harvey writes, “[p]olitical struggles over the proper conception of rights, and even of freedom itself, move centre-stage in the search for alternatives” to neoliberal capitalism (Neoliberalism 182). Con‐ tinuing, he states that neoliberalism has put on “a benevolent mask full of won‐ derful-sounding words like freedom, liberty, choice, and rights” (ibid. 119). These words, however, only “hide the grim realities of the restoration of reconstitution of naked class power” (ibid.) within a neoliberalist context; the critics of neo‐ liberalism indicate that neoliberal individualism “condemns them to less and less freedom, even as common knowledge declares it self-evident that their fates are in their own hands” (Fevre 13 f.). Harvey continues by providing examples from Britain and the United States where the neoliberal system is much more prominent than in parts of Europe. This obvious paradox (the insistence on freedom, while simultaneously pro‐ ducing conditions that systematically undermine the possibility to lead a free life) is a possible leverage point of immanent criticism. Its argumentative co‐ gency arises from the fact that neoliberalism is a construct full of such inherent contradictions, creating mutually exclusive demands that make it impossible to sustain both at any given time. Immanent criticism is the only form of critique able to visualise the connections between the freedom-focused agenda of neo‐ liberalism and the coercive structures in which individuals find themselves - despite the absence of totalitarian leaders, and without resorting to notions of 70 II. The Dystopian Genre 80 Marxist readings of culture had often postulated the existence of a so-called ‘false con‐ sciousness,’ an ideology which like a veil would cloud the population’s judgement against their own ‘real’ interests (cf. Opratko 13). ‘False consciousness’ then came often to be understood as a form of brainwashing (cf. ibid. 13, 43). This changed with Antonio Gramsci, who argued that ideology is not so much an intellectual category but a set of well-established practices which rely on instructions, norms, values, etc. (cf. ibid 13, 43) and that cultural analysists do not need the concept of ‘false consciousness’ to ex‐ plain why people would act in a way that would cause themselves disadvantages and problems. false consciousness. 80 Exemplifying the paradigmatic merit of literature, dysto‐ pian fiction in combination with immanent criticism offers a mode of reading that disturbs the common sense offered by neoliberalism. By applying immanent criticism these novels demystify the claims of neoliberalism, showing that this form of life can neither fulfil its promises nor provide a sustainable path for the development of future generations. They thus deconstruct the claims brought forth by neoliberalist advocates, and allow us to see the inherent contradiction within the system. It may pass off as freedom as it seems uncoupled to the juridico-political notion of power, however it produces a yet more complex web of power difficult to define theoretically. In the words of Hannah Arendt, “the rule by nobody is not necessarily no-rule; it may indeed, under certain circum‐ stances, even turn out to be one of its cruellest and most tyrannical versions” (Condition 40). Jaeggi maintains that in order to function properly, immanent criticism relies on the support of a theory-based reading of the criticised. In this case, immanent criticism “does not simply extract the ideal from reality [but] combines the idea that the standard of criticism resides in the thing itself with the claim to provide a context-transcending critique” (Critique 191). The theoretical framework promising to be most illustrative in this context is the theory of power developed by David Grewal in his Network Power (2008), an investigation into the nature of power in the 21 st century. This study adds a new layer to the ancient discourse about the characteristics of power, which comes in many guises: the most typical form is what Michel Foucault refers to as “juridico-political model” (cf. Discipline and Punish, 1979). This notion of power as sovereignty dates back to the begin‐ nings of political theory, often associated with Machiavelli, Locke, and Hobbes, who famously identified the Leviathan as the sole pole of power within their respective treatises of political power (cf. King and Kendall 217 ff.). This top-down structure conceptualises power as radiating from one centre of (po‐ litical) authority, and designates power in terms of its influence on others’ be‐ haviour; by way of an example, Agent A imposes her will on Agent B. Foucault correctly asserts that “we have not ceased talking and thinking in terms of [the 71 3. Context, Criticism, and Rahel Jaeggi’s Critique of Forms of Life (2014) 81 Following Serena Olsaretti, I define coercion as “the deliberate interference of one person with another, typically through the use of threat or force” (141). juridico-political model], [but] we actually live in relations of power that are quite different and that cannot be described properly in its terms” (Grewal 136). In her study How Fantasy Becomes Reality: Seeing Through Media Influence (2009), Karen E. Dill argues along the same lines: When we think about manipulation, we are likely to think of strong-arm techniques: fascist dictators and terrorists manipulate and they do it with an iron fist. Think George Orwell’s Big Brother. Think of the motto of the Borg on TV’s Star Trek: The Next Generation: ‘Resistance is futile.’ Think Hitler, Stalin, Saddam Hussein, Osama Bin Laden, or the general view Americans had of Russia in the mid-twentieth century. The idea is that we’ll know when people want to manipulate us because they’ll publicly declare their intention or brag about how we’re powerless against their strength. (25) Dill argues that we still think about manipulation and power “similar to how villains operate in the movies, on television and in video games” (ibid.): those exercising power do so according to Foucault’s juridico-political model in terms of oppression, violence, and threat to life and limb. Equally, King and Kendall also consider the Hobbesian notion of sovereign power as “the most funda‐ mental form of power, a notion from which we have (for better or worse) yet to escape” (219). Sovereignty, then, is still the most ‘popular’ concept of power - not only in classical dystopian writing but also in the everyday usage of the term - that dominates our understanding of the concept, although contempo‐ rary forms of power have long since taken other forms. David Grewal no longer defines power as influence but reconceptualises it as a peculiar mixture of individual agency and systemic coercion, 81 captured within the term ‘network power.’ Grewal’s theory supports the understanding that power must not necessarily be conceived of in oppressive, coercive, and totali‐ tarian terms but that the absence of voluntariness suffices as evidence of coer‐ cive structures. To formulate his argument, Grewal introduces the notion of standard, a “shared norm or practice” that facilitates cooperation among mem‐ bers of a network (21). He puts forward that individuals adopt a given standard whenever they hope for personal advantages in entering a network, providing examples ranging from linguistics to economics. Conceptualising English as a linguistic network, he argues convincingly that a desire to learn a new language, particularly the world’s number one trade and business language, is motivated by the wish to gain access to this community (cf. ibid. 74): “the French Canadians in Quebec are under pressure to learn English in order to benefit from national 72 II. The Dystopian Genre economic and political life, which occurs in predominantly Anglophone setting” (ibid. 71), although they might have preferred to enhance their competence in French or any other language. Whoever wishes to participate in the standard of English - a standard with “great network power” (ibid. 75) - must study English vocabulary and thus devote time and energy, which can no longer be invested in learning Hungarian, for instance. The same mechanisms are detectable in economic spheres, particularly money and the gold standard, which “was re‐ quired for access to the [imperial] British market,” thus constituting a barrier to anyone wanting to engage in trade at the middle of the 19 th century (ibid. 97; cf. also Metcalf). In the first part of his analysis, Grewal has thus shown how self-reliant, rational individuals might perceive of the idea of switching to a certain standard without external coercion or threat to life and liberty. On the contrary, the switch to a dominant network seems to bring only advantages. Broadly speaking, a standard is a neutral entity on display, an offer to auton‐ omous agents who aim at maximising their chances in life. These standards can spread, all “propelled by people’s desire for access to members of a network” (Grewal 23). Network power is “the amount of real and potential influence ex‐ erted by that standard in relation to others” ( J. Ai-Etsuko Brown, emphasis in the original), meaning the appeal of a given standard to be adopted by initially free individuals in the hope of obtaining previously unattainable advantages in whatever aspect of life. Ultimately, as Grewal concludes, “the growth of a net‐ work is driven by the active choices of individuals rather than by their passive acceptance of something external to them” (26, emphasis in the original) - choices that are neither tainted by a false consciousness nor the product of co‐ ercion (cf. ibid. 128). Grewal makes it absolutely clear that “[i]t is our choices that lie behind network power, and nothing beyond or outside them” (26). While this first step in the development is often an autonomous decision by a rational individual, the following step conflates the notions of coercion and freedom considerably. We can call a standard whose invitation has been taken up by everyone a universal standard. The power of a standard thus follows a peculiar trajectory on its way to universality: starting from reason [i.e. intrinsic or extrinsic motivation], force [i.e. avoidance of direct and indirect costs], or chance [i.e. accidental convergence], it grows in relation to the size of its network - even at an increasing rate - up to the point at which it replaces all competing standards. (ibid. 42, emphasis in the original) Once a standard has become a ‘universal standard,’ “[c]hoices made in such conditions can become more and more constrained by the lack of acceptable alternatives until they prove formally free but substantially coerced” (ibid. 106). 73 3. Context, Criticism, and Rahel Jaeggi’s Critique of Forms of Life (2014) 82 ‘Path dependence’ as a concept was first developed in chaos theory and has now become common in economics, law, political science, and technology, to name just a few areas. Originally, it states that “a minor or fleeting advantage or a seemingly inconsequential lead for some technology, product or standard can have important and irreversible in‐ fluences on the ultimate market allocation of resources, even in a world characterized by voluntary decisions and individually maximizing behaviour” (Liebowitz and Marg‐ olis, “History” 206). An infamous case in point is the keyboard of modern laptops and smart phones, which still use the QWERTY layout instead of the more convenient Dvorak system. Unnerved by the system, Jared Diamond published an article in 1997, tracing the reasons why modern typewriters (and laptops and smartphones in exten‐ sion) do still adhere to the system although it has proven to be impractical: the QWERTY gained an initial advantage (secretaries for instance learnt to type on QWERTY type‐ writers) and thus secured itself a leading position on the market. This advantage took a life of its own: “QWERTY’s early dominance meant that typewriter users became committed to the layout. From 1874 until 1881, the only typewriters commercially available were Remington machines with QWERTY keyboards, and typists learned to use them. Some of those typists set up typing schools, where they taught the QWERTY keyboard familiar to them. Their pupils took jobs at offices with the keyboards they It becomes ever more costly for individuals to actively refuse a given standard, until it might actually be conceived as impossible, leaving them with no choice but to ‘choose’ the dominant standard no matter how disadvantageous: “[a]s a dominant network moves towards universality, the costs of deviation from the to-be-universal standard increase until not being a member of the universal network is equivalent to social exclusion in the domain governed by that standard” (ibid. 107). Fateful moments are times when events come together in such a way that an individual stands, as it were, at a crossroads in his existence; or where a person learns of information with fateful consequences. Fateful mo‐ ments include the decision to get married, the wedding ceremony itself - and, later, perhaps the decision to separate and the actual parting. […] There are, of course, fateful moments in the history of collectivities as well as in the lives of individuals. They are phases at which things are wrenched out of joint, where a given state of affairs is suddenly altered by a few key events. (113) Universal standards may thereby eliminate the opportunity to choose due to their tendency to reduce choices to non-choices. Without active coercion, people can find themselves in situations where they have no choice left but to accept a dominant standard - due to past choices they and others have made. This is a phenomenon captured with the term of ‘path dependence,’ an idea that boils down to “history matters,” that is to say, “where we are today is a result of what has happened in the past” (Liebowitz and Margolis, “Dependence” 17). This helps to explain the phenomenon “that we are pulled by our choices along avenues smoothed by the prior choices of others” (Grewal 140) and are thus shaped by powers beyond control. 82 74 II. The Dystopian Genre knew. Many businesses newly equipping themselves with typewriters ordered QWERTY machines, because it was easy to find typists trained to operate them” (Dia‐ mond). So despite functional disadvantages, one option may arise to become the dom‐ inant standard due to individual choices made in the past that eradicate other - maybe even more advantageous - options in the future. Path dependence thus constitutes a special form of network power for its mechanisms and operations are highly similar. Such a standard can be found within a neoliberalist world order. David Harvey describes the effect of network power by tracing the history of neoliberalism itself: “[t]he general progress of neoliberalization has therefore been increas‐ ingly impelled through mechanisms of uneven geographical developments. Suc‐ cessful states or regions put pressure on everyone else to follow their lead” (Neoliberalism 87, emphasis in the original). His ‘creeping neoliberalization’ can thus be seen as a slow erosion of impediments of neoliberalism (e.g. trade bar‐ riers), forcing other countries to adopt the standard even if they originally op‐ posed it (cf. ibid. 89, 93). Manuel Castells, too, comments on the network struc‐ ture of neoliberalism, calling it “self-expanding logic”: “the more countries join the club, the more difficult it is for those outside the liberal economic regime to go their own way. So, in the last resort, locked-in trajectories of integration in the global economy, […] amplify the network, […] while increasing the costs of being outside the network” (142). Grewal argues that neoliberalism and network power are a match made in heaven. They form a unique blend of coercion and reason, yet seemingly favour freedom (cf. 252): Neoliberalism […] privileges relations of sociability and mistrusts those of sovereignty, since (on its own accord at least) the latter are distorted and corrupted by power in a way the former are not. Instead, neoliberals place their faith in those activities that people undertake as individuals choosing to participate in broader structures of social life. (ibid. 247) But while neoliberalism and its defendants like to think of themselves as for‐ mally free, they are bound by the principle of network power - or in the words of Karl Marx, “[t]he social division of labour entails that each free-worker is inserted into, and thus becomes entirely dependent upon, a system of production that vastly exceeds him / her, geographically, temporally, spatially, and so on” (Best 501). The fact that neoliberalism does not originate from a single centre of authority - and thus does not force its participants like totalitarianism would do - does not mean that it is free from oppression. On the contrary, globalization and neoliberalism prove to be “coercive or entrapping even if [they are] entirely driven by free, choosing people who create the conditions under which their 75 3. Context, Criticism, and Rahel Jaeggi’s Critique of Forms of Life (2014) agency gradually loses the power to later the circumstances” (Grewal 56). Grewal furthermore argues that “[m]arket relations offer obvious examples of this domination of formally free persons obligated not by direct authority but by interest” (118) - thus creating a potentially threatening system disadvanta‐ geous for themselves, which once created is difficult to be tamed by individual decisions any longer. Following Serena Olsaretti, Grewal introduces a necessary differentiation between free and voluntary choices, thereby arguing that what appears to be a free choice due to the absence of external coercion, must not be confused with voluntariness. To say it in the words of Serena Olsaretti, “[f]reedom does not guarantee voluntariness” (141). Grewal goes on to argue that [i]n liberal political thought, particularly of libertarian bent, freedom is often identified with an individual’s freedom to make choices for herself. In this identification lies a truth and a danger. The truth is that freedom may sometimes be manifested in the choices a person makes. The danger is that the simple act of choosing does not signify anything until we specify the domain of options over which someone chooses. (108) A precondition for voluntariness is ultimately the availability of two equally desirable options, not just the mere act of choosing. To illustrate his point, Grewal quotes from Serena Olsaretti’s Liberty, Desert and the Market (2004), which tells the story of a girl, Daisy, wishing to leave her hometown, a desolate city in the middle of a desert. While nobody actively forces her to stay there, Daisy knows that she has no means to cross the desert alive. Thus, “[h]er choice to remain in the city is not a voluntary one” (Olsaretti 138; cf. Grewal 109 f.), although she is formally free to leave. Olsaretti’s desert city is thus a good ex‐ ample for a situation “that is in some sense coerced even while being formally free” (Grewal 112), since there are no other acceptable options. We cannot, however, speak of a voluntary decision, as Daisy wants to leave. This example stands in opposition to Olsaretti’s second thought experiment, the “Wired City”: “Wendy is the inhabitant of a city fenced with electrifying wire, which she is unfree to leave. However, her city has all that anyone could ever ask for, and Wendy, who is perfectly happy with her life there, has no wish of leaving it. She voluntarily remains in her city” (138; cf. Grewal 110). The difference between Daisy and Wendy is the notion of voluntariness. Both girls are theoretically unable to leave their respective cities, yet while one cannot do so due to the desert, the other does not want to, although one might presume that she lives in a somewhat repressive community. Therefore, a “choice is vol‐ untary if and only if it is not made because there is no acceptable alternative to it” (Olsaretti 139, emphasis in the original). Tellingly, Olsaretti’s first example 76 II. The Dystopian Genre works without the notion of an oppressive authoritarian leader, who forces their subjects to remain in the city. Wendy’s decision to stay in the city is a form of coercion despite the fact that there is no detectable form of juridico-political power. Following Gerald Cohen then, Olsaretti concludes that a person can only be considered to have made a free choice, “if he has a reasonable or acceptable alternative course” (Cohen quoted in Grewal 109); anything else should be con‐ sidered unfreedom in the sense of non-voluntariness. When Darko Suvin asserts that “free choice [must be the] guide of any society worth living in” (“Bust”), he actually demands the right to make voluntary choices between two equally de‐ sirable options. Referring to the writings of thinkers like Antonio Gramsci, Michel Foucault, Gilles Deleuze and others (cf. 131 ff.), Grewal’s network power can thus be seen as an addition to the macro-theory of structuration, “an integrated account of agency and structure” (55). As a result of neither expressing preferences for one structure over the actors nor the other way round, the theory of structuration (a term introduced by Anthony Giddens) helps to “move beyond the dichotomy that supposes either that we are masters of our contexts or that our contexts must master us” (Grewal 56). It thus provides an explanation of how power prunes freedom, even if no identifiable actor, i.e. a totalitarian leader, actively deprives people of their rights and choices. With the notion of network power, “direct coercion as such is not necessary” (ibid. 121). Rather it works “through the simultaneous promise of belonging to a dominant network and the threat of social exclusion, which together give a network influence over the actions of individuals” (ibid. 122). This type of power then thrives off the all-too human wish to belong to a community, fostered by the fear of expulsion and the un‐ availability of alternatives after enough people have joined the dominant net‐ work: [N]etwork power exists in all the ways people are drawn to each other, wanting to gain access to cooperative activities with other people. It is relational: we cannot even talk about this power outside the multiple networks of individuals whose choices are shaped by allegiance to a common standard. It is immanent: not an abstract force, but inherent in our mediating social institutions. (ibid. 140) To summarise, the analytics of network power show how aggregated individual choices can come to constitute a form of decentralised power immanent in social relations - and all without the command of a central authority (cf. ibid. 139). While “many theorists would prefer to attribute all relevant causation to iden‐ tifiable individuals and their actions alone” (ibid. 127), Grewal opts for the middle line between individual responsibility and systemic coercion, thus paving the 77 3. Context, Criticism, and Rahel Jaeggi’s Critique of Forms of Life (2014) 83 As early as the middle of the 19 th century, Karl Marx diagnosed the “subject’s inability to recognize his / her own agency as the creative source of the object world that other‐ wise oppresses him / her” (Best 499), capturing this paradox in the concepts of ‘aliena‐ tion’ and ‘fetishization.’ His and Grewal’s theory thus overlap insofar as that both de‐ scribe history as a process not made “under conditions of [people’s] own choosing, which is to say that even the ‘best’ intentions can take unexpected turns or lead to undesirable ends” (ibid.). The difference to Grewal’s approach is the degree of awareness inherent to this process. While Marx’ attributes a false consciousness to the workers under the condition of capitalism, Grewal’s diagnosis works without this notion. In fact, in his theory it does not matter if people actually understood their complicity since due to the influence of network power, people cannot help but to support the dominant standard. 84 This is of course not to suggest that there are no differences in terms of suffering from neoliberal structures. Arguably, the population in the Global South struggles consider‐ ably more under the mechanisms of global neoliberalism. way for literature to escape the notion of methodological individualism. Grewal argues that “[i]t is possible to articulate a systemic condition of power without attributing ultimate agency to anything other than interdependent human choices and actions” (ibid. 129, emphasis in the original). In the context of neo‐ liberalism this theory explains why “the blame for [the] failure [to abolish cap‐ italism] does not lie with the subjects of contemporary capitalist societies, even though the responsibility for social change can lie nowhere else (that is, with ‘us’)” (Best 499). In fact, the people suffering from certain standards might ac‐ tually be the origin and stabiliser of the system in the first place; we must ac‐ knowledge that “the structure, in this case, is a product of ‘our’ collective agency” (ibid.). 83 Describing a vicious circle of support and suffering, Grewal’s approach visualises the neoliberal mechanisms of power: while neoliberalism claims to be free of coercion and oppression (in the West) 84 , its proponents con‐ stantly conflate the notions of freedom and voluntariness. He and Olsaretti argue convincingly that freedom alone does not suffice; it is voluntariness for which we should strive. His theory thus becomes the theoretical framework through which contemporary dystopian fiction can critically assess neoliber‐ alism, showcasing its inherent misconception of ‘freedom.’ 78 II. The Dystopian Genre 85 See Virginia Pignagnoli “Sincerity, Sharing and Authorial Discourses on the fic‐ tion / Nonfiction Distinction: The Case of Dave Eggers’s You Shall Know Our Velocity,” 2016, for an investigation into Dave Eggers’ relationship to fiction and non-fiction. III. ‘Crowd-Founded’ Dystopia: Dave Eggers’ The Circle (2013) Born in 1970, Dave Eggers has only recently entered the stage of dystopian fiction with his 2013 novel The Circle - as The Guardian journalist Edward Docx argues, a “work so germane to our times that it may well come to be considered as the most on-the-money satirical commentary on the early internet age.” Eg‐ gers had formerly made a name for himself as one of the “leading figures in [a] ‘group of emerging young writers’” (Hoffmann 23), as a result of his renowned first novel, the autobiographical A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius (2000), which received critical attention primarily due to its rich meta-fictional commentary (cf. Mackay) and its reflections on authorial authenticity, confes‐ sion, and memoirs (cf. Nicol). Ever since then, the Boston-born author has reg‐ ularly featured on international and US -American bestseller lists. Commenting on a variety of events defining the 21 st century, such as Hurricane Katrina, US -Middle-Eastern relations, or police shootings, Eggers has secured himself a stable readership and a loyal fanbase at home and abroad. 85 Yet his relationship to reviewers is complex. While his work is usually dis‐ cussed favourably, Eggers is also criticised for his literary instinct, which trans‐ lates into an almost opportunistic hunt for the zeitgeist. This leads journalist Hillary Kelly to comment somewhat sarcastically, “[i]f you’ve read it [sic! ] about it in The New York Times Sunday Review, chances are Dave Eggers has considered it as source material” (Kelly; cf. also Galant). Kelly’s comments are paradigmatic, exemplifying the ambivalent relationship of critics to Eggers’ work that seems to culminate in the discussions over his first dystopian novel. The Circle has proven to be very controversial; the critique usually highlights two points in particular, with the first concerning the novel’s literary quality. Some reviewers criticise the novel’s intellectual and literary deficiencies (cf. Hugendick et al.), accusing the text of banality of language and plot, flat characters, and an in-your-face didactic message that reduces the novel to an exercise in black-and-white painting (cf. McMillan). Eggers, says The New York Times col‐ 86 See the chapter “Clones and Free-Market Capitalism: Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go (2005).” umnist Ellen Ullman, “tends to overexplain,” resulting in the almost cartoonlike depiction of the characters inhabiting Eggers’ fictional company campus. The controversy over the quality of Eggers’ work has grown into a debate about what should be considered more important, the quality of fiction or its didactic effect. Indeed, this is a very old discussion in the context of dystopian fiction, which has always had to fend off attacks from the literary establishment (cf. the concept of the ‘Menippean Satire’ by Northrop Frye; Frye, Criticism 309). However, all questions of literary quality aside, Eggers’ indisputable suc‐ cess and the sheer scale of the readership buying his books speak volumes. His novels are popular enough to shape the national and international discourse on dystopia, technology, and capitalism significantly. In December 2019, the German newspaper Spiegel Online declared The Circle even to be one of the ten novels that shaped and influenced the bygone decade (cf. F. Bayer). Eggers’ texts must therefore be treated seriously even if their literary quality may not compare to the works of the Grand Dame of dystopian fiction, Margaret Atwood, or those of the Nobel laureate, Kazuo Ishiguro. The second point of criticism focuses on the plausibility of the novel. Partic‐ ularly those working within the tech industry have accused Eggers of naivety and ignorance: Laura Bennett, for instance, discredits Eggers since - according to her - he has not understood how an operating system works. Furthermore, Graeme McMillan and Felix Salmon criticise Eggers’ technical illiteracy, claiming that his lack of facts makes “it all too easy to dismiss his whole book as the work of someone who hasn’t got the faintest clue what he’s talking about.” The question arises, however, whether an author must necessarily be aware of the technical details in order to aptly interrogate and provide adequate com‐ mentary on the thematic complexity of technology and society. In fact, the entire discussion is reminiscent of the accusations directed at Kazuo Ishiguro for not providing enough background information on the donation system in his dys‐ topia Never Let Me Go; 86 just as the critique against Ishiguro, the criticism focused on Eggers is unsubstantial, missing the point in question entirely. Despite minor inaccuracies regarding the depiction of technology, The Circle can be read as an up-to-date representation of a thriving company in Silicon Valley, holding up “the mirror of art in order to show us ourselves and the perils that surrounds us” (Atwood, “Privacy”). Ron Charles, for instance, reminds the readers of his Washington Post review that “we’re already living” in that world. As Gwyneth Jones writes, “at this particular moment in time, reality and science 80 III. ‘Crowd-Founded’ Dystopia: Dave Eggers’ The Circle (2013) 87 All references to The Circle will be cited parenthetically as TC. fiction are moving into such close conjunction that science fiction is no longer the strange reflection and artistic elaboration of current preoccupations: the mirror and the actuality have almost become one” (vii). The Circle is definitively one of the more recent dystopias that bring the perils of the future closer to home, refraining from projecting the despicable dystopian world decades into the future, instead providing an accurate reflection of the now. The novel latches on to the extraliterary reality of its readers, grounding its tale in plausibility, common knowledge, and popular discourses of the early 21 st century. Set in contemporary California, Eggers’ novel focuses on the rise of the eponymous tech giant ‘the Circle,’ which emerges as the sole survivor of a cutthroat capitalist competition, having subsumed “Facebook, Twitter, Google, and finally Alacrity, Zoopa, Jefe, and Quan” ( TC 23). 87 The novel adopts the perspective of the 24-year-old protagonist, Mae Holland - like Winston Smith an Everyman character standing in for the average reader (cf. Gellai 299) -, and accompanies her from her first day in her new job. Recently ‘escaped’ from a mediocre posi‐ tion with neither career opportunities nor health insurance for family members, Mae is overwhelmed by the seemingly eutopian opportunities at the Circle. But “as the story advances, our view of the Circle moves from bright to dark to darker” (Atwood, “Privacy”), prompting us to reconceptualise the initial im‐ pression. The Circle has been read as an exploration of technologically-induced identity models (cf. Halfmann; also Gellai) and as an enquiry into corporate responsi‐ bility (cf. Martin). What makes the novel interesting for the current analysis, is the absence of rebels: The Circle is a dystopia largely void of rebellion and without a totalitarian state apparatus. In fact, it demonstrates how people can ‘crowd-found’ a dystopia through their combined free albeit involuntary deci‐ sions. After investigating the decidedly neoliberal setting of the novel, this anal‐ ysis will shed light on The Circle’s depiction of network power, which operates via the fear of social exclusion as a direct result of not accepting a standard, before commenting on the specific role technology plays in establishing said standard. As a final step, the fourth subchapter will focus on the formulation of critique within the text, demonstrating that external criticism is explicitly marked as a non-option by and within the novel, while immanent criticism emerges as the only viable option for fostering social reform. 81 III. ‘Crowd-Founded’ Dystopia: Dave Eggers’ The Circle (2013) 88 The review title references Dante’s Divine Comedy (La divina commedia, 1472), in which Dante travels hell and its seven circles, purgatory, and heaven (cf. Frenz). Moreover, the title could also be read as an allusion to Aleksandr Solženicyn, whose novel The First Circle (V kruge pervom, 1968) references Dante and criticises the repressive Soviet Re‐ gime and its prison system for dissident intellectuals. The novel was censored and not available until 1978 (cf. Thaidigsmann). 89 See Cahill and Konings’ Neoliberalism (2017) and the chapter on “Corporate Power” for a detailed analysis of the expansion of the corporate sphere, focusing on how companies have profited from privatization. 1. Corporate Dystopia - The Rise of the Circle Eggers’ The Circle seems to resonate intensively with classical dystopian fiction, above all with George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. Virginia Pignagnoli, for instance, claims that Eggers constructs his narrative in “plain Orwellian fashion” (“Surveillance” 151), while Joseph A. Domino claims that Eggers’ novel “is a version of Orwell’s 1984 [sic! ]” (“Privacy”). At first glance, these observations seem valid: insisting on being called “Uncle Eamon” ( TC 25), the CEO Eamon Bailey taps into the same family discourse as Big Brother; besides, the compa‐ nies’ maxims, “Secrets are Lies,” “Sharing is Caring,” and “Privacy is Theft” (ibid. 305), are stylistically and structurally reminiscent of Nineteen Eighty-Four’s party slogans, “ WAR IS PEACE ,” “ FREEDOM IS SLAVERY ,” and “ IGNO‐ RACNE IS STRENGTH ” (31, emphasis in the original), inviting a direct com‐ parison between the two novels (cf. also Galant). Yet to evaluate Eggers in terms of the standards set by Orwell et al. alone would deeply wrong both him and his novel. While The Circle is arguably the novel closest to traditional dystopian structures of all those discussed in this analysis, comparisons focused purely on the close textual and structural proximity between the novel and classical dys‐ topian fiction do not do justice to Eggers’ text since they ignore the substantial differences between the two novels in both content, narrative structure, and type of criticism employed. As Andreas Bernard has already pointed out in his FAZ review “Der Dritte Kreis der Hölle” (2018) 88 , many aspects of the novel differ significantly from the tropes and topoi prevalent in classical dystopian fiction. For example, while the traditional dystopian novel as popularised by Orwell, Huxley, and Zamyatin constructs an estranged, authoritarian world state, Eggers describes a fictive tech company in an all too familiar contemporary world, which slowly but steadily supplants the state as the prime engine of social reform. 89 Indeed, The Circle narrates the success story of a shiny, super-hip corporation, constantly highlighting the fact that in a capitalist and globalised world state structures have served their time. As Tom Moylan diagnosed, “[i]n many works of the 82 III. ‘Crowd-Founded’ Dystopia: Dave Eggers’ The Circle (2013) dystopian turn […] portrayals of the state disappear” (“Moment” 138), until eventually “the power of the authoritarian state gives way to the more pervasive tyranny of the corporation” (ibid. 135). Emphasising “the complex interconnec‐ tions between corporations and government” (Galow 123), the novel thus par‐ takes in the ongoing discussion about the influence of the economy on politics. For instance, when Mae arrives on the campus and reads through the schedule of Circle activities for the day, she discovers that a “congressman [she] hadn’t heard of, grey-haired but young, was holding a town hall at six thirty” ( TC 6). His speech is advertised on the elevator doors and Mae watches him “talking at a podium, somewhere else, flags rippling behind him, his shirtsleeves rolled up and his hands shaped into earnest fists” (ibid.). Yet the staged election campaign performance displayed by the US politician comes to an abrupt end: “[t]he doors opened, splitting the congressman in two” (ibid.). Not only the apparent disin‐ terest with which Mae registers the politician (she had never heard of him), but also the fact that his image is split in two by the company’s elevator doors, foreshadows the minor role politics and its representatives will play in Eggers’ novel. This section at the very beginning of the text paves the way for a narrative centring around the slow descent of political power into irrelevance, and the concomitant ascent of corpocratic power. As Darko Suvin has commented in a different context, “the partnership and collusion between the capitalist global corporations and the nation-States [sic! ] seems […] finally [be] dominated by the former” (“Reflections” 73). In Eggers’ world, chances are that eventually states will be bereft of all power. The novel regularly features examples that remind the readers of the domi‐ nance of capital and companies, establishing neoliberal capitalism as the sole paradigm that governs both politics and business as well as any other aspect of human life. “There were notices about each day’s campus visits: a pet adoption agency, a state senator, a Congressman from Tennessee, the director of Médecins Sans Frontières” ( TC 102). The senator’s position on the list of people to visit the campus is paradigmatic of the insignificance and low status of representa‐ tives of the state. Listed next to a pet adoption agency and the CEO of an NGO , two organisations that cannot rival the Circle neither with respect to money nor influence, politicians seem to occupy a similar position of minor importance only, if any at all. Indeed, the novel downgrades the importance of politicians in comparison to the company CEO s on multiple occasions, for example, when introducing Tom Stenton, the CEO and one of the Three Wise Men, the Founders of the Circle. To the lower left […] was Tom Stenton, the world-striding CEO and self-described Capitalist Prime - he loved the Transformers - wearing an Italian suit and grinning 83 1. The Rise of the Circle like the wolf that ate Little Red Riding Hood’s grandmother. […] He was more in the mold of the eighties Wall Street Traders, unabashed about being wealthy, about being single and aggressive and possibly dangerous. He was a free-spending global titan in his early fifties who seemed stronger every year, who threw his money and influence around without fear. He was unafraid of presidents. He was not daunted by lawsuits from the European Union or threats from state-sponsored Chinese hackers. Nothing was worrisome, nothing was unattainable, nothing was beyond his pay grade. (ibid. 23 f., emphasis in the original) Described as “dangerous,” “wolf,” and “aggressive,” that is to say, as a character outside of accepted social behaviour delineated by society and state, Tom Stenton acts as the poster boy of unleashed neoliberal power. Although his pre‐ ferred nickname ‘Capitalist Prime’ alludes to the fictional leader of the alien race which features in the Japanese comic book series Transformers (humanoid robots with the ability to turn into cars, lorries, or planes, which are usually described as morally impeccable and socially committed), Stenton is nothing like the heroic Optimus Prime. While Stenton admires the physical strength and lead‐ ership qualities associated with Optimus Prime, the substitution of “optimus” by “capitalist” suggests that Stenton prioritises money over ethics: his name translates as ‘capitalism first.’ With literally “nothing beyond his pay grade,” again an allusion to the influence of money, the lingua franca of free-market capitalism, Stenton has managed to withdraw himself from the power of states and thus serves as a symbol for the entire company. Moreover, his characteri‐ sation reads like the rhetoric employed by Thomas Hobbes in his thought ex‐ periment Leviathan (1651), which describes the natural state of war individuals find themselves in before agreeing on the state monopoly on legitimate violence (‘homo homini lupus’). Characterised as a “global titan” - a mythological asso‐ ciation that, like the descriptors “wolf ” and “dangerous,” catapults him beyond man-made rules and thus society - in his function as CEO , Tom Stenton has surpassed not only single states, like China, currently one of the big players in the global market: he floats on top of multiple nations, the European Union, which, despite the combined powers of more than two dozen states, cannot threaten him. In fact, the example suggests that “the state does not represent even the smallest of hurdles to the Circle’s efforts” (Martin 61). Stenton and the corporation “seemed stronger by the year” ( TC 23), foreshadowing its domi‐ nating role by the end of the novel. Having established the setting as decidedly capitalist, the novel presents its readers with the consequences of modelling all social interactions according to the rules of business transactions: The Circle criticises the overwhelming power of corporations in particular and the capitalist paradigm more generally by pre‐ 84 III. ‘Crowd-Founded’ Dystopia: Dave Eggers’ The Circle (2013) 90 Fittingly, the novel implicitly characterises its protagonist as part of a neoliberal market culture by assigning her a name connected to this discourse. Mae, short for Maebelline, reminds the reader of “a makeup accessory” (cf. Atwood, “Privacy”) by the company of the same name: “Maybelline,” a multi-million dollar company and part of a global net‐ work of the cosmetic company L’Oréal (cf. ibid.). senting the Circle and its employees as pseudo-eutopians whose real interests lie in the erection of a system that commodifies life, a “monetized […] [e]utopia” ( TC 489). The novel deconstructs the company’s marketed self-image (seemingly dedicated to the ideals of sharing, community, and stabilising democracy) by highlighting that the Circle is actually all about earning money and generating profit (cf. Lascalles): for instance, the company encourages its employees to foster an atmosphere of consumerism, advertising certain products on their so‐ cial media channels. Their work performance is also evaluated and assessed in terms of their ‘Retail Raw,’ a scale that indicates how much money they en‐ couraged their followers to spend: So every purchase initiated or prompted by a recommendation you make raises your Conversion Rate. If your purchase or recommendation spurs fifty others to take the same action, then your CR is x50. […] Okay, so your average Conversion Rate so far has been x119. Not bad. But on a scale of 1 to 1,000, there’s a lot of room for improve‐ ment. Below the Conversion Rate is your Retail Raw, the total gross purchase price of recommended products. So let’s say you recommend a certain keychain, and 1,000 people take your recommendation; then those 1,000 keychains, priced at $ 4 each, bring your Retail Raw to $ 4,000. It’s just the gross retail price of the commerce you’ve stoked. Fun, right? (TC 252) As Mae soon learns, “the minimum expectation for high-functioning Circlers is a conversion rate of x250, and a weekly Retail Raw of $ 45,000” (ibid. 252 f., my emphasis), meaning that the employees of the Circle are expected to stimulate consumption and function as a vehicle for advertising. 90 Algorithm-based tracking programmes control whether the employees fulfil their quota. This marketing strategy, which anticipates the methods employed by contemporary influencers and Instagram stars, is an integral aspect of their job, proving the Circle to be not a humanitarian project for achieving eutopia but a hipster mar‐ ketplace for collecting customer data and selling goods to users (cf. Halfmann 275). Examples like these demask the company as a generator for profit which reduces its employees to online peddlers. Understanding and processing life as a single cost-benefit-analysis, the ma‐ jority of characters exemplify how familiar neoliberal thinking has become. Re‐ gina Martin labels this logic Stenton’s ‘economic efficiency argument’ (cf. 62), 85 1. The Rise of the Circle thereby commenting on the state of mind necessary to express value solely in economic terms. Based freely on Oscar Wilde’s famous aphorism that these days people “know[…] the price of everything and the value of nothing” (Lady Wind‐ ermere’s Fan 82), Eggers’ novel illustrates the inhuman consequences of thinking only in economic terms. In the words of The Guardian journalist Ben Tarnoff, The Circle shows how “[d]ecades of neoliberalism have corroded our capacity to think in non-economic terms” (“Privatization”). The characters are firmly situated within the paradigm of capitalist realism, having been taught “that all fields of human life should be organized as markets” (ibid.). All decisions made at the Circle are legitimised by economic deliberations, for example, by refer‐ encing the savings incurred by introducing this change or that initiative. For instance, health insurance and health care are primarily thought of as initiatives to save money, rather than as a measure to save human life. When asked why the Circle is providing free but extensive health care for its employees, the chief physician, Dr Villalobos, explains, “prevention is cheap. Especially compared to finding some Stage-4 lump when we could have found it at Stage 1” ( TC 154). Treating its employees as a resource, the Circle shows how cost-benefit-analyses can permeate various discourses. The insignificance of individual human lives, already suggested in the ex‐ ample of Dr Villalobos, becomes painfully clear in the next example, which marks a caesura in Mae’s development as a character. Crashing off a bridge after being chased by high-efficiency drones working with geolocation, Mercer, Mae’s ex-boyfriend, becomes the object of a discussion in which both Bailey and Mae demonstrate how much their way of thinking and processing of the world has been colonised by neoliberal ideas of profit maximisation and cost reduction. Having staged his grief for Mae and “her twenty-eight million” watchers ( TC 466), Bailey changes the subject of the conversation, exclaiming “not that it’s about money, but do you know how much it’ll cost to repair that bridge? And what it already cost to clean up the whole mess down below? You put him in a self-driving car, and there’s no option for self-destruction” (ibid. 467). Although Bailey states that this is not “about money,” it is obvious that it is all about money indeed. The CEO successfully turns Mercer’s suicide / death into a benefit-cost analysis, circling around the maintenance of infrastructure. Wasting this op‐ portunity to critically reflect on the reasons for Mercer’s actions, both Bailey and Mae deteriorate further, legitimising another company innovation, self-driving cars, by re-introducing a neoliberal cost-efficiency argument to open up new markets. This direct comparison is explicit, opening the readers’ eyes to the fact that the company is not about establishing eutopia but rather about marketing goods. 86 III. ‘Crowd-Founded’ Dystopia: Dave Eggers’ The Circle (2013) 91 Meanwhile, this doctrine has left Silicon Valley and has found fruitful soil in the White House: after having been appointed senior advisor to the 45 th President of the United States of America, Jared Kushner announced in March 2017 that “the government should be run like a great American company. Our hope is that we can achieve successes and efficiencies for our customers, who are the citizens” (Kushner quoted in Parker and Rucker). A similar process informed by neoliberal convictions of the superiority of the free market can be observed on the other side of the Atlantic as well. As Catriona Watson, Leah Green and Bruno Rinvolucri observe within the context of the 2016 British elections, “did you know that the economy wasn’t mentioned once in a winning British general election manifesto before 1950? Not once. ‘The economy’ didn’t exist. Fast for‐ ward to 2015, in the general election the economy was the most discussed issue in the media, aside from the election itself. It was mentioned 59 times in the winning mani‐ festo. Think about how much we justify the things we think are good in life by empha‐ sizing their positive effect on the economy. A children’s charity promoted fathers reading to their children because improved literacy will increase GDP by 1,5 %” (own transcript). See also Der Göttliche Kapitalismus (edited by Marc Jongen et al., 2007, 28 f.). As already hinted at, The Circle describes the slow descent of the nation state and democracy as we understand it and substitutes the former with the corpo‐ ration. Concomitantly, the plot climaxes with the idea that “[c]ost effectiveness becomes the measure of a good democratic process” (Martin 63). It suggests that a private organisation could run the task of a government more effectively and economically - even core functions of democracy like voting: Washington is trying to save money […] Right now it costs the government about ten dollars to facilitate every vote. Two hundred million people vote, and it costs the feds two billion to run the presidential election every four years. […] If we provide these services for free, we’re saving the government billions of dollars. (TC 394) Mae’s proposition to conduct elections via the Circle’s channels is more than welcomed by its CEO s, since it requires “100 percent of the citizenry” to possess a Circle account: an influential step towards monopoly and a guarantee for stable revenue. In fact, as David Lascalles argues, the Circle’s power is founded on providing a single financial identity for its users “through which people can transact and lead their entire lives” (45), meaning that every bank account is connected to one Circle profile. The company is primarily interested in making money of their users. The Circlers thus expose themselves as failed idealists, upholding eutopian notions superficially but seeking true inspiration from the free-market paradigm of commodification. As Ben Tarnoff continues, “[n]owhere is the neoliberal faith […] more deeply felt than in Silicon Valley. Tech entrepreneurs work tirelessly to turn more of our lives into markets and devote enormous resources towards ‘disrupting’ government by privatizing its func‐ tions” (“Privatisation”). 91 The maxim that money becomes the decisive criterion 87 1. The Rise of the Circle 92 See also Matthew Eagleton-Pierce’s “Historicizing the Neoliberal Spirit of Capitalism” (2016). in legitimising any decision is reinforced by Mae, who states that “[t]here had been some concern […] about a private company taking over a very public act like voting. But the logic of it, the savings inherent, was winning the day” ( TC 395, my emphasis). With the help of the Circle’s neoliberal think tank, stressing the “savings inherent,” democracy is “transformed from a political process […] into a consumer product to be marketed” (Martin 64). By supporting and cham‐ pioning this logic, the Circlers ignore that not all material and immaterial goods should be commodified and marketed in a capitalist world - a questionable process that reduces inalienable human rights to commodities. Equating citizens with consumers and vice versa negates and eradicates the categorical differences between the two concepts. As Martin writes, “[t]he government traditionally provides goods and services to groups and individuals based on a perceived so‐ cial need. […] When a company worries about customer satisfaction, it is con‐ cerned that the individual will continue to purchase a product or a service, not that the product or the service meets a social need” (62). 92 Eggers makes this discourse explicit, as his characters vocalise similar positions in all detail, thus tapping into a contemporary controversy surrounding the legitimisation of neoliberal discourses. The Circle insists that too much wealth in the hands of the few can eventually corrupt people and therefore cannot be seen as a neutral means to an end but must be considered as inherently dangerous and immoral. As Kalden, the IT -wunderkind and founder of the Circle, recounts the history of the company, “[t]here was Bailey and Stenton and the IPO . And then it was just too fast, and there was enough money to make any dumb idea real” ( TC 487). Too much money, according to the novel, may shift ethical and moral boundaries. As Kalden suggests, readily available funds eradicate the reflection time necessary to digest project proposals. Consequently, any number of “dumb idea[s]” are financed by the Circle, the “plan to count the grains of sand in the Sahara” (ibid. 160) being one of the most ludicrous projects. At the Circle, ideas are neither limited by financial resources nor by moral and ethical deliberations; since the former are inexhaustible, the latter shrink into irrelevance. As the novel sug‐ gests, money has successfully replaced morality and - for that matter - common sense. The text identifies the economic power of the Circle as corrupting and thus highly problematic, criticising the company for circumventing democratic decisions and destabilising entire political systems of various countries. 88 III. ‘Crowd-Founded’ Dystopia: Dave Eggers’ The Circle (2013) 93 See the chapter on Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go for further information. 94 Regarding the topic of consumption and cannibalism, see the chapter on David Mitch‐ ell’s Cloud Atlas in this book. Eggers’ metaphor of choice to express this financial “deterritorialized power is captured in oceanic terms” (Masterson 732): The Circle employs all sorts of water imagery, symbols and associations to convey the destabilising power of the company, thereby drawing also on the symbolism of a liquid economic system as introduced by Zygmunt Bauman in his Liquid Modernity (2000): 93 TruYou, for instance, one of the programmes the company sells successfully to the public, is described as a “tidal wave” that “crushed all meaningful opposition” ( TC 22). Furthermore, the company’s power and influence are expressed by dif‐ ferent sea creatures. Most often, the Circle is equated to a whale, alluding to its sheer size and importance in the economic pecking order. Other, smaller com‐ panies, hoping that they might be bought by the company, are measured ac‐ cordingly: “[i]t’s plankton-inspection time. […] You know, little startups hoping the big whale—that’s us—will find them tasty enough to eat” (ibid. 28). Initiating a discourse of consumption, the simile reduces the corporate world to an almost Darwinian state of ‘eat or be eaten.’ 94 While the metaphor of the whale triggers associations of a peaceful, slow giant benignly ruling the sea, the shark Stenton brings back from his voyages to the Marianas Trench highlights the Darwinian associations: “[i]t was a bizarre creature, ghostlike, vaguely menacing and never still, but no one who stood before it could look away. […] It was certainly a shark, it had its distinctive shape, its malevolent stare, but this was a new species, omnivorous and blind” (ibid. 309). Interestingly, the animal is “omnivorous and blind,” thereby foreshadowing the Circle’s exorbitant hunger, with which it is about to incorporate everyone and everything into its system. The novel intro‐ duces an obvious symbolism, conceptualising the Circle as this omnivorous shark (thereby altering the associations connected to the company rather dras‐ tically), by commenting on the obvious link between Stenton and his new pet established by gazes: Stenton was staring at the shark, […]. The shark’s nose was deep in the coral now, attacking it with a brutal force. […] The coral soon split open and the shark plunged in, coming away, instantaneously, with the octopus, which it dragged into the open area of the tank, as if to give everyone - Mae and her watchers and the Wise Men - a better view as it tore the animal apart. […] The shark ripped off an arm, then seemed to get a mouthful of the octopus’s head, only to find, seconds later, that the octopus was still alive and largely intact, behind him. But not for long. […] The shark took the rest of it in two snatches of its mouth, and the octopus was no more. […] Then like a 89 1. The Rise of the Circle machine going about its work, the shark circled and stabbed until he had devoured the thousand [baby seahorses], and the seaweed, and the coral, and the anemones. It ate everything […]. (ibid. 480 f., my emphases) The explicit language of this quotation mirrors the brutal proceedings inside the tank. “Circling” inside the aquarium (cf. ibid. 319, my emphasis), the omnivore rips apart other animals, creating a metaphorical template of the Circle’s own business model; no creature survives the encounter with the shark, but ends up as ash-grey “flakes that fell ponderously to the aquarium floor, joining, and indistinguishable from, those that had come before” (ibid. 320). Moreover, Stenton, initially characterised as an aggressive wolf, finds a further animal equal in the omnivorous shark, a creature that mercilessly incorporates - in the literal sense of the word - everything into its system. The Circle has become “[t]he fucking shark that eats the world” (ibid. 484). The company’s success is presented as an impersonal force of nature that literally washes away “all mean‐ ingful opposition” such as human protestors and legal barriers. 2. “Don’t You See That It’s All Connected? ”- The Company and Network Standards By stating, “[d]espotism we can understand” (History 495), Gregory Claeys sum‐ marises our familiarity with totalitarian regimes and their practices. The ability to have agent B do what agent A wants her to do - even against her will - constitutes a prime example for a simple action-reaction pattern based on the asymmetry of influence and power. This process is easily observable, and fa‐ miliar to us, as it is this ability most people commonly associate with Foucault’s juridico-political form of power. According to Grewal, Steven Lukes defines this mode of power by its ability to “overcome[…] resistance” (in Grewal 123), making it the first step of his three dimension model of power. Lukes hints at the fact that the one-dimensional understanding of power is probably the one most easily observed and identified “because its exercise affects someone” (ibid.). After generations of scholars theorising on sovereign power, following Machia‐ velli’s notion that power is the ability to rule over territory and subjects (cf. King and Kendall 217), most people, among them Eggers’ protagonist, are able to identify the action-reaction schema of power: Mae “left her hand resting across [Francis’] lap. [His pulse] quickly rose to 134. She thrilled at her power, the proof of it, right before her and measurable. He was at 136” ( TC 203, my emphasis). Mae is excited about her influence on Francis, her co-worker and love affair, since one move of her hand causes an observable effect (pulse rate to 136), 90 III. ‘Crowd-Founded’ Dystopia: Dave Eggers’ The Circle (2013) granting her satisfaction and a feeling of superiority. Modern technology and its gadgets, in this case, a heart rate tracker, display ‘proof ’ of her effectiveness, bolstering Mae’s self-esteem. While Mae might find one-dimensional power a thrilling ingredient of a sat‐ isfactory sex life, The Circle demonstrates the extent to which people have learnt to mistrust direct forms of power on a political level since WWII , most notably in the form of authoritarian rule. In theory, Mae and her fellow Circlers can be seen as enlightened individuals, wary of totalitarian structures and concomitant power apparatuses, and are eager to challenge juridico-political abuses of power in the form of anti-democratic and oppressive regimes, such as the reign of terror exercised by a paramilitary group in Guatemala. Initiating an online campaign, the Circlers are passionately engaged in political activism: There was a paramilitary group in Guatemala, some resurrection of the terrorizing forces of the eighties, and they had been attacking villages and taking women captive. One woman, Ana María Herrera, had escaped and told of ritual rapes, of teenage girls being made concubines, and the murders of those who would not cooperate. Mae’s friend Tania, never an activist in school, said she had been compelled to action by these atrocities […]. (TC 244) Although “never an activist in school” and decidedly abstinent from political activism, Tania feels “compelled to action” by the clear abuse of juridico-political power. She thus stands pars pro toto for those raised in the belief of the impor‐ tance of democratic institutions, having learnt the lesson of the 20 th century and the totalitarian regimes in parts of Europe and Russia. Compelled to do some‐ thing and with the opportunities arising from advanced information and com‐ munication technology, the Circlers promote an online campaign that sends messages of support to Ana María and, “[j]ust as important, [sends] a message to the paramilitaries that we denounce their actions” (ibid., emphasis in the original). Doubts regarding the effectiveness of this method aside (readers might justifi‐ ably question the relevance of this online petition, since the novel makes it blatantly obvious that the Circlers’ ‘political activism’ translates directly into a painfully irrelevant, naïve idealism the characters in the novel nevertheless seemingly exhibit a strong tie to democracy and egalitarian ideals. While the characters are intellectually equipped to identify abusive forms of juridico-political forms of power, which take the form of (sexual) abuse, op‐ pression and torture, they are nevertheless unable to correctly assess equally destructive, yet less obvious forms of coercion and power. They fail substantially to identify network structures of power, which ‘force’ the individuals to make free, albeit involuntary choices. Since network power and its standards are more 91 2. The Company and Network Standards difficult to identify because the decisions resulting in or from network power appear to be free decisions by mature and responsible individuals (cf. Bernard), The Circle constitutes an exercise in reading this form of power, enabling its readers to broaden their perspective and to differentiate between modes of power dissimilar in method, yet similar in effect: to restrain voluntariness. By demonstrating that the promises of neoliberalism regarding freedom and their reality are mutually exclusive, the novel criticises the former immanently, re‐ lying on the depiction of coercive power structures. Eggers’ novel makes the differences in conceptions of power explicit, re‐ quiring its readers to distance themselves from the characters’ inability to see through the mechanisms of network power that dominate the narrative. A case in point that illustrates how standards can compromise the options for actions of individuals is evident in the following paragraph. Having pushed the game-changing SeeChange cameras on to the market, which enable a 24 / 7 wireless livestream, the Circle alters the code of conduct for politicians. Origi‐ nally intended as life style gadgets to facilitate monitoring of the roads for the daily commute to work, the weather at a favourite beach, or unsuspecting elderly parents (cf. TC 64 f.) - and this is the first example of the novel alluding to the possible abuses connected to superior technology - the mini-cameras become constitutive of democracy once one politician decides to wear one 24 / 7. Con‐ gresswoman Santos explains, “I intend to show how democracy can and should be: entirely open, entirely transparent. Starting today, I will be wearing the [camera]. My every meeting, movement, my every word, will be available to all my constituents and to the world” (ibid. 210). Harvesting the full marketing potential, the Circle effectively leverages Santos’ ‘going transparent’ into a big media event. In her role as a politician and thus dependent on media attention, Santos happily complies by helping to promote the product: “a technician emerged from the wings and hung a necklace around Santos’s head […]. Santos held the lens to her lips and kissed it. The audience cheered” (ibid.). Eggers’ novel not only satirises real-world product releases, anticipating and imitating, for instance, Apple, Facebook, or Google and their general assemblies, but also showcases the unhealthy opportunistic tendencies of modern politics, criticising politicians for becoming brand ambassadors blending economics and politics. Santos’ marketing coup allows readers to witness the birth and growth of a new standard, which will soon dominate both the theory and practice of politics (cf. TC 239 f.). Initially, Santos is something of a curiosity and attracts mild media interest, but not “the kind of explosion anyone at the Circle had hoped for.” Yet over time, the full impact of her decisions materialises in the form of viewer numbers: “as people logged on and began watching [they realised] that she was 92 III. ‘Crowd-Founded’ Dystopia: Dave Eggers’ The Circle (2013) 95 In this section, Eggers’ novel also anticipates the triumph of Donald Trump, who had promised to “drain the swamp” in Washington and to save politics from corruption (cf. Crowley and Haberman). deadly serious” (240). Enabling constant observation - her constituents can watch her every move and hear her every word - Santos thus spearheads a somewhat twisted ideal of democracy that relies on absolute transparency. Viewers are invited not only into her professional but also into her private life, which gives them the impression that Santos constitutes an exception to the moral corruption, opacity, and nepotism commonly associated with Wash‐ ington. 95 Meanwhile, her fame and approval ratings soar, as she gains voters’ support. Of course, this development catches the attention of her rivals, other politicians eager to boost their popularity. Subsequently, a continuous stream of elected representatives - irrespective of party membership, it seems, for the Circle never goes into details about their political points of view - follow Santos’ example and decide (initially) voluntarily to adopt the same measures, hoping for the same advantages and benefits in form of votes: By the third week, twenty-one other elected leaders in the U. S. had asked the Circle for their help in going clear. There was a mayor in Sarasota. A senator from Hawaii, and, not surprisingly, both senators from California. The entire city council of San Jose. The city manager of Independence, Kansas. And each time one of them made the commitment, the Wise Men zinged about it, and there was a hastily arranged press conference, showing the actual moment when their days went transparent. (ibid. 240) Turning Santos’ commitment to go transparent into a big media event, the Circle ensures that these procedures receive the necessary attention from the press and the general public. More demand, of course, equals more profit: “[p]roduc‐ tion on the cameras, which were as yet unavailable to consumers, went into overdrive. The manufacturing plant, in China’s Guangdong province, added shifts and began construction on a second factory to quadruple their capacity” (ibid. 240 f.). Moreover, the fact that a growing number of politicians from other states follow suit, from Hawaii and Kansas (ironically, the city is named ‘Inde‐ pendence’) and not only the technology-devoted California, shows how fast a standard can travel. Like concentric circles spreading from the epicentre in Cal‐ ifornia, the new standard progresses through the States and beyond: “[b]y the end of the first month, there were thousands of requests from all over the world” (ibid. 240). What originally began as an extravagant PR campaign by one poli‐ tician steadily develops into an expected code of conduct, a standard all politi‐ cians are expected to comply with. And the number of those wanting to join the 93 2. The Company and Network Standards network continues to grow. As the text elaborates, “[b]y the end of the fifth week, there were 16,188 elected officials, from Lincoln to Lahore, who had gone completely clear, and the waiting list was growing” (ibid. 241). In the end, the idea has found support on both sides of the Atlantic, in fact, in cultures as dif‐ ferent as the United States (Lincoln) and Pakistan (Lahore), spanning the globe and dominating international discourse. As the novel demonstrates, Santos’ voluntary decision, once universally ac‐ cepted, limits the range of actions for others considerably, until democratically elected representatives literally run out of options other than to comply with the standard: The pressure on those who hadn’t gone transparent went from polite to oppressive. The question, from pundits and constituents, was obvious and loud: If you aren’t transparent, what are you hiding? Though some citizens and commentators objected on grounds of privacy, asserting that government, at virtually every level, had always needed to do some things in private for the sake of security and efficiency, the mo‐ mentum crushed all such arguments and the progression continued. If you weren’t operating in the light of day, what were you doing in the shadows? (ibid. 241) While politicians are formally free to accept the standard (there is no one ac‐ tively forcing them to do so), their choice ultimately becomes an involuntary one. Faced with aggression from both “pundits and constituents,” who disregard questions of security and privacy and suspect their representatives of being entangled with shady business practices like nepotism and corruption, the rep‐ resentatives in question are required either to accept the standard or to face the end of their political career in the next vote. The text makes it blatantly clear that voluntariness constitutes a necessary characteristic in order to speak of ‘freedom.’ As Timothy W. Galow writes, the system thrives on the acceptance of its measures, illustrating “the thin line between choice and coercion in contempo‐ rary consumer society” (124). There is a further clear example in the novel of how network standards emerge from initially free and voluntary choices, which eventually morph into a systemic form of coercion that eliminates alternatives options for action. Juggling ideas on how to increase voter participation in gen‐ eral elections - theoretically, a desirable and understandable wish in democratic societies - the Circle’s think tank suggests to simplify the voting process by expanding existing possibilities for voting online, culminating in the proposal that “your Circle profile automatically registered you to vote” ( TC 388, emphasis in the original). Although conducting elections with social media profiles al‐ ready represents a big leap for democratic structures, Mae takes this idea one 94 III. ‘Crowd-Founded’ Dystopia: Dave Eggers’ The Circle (2013) 96 Mae even introduces Bailey’s ‘economic efficiency argument’: “[if] we provide these services for free, we’re saving the government billions of dollars, and, more importantly, the results would be known simultaneously. Do you see the truth in that” (TC 394)? With this remark, she settles any further doubts brought forth by her peers. step further and again provides an example for how voluntary decisions can create an unsurpassable standard. Referring to those “83 percent of the voting-age Americans” (ibid. 391) who have already logged into the Circle net‐ work, Mae poses the following question: “[s]o why not require every voting-age citizen to have a Circle account” (ibid., emphasis in the original)? Justifying her proposal by commenting on its feasibility due to the superior technology pro‐ vided by the Circle, Mae soon wins over the board. 96 The genesis of this standard is comparable to the aforementioned camera example. Initially, thousands of individuals decided to join the network voluntarily, hoping for easy ways to communicate online. This group of people grows exponentially. The more people join the network, the more disadvantageous non-membership becomes. As David Grewal explains, “the incentives to switch onto a dominant network become greater, the alternatives, even if freely available, become even less at‐ tractive” (122). Being a Circler does not only provide direct advantages from this point onwards, not being a Circler has direct negative consequences for those abstaining from the network. However, Mae’s proposal turns the options into a standard: from now on, people need a Circle account to vote. The decision to accept a standard is thus no longer voluntary. Although formally free, non-Cir‐ clers have run out of alternatives, and are now compelled to join the network - not necessarily hoping for social, economic, or political advantages, but to secure their status quo. The Circle is deeply committed to the depiction of network power on the levels of both content and discourse. To demonstrate how power must not be reduced to coercive mechanisms, the novel has embraced a specific style. Dialogue dom‐ inates in The Circle, often extending over one or two pages without explanatory prose or even inquit formulas. This particular style aligns The Circle within the long tradition of eutopian writing. Works like More’s Utopia for instance are famous for their use of Socratic dialogues (cf. Seeber, Selbstkritik 16): one char‐ acter asks a question on the structure of society, another provides answers. As Northrop Frye summarises, the eutopian “story is made up largely of a Socratic dialogue between guide and narrator, in which the narrator asks questions or thinks up objections and the guide answers them” (“Utopias” 324). The evolving dialogue creates the impression of co-authoring the world: both interviewer and interviewee are equally immersed in the literary construction and presentation of the alternative society. This egalitarian communication 95 2. The Company and Network Standards mirrors the egalitarian principles guiding the very same society from which the discussion arises. On the discursive level, as on the content level, then, eutopia arises as democratic project from communal efforts. Dialogue in The Circle serves two purposes in particular, apart from locating the novel within the utopian canon. Mostly, it has an explanatory and an illus‐ trative function, introducing both the reader and Mae to the Circle. Describing the “core beliefs here at the company,” for instance, Mae’s supervisor Dan ex‐ plains the Circlers’ ideology to both his intraand his extradiegetic audience: Mae, now that you’re aboard, I wanted to get across some of the core beliefs here at the company. And chief among them is that just as important as the work we do here —and that work is very important—we want to make sure that you can be a human being here, too. […] And making sure this is a place where our humanity is respected, where our opinions are dignified, where our voices are heard—this is as important as any revenue, any stock price, any endeavor undertaken here. Does that sound corny? (TC 47) Ending his speech with an open question, Dan invites Mae to react to his world-making, asking her for her acceptance and approval. Elaborating on the eutopian ideals, Dan also seeks to convince the readers, who he addresses indi‐ rectly. Continuing to talk to Mae and the reader in dialogical form - a typical mechanism of eutopia (cf. Baccolini, “Womb” 293) - Dan invites both Mae and the reader to become part of the Circle’s in-group. Secondly, the excessive use of dialogue constitutes an investigation into net‐ work thinking, illuminating the co-dependency of individuals. Often citing en‐ tire dialogues between Mae and fellow Circlers, the novel rarely skips or sum‐ marises a conversation, but renders it accessible in its entirety. This way, readers will soon notice a particular speech pattern employed by all Circle employees. They insert leading questions, i.e. questions that already suggest the appropriate answer, after each relevant chunk of information: “That sound good” ( TC 49)? , “Does that make sense” (ibid. 96)? or “Does that sound right” (ibid. 177)? and “[D]o you see the benefit in this” (ibid. 183)? They thus extract consent or re‐ jection from their dialogue partner, creating the illusion of a dialogue on equal terms. Eamon Bailey employs this technique, too, when he talks to Mae about her ‘stealing’ a kayak from the shop she usually goes to - a crime barely worthy of the name for she is friends with the owner and had the intention of returning it: He smiled almost imperceptibly and moved on. ‘Mae, let me ask you a question. Would you have behaved differently if you’d known about the SeeChange cameras at the marina? ’ 96 III. ‘Crowd-Founded’ Dystopia: Dave Eggers’ The Circle (2013) ‘Yes.’ Bailey nodded empathetically. ‘Okay. How? ’ ‘I wouldn’t have done what I did.’ ‘And why not? ’ ‘Because I would have been caught.’ Bailey tilted his head. ‘Is that all? ’ ‘Well, I wouldn’t want anyone seeing me do that. It wasn’t right.’ (ibid. 282) Bailey’s use of leading questions is conspicuous, structuring the course of the dialogue by extracting the answers he wants to hear. By asking open questions such as “How? ” and “Is that all? ,” Bailey leads Mae to give the suggested replies, while simultaneously maintaining a pretence of democracy, as Mae’s consent is not staged. On the contrary, although nudged in a certain direction, Mae is al‐ ways in control of herself and her words. Bailey’s rhetorical strategy of question and answer fulfils the criteria of freedom yet flaunts the maxim of voluntariness. Mae is not compelled to give these answers, so she is formally free, yet she is not at liberty to steer the debate and is therefore involuntarily restricted in her options. When leaving both the conversation and the stage, Mae marvels proudly if she had “really thought of all that herself ” (ibid. 305)? Stylistically, the novel elaborates on the complex mechanisms of systemic power that origi‐ nates from the individual but in turn compromises the range of the individual’s possible actions. The Circle is void of any identifiable source of oppression, a gravitational centre of moral authority and responsibility (cf. Bernard). There is no Mustapha Mond, no O’Brien, no D -503 to force people to conform. There is no one “in a room somewhere, watching you, planning world domination” ( TC 261). When Mercer complains to Mae about the Circle’s new shopping device, the following exchange ensues: ‘And so what? You don’t want Charmin to know how much of their toilet paper you’re using? Is Charmin oppressing you in some significant way? ’ ‘No, Mae, it’s different. That would be easier to understand. Here, though, there are no oppressors. No one’s forcing you do this. You willingly tie yourself to these leashes.’ (ibid. 262) Although Mercer ignores the systemic aspects of network power, blaming the individual alone for adopting a certain standard (“tie [themselves] to these leashes”), he is correct in abandoning the conceptual paths of thinking in terms of juridico-political power. Ultimately, at least at the beginning when network standards are about to emerge, the Circlers, and by extension the users of the Circle, are themselves responsible for the way they handle their decisions, data, 97 2. The Company and Network Standards and information. Attacked by Mae asking if “Charmin oppress[es him] in some significant way,” Mercer has enough foresight to reject her ludicrous proposal, emphasising that this form of power is not the subject of their debate: it is about Mae’s passive acceptance and active support. Peter Marks locates The Circle’s innovative potential in this narrative twist: “subverting generic codes by having a protagonist who complies through most of the text and then does not rebel at the end gives The Circle a knowing freshness and vitality that encourages interpretive creativity” (166). Unlike Winston Smith or John the Savage, Mae is not a typical dystopian protagonist, because she rejects the role of the rebellious dissident. Giving the readers insights into her mindset, Mae argues as follows: The Circle had 90 percent of the search market. Eighty-eight percent of the free-mail market, 92 percent of text servicing. That was, in her perspective, a simple testament to their making and delivering the best product. It seemed insane to punish the company for its efficiency, for its attention to detail. For succeeding. (TC 174 f., my emphasis) Initially, the Circle’s monopoly might have grown out of free and voluntary decisions, as Mae argues. There is a good chance that the company did indeed provide the “best product.” However, Mae again ignores the power radiating from a standard once it has gained universal acceptance. At this stage, non-mem‐ bers are actively forced to adopt the Circle standard, which continues to grow in influence due to the continuous stream of new products and programmes devised by Mae and her fellow Circlers. As Kalden maintains, “[t]here used to be the option of opting out. But now that’s over” (ibid. 486). Therefore, “Mae Holland becomes complicit in the creation of the Circle’s dystopia” (Pignagnoli, “Surveillance” 153). The readers witness her integration into the Circle, rather than - as one might traditionally expect - the formation of an enlightened, critical individual ready to counteract dystopian reality. Mercer, Mae’s ex-boyfriend, is a notable exception to the rebel-free world of The Circle. He can be identified as the only character even conceiving of rebel‐ lion, doing “what he can to stay off the grid” (Morais). Constructed as a contrast to all the Circlers, mostly by the work he does, Mercer is cast in the role of the authentic, back-to-basics outdoorsman. Making a living from selling antler chandeliers, he is connected to natural textures and materials, creating a contrast to the glass and steel associated with the Circle (cf. TC 1; 75). Refusing to join the Circle or to use any of its products and programmes, Mercer eventually renounces his relationship with Mae and her family and decides to move north “to the densest and most uninteresting forest I can find. I know that your cameras are mapping out these areas as they have mapped the Amazon, Antarctica, the 98 III. ‘Crowd-Founded’ Dystopia: Dave Eggers’ The Circle (2013) Sahara, etc. But at least I’ll have a head start. And when the cameras come, I’ll keep going north” (ibid. 435). However, side-lined to the fringes of the narrative, his story is marginalised and ends abruptly with his death. Moreover, Mercer’s rebellion is staged not as an active attempt to challenge the status quo, but a desperate escape away from civilisation. Settling in the wilderness of North America, Mercer decides to live in a small hut almost reminiscent of the cabin of Henry David Thoreau’s Walden, or Life in the Woods (1854). Yet while the “latter kept elements of his rapacious world at bay […], the former falls victim to a more all-consuming predator” (Masterson 737). Mercer’s fatal error is to think of power in geographical terms. Under the illusion that power is always bound spatially, a further remnant of thinking in the juridico-political mode of power, Mercer hopes to evade the Circle by withdrawing north. Despite his awareness that the Circle has already “mapped the Amazon, Antarctica, the Sahara,” arguably the remotest places on earth and all unfit for human habita‐ tion, Mercer hopes to find a space outside the range of network power. Con‐ vinced he will profit from “a head start,” Mercer must soon bury his illusion; as the object of a global search by Mae, who wants to prove the effectiveness of their SoulSearch programmes, Mercer’s refuge is invaded within “[n]ine minutes, 24 seconds” ( TC 459). The combined efforts of “14,028,981” (ibid. 452) Cir‐ clers cause him to run for his car, and eventually drive off a bridge in the des‐ perate attempt to elude the company. Strangely enough, it is the Circle’s founder who manages to withdraw from the system for the longest time. Giving out fake names, Kalden, aka Ty Gospo‐ dinov, achieves opacity for most of the novel, due to his understanding of how the Circle operates. Other than Mercer, who wastes his life in the attempt to physically evade the Circle, Kalden does not even try to abscond, enjoying the benefits of living in relative comfort on the campus. His strategy of rebellion relies not on physical but on virtual absence. When looking online for him, Mae tried a preliminary search in the company directory, and found no Kaldens. She tried Kaldan, Kaldin, Khalden. Nothing. Maybe she’d misspelled or misheard it? She could have done more surgical search if she’d known what department he was in, what part of campus he might occupy, but she knew nothing. (ibid. 170) The IT Whizz-Kid becomes a phantom with no name and, more importantly, with no internet history, and thus no network membership. Mae’s attempts to get hold of him are fruitless. Even ‘zinging’ about him (the Circle version of ‘tweeting’ and posting on Instagram), by tapping the swarm intelligence of the Circle - a strategy that yields spectacular results in Mercer’s case - is futile: 99 2. The Company and Network Standards “She put out a few all-company zings, looking for a Kalden, careful not to look desperate. But she got no response” (ibid. 171). The moment initiating Kalden’s demise is the moment he starts to combat network power. He approaches Mae, hoping to convince her to stop the Circle: “I didn’t picture a world where Circle membership was mandatory, where all government and all life was channeled through one network” (ibid. 485). Unable to contain the forces he has unleashed, Kalden tries to persuade Mae to prevent the Completion of the Circle (the mo‐ nopoly of the Circle), erroneously believing that Mae would agree with his opinion: ‘We’re closing the circle around everyone—it’s a totalitarian nightmare.’ ‘And it’s my fault? ’ ‘No, no. Not at all. But you’re now the ambassador. You’re the face of it. The benign, friendly face of it all.’ (ibid. 486) Kalden’s attempt to stop the Circle from completing, however, backfires. Ulti‐ mately, he also demonstrates that he has not understood the mechanism behind network power, hence his plan to rebrand the eutopian Circle as totalitarian; simply launching a new marketing campaign with Mae’s help proves naïve and futile. The Circle’s power is based on the free and (in)voluntary decisions made by millions of individuals, who cannot revoke their approval even if told to do so. Both Mercer’s and Kalden’s rebellions fail before they have even started. Therefore, Roman Halfmann argues that their attempts can barely be taken se‐ riously as truly wholehearted plans to change the system but that they remain “foolishly staged clichés” never meant to fulfil the genre criteria of rebellion in the first place (cf. 276, own translation). Instead, The Circle is a decidedly con‐ temporary dystopia in which, according to Gregory Claeys, “the revolutionary overthrow of the system, for either better or worse, is rarely ever encountered” (History 495). Mercer’s death / suicide is the only way to opt out of the system (cf. Gellai 302) - a decidedly pessimistic and bleak outlook for those uncom‐ fortable with corpocratic power. The text does not offer an escapist reading, depicting eutopian enclaves that have so far resisted the Circle’s hegemony. Unlike Nineteen Eighty-Four and its forest enclave, Brave New World and its Indian reservation, or We and the forest behind the wall, The Circle does not provide relief in the form of untouched remote eutopian islands since - other than the juridico-political form of power, which rests considerably on the in‐ fluence of one individual over a certain territory - network power is systemic in nature and bound to individuals, rather than soil. One way or another, “every character is affected by the company” (Lehnen 99): Annie and Mae are defined 100 III. ‘Crowd-Founded’ Dystopia: Dave Eggers’ The Circle (2013) by their position within the Circle, Mercer and Mae’s parents by their opposition to it. This, however, has nothing to do with their actual spatial position, although Mae comes to spend an increasing amount of her free time on campus. The Circle is where the characters are - wherever that might be. Having eradicated physical boundaries, the company ultimately aims at re‐ moving also psychological and mental borders: certain that she has averted ‘apocalypse’ in the form of Kalden’s attempt to destroy the Circle, Mae is already devising the next moves. As the company has conquered all of the earth and with nowhere left to go, she is annoyed to not be able to know Annie’s thoughts after the latter has fallen into a coma due to stress and exhaustion: Mae felt a twinge of envy. She wondered what Annie was thinking. Doctors had said that she was likely dreaming; they’d been measuring steady brain activity during the coma, but what precisely was happening in her mind was unknown to all, and Mae couldn’t help feeling some annoyance about this. There was a monitor visible from where Mae sat, a real-time picture of Annie’s mind, bursts of color appearing period‐ ically, implying that extraordinary things were happening in there. But what was she thinking? (TC 496) Despite all the technology and power accumulated by the company, the “bursts of color appearing periodically” evade translation, leaving Mae frustrated and annoyed: “but what was she thinking? ” Eager to colonise the human mind itself, which has been shielded off by the materialism of the human body to date (Mae marvelled “at the distance this flesh put between them,” ibid. 497), Mae’s next project is revealed to be a programme to read minds and thoughts. There truly is “no escaping the Circle” ( J. Winter). Thus, it is only a matter of time until the final frontier will fall. 3. Network Standards - The Circlers’ Loss of Identity and Longing for Recognition The most fundamental difference between The Circle and classical dystopian fiction is the genesis of the respective dystopian system. As Albert-László Bar‐ abási writes, “[w]hat is absorbing about Dave Eggers’s latest novel is not the dystopic world it depicts but the way that arose” (372). Contrary to classical dystopian fiction, which usually starts in medias res, The Circle is one of the very few narratives that concentrate on the genesis of dystopia, unfolding what Or‐ 101 3. The Circlers’ Loss of Identity and Longing for Recognition 97 A notable exception to this rule is George Orwell’s satirical allegory Animal Farm (1945), which also concentrates on the genesis of dystopia. 98 The company’s founders are clearly positioned outside of totalitarian ideologies - even Tom Stenton, who “professionalized our idealism, monetized our [e]utopia” (TC 489). While Stenton is first and foremost interested in the creation of wealth, not world domination, Eamon Bailey is genuinely motivated by the all too human wish to give his disabled son access to the world (cf. ibid. 301 f.), provided by the pictures and videos of the Circlers: “Bailey believes that life will be better, will be perfect, when everyone has unfettered access to everyone and everything they know. […] He truly believes that openness, that complete and uninterrupted access among all humans will help the world” (ibid. 488). As Kalden makes it clear in this excerpt, Bailey constitutes a romantic idealist, genuinely believing that “complete and uninterrupted access among all humans will help the world.” His ideals are propelled not so much by a self-referential wish for power, but by the genuine desire to help people. Neither of the two is a totalitarian leader, striving for world domination- nor is Kalden / Ty, the least interested in political or economic power of the entire cast. well or Huxley presented the readers as given. 97 Remarkable is also the way the power of the company came about: “there is no dramatic coup d’etat which brought it into being, nor is there a need for one. [The company] is the logical result of the gradual but total erosion of the public sphere through the mediating agency of neoliberal capitalism” (42), as Chris Vials writes on Atwood’s Oryx and Crake - yet his diagnosis can easily be transferred to The Circle, summarising one of the most controversial aspects of the novel. According to Allan Weiss, The Circle is an example of how “dystopian regimes are not so much imposed from above as sought from below” (“Complicity”), thereby suggesting it is not simply about a totalitarian party forcing a structure onto society but the general public generating dystopia. 98 Following the “gradual conversion” (Galow 119) of Mae and her immersion into the dystopic system, The Circle concentrates on network structures, illustrating the mechanisms of path dependence and elab‐ orating on the question of how people can imprison themselves within seemingly free yet involuntary choices. Therefore, The Circle constitutes an exercise in reading power as a systemic product effectively arising out of millions of indi‐ vidual choices that, initially, need neither be coerced nor forced. As Mae asserts, ‘Mercer, the Circle is a group of people like me. Are you saying that somehow we’re all in a room somewhere, watching you, planning world domination? ’ ‘No. First of all, I know it’s all people like you. And that’s what’s so scary. Individ‐ ually you don’t know what you’re doing collectively.’ (TC 261, my emphasis) This passage shows that the combined choices of freely choosing individuals looking for personal advantages in joining a network and therefore accepting a standard eventually create a world without alternatives. 102 III. ‘Crowd-Founded’ Dystopia: Dave Eggers’ The Circle (2013) 99 The concept of ‘recognition’ has influenced the work of scholars from all disciplines for more than two thousand years: starting with Plato (‘thymos’), Hobbes (‘pride’), and Rousseau (‘amour propre’), Fukuyama, for instance, defines recognition as the “source of human evil” (181). He argues that ‘megalothymia,’ i.e. the “need to disproportionately dominate over others in ostentatious and spectacular ways” (Sagar), is especially en‐ couraged within the spheres of economy and business: “indeed, the modern economic worlds could only emerge after desire had been liberated, so to speak, at the expense of thymos. The historical process […] ends in some sense with the modern bourgeois inhabitant of contemporary liberal democracies, who pursues material gain rather than glory” (Fukuyama 189). Thus, the need for recognition and the modern achieve‐ ment-oriented society go hand in hand. The reason for joining the Circle, in turn, is to be found in the human need for being part of a network. As David Grewal argues, a decisive factor in the emergence of network power is “the simultaneous promise of belonging to a dominant network and the threat of social exclusion, which together give a network influence over the actions of individuals” (122). This type of power thrives, then, on the members’ desire to belong to a community, fostered by the fear of expulsion and the unattractiveness of alternatives once a majority has joined the dominant network. Stating that “direct coercion as such is not nec‐ essary” (ibid. 121), Grewal elaborates on the complex amalgam of hope and fear that influences individual decisions. He continues by quoting from the work of German sociologist Axel Honneth and his The Struggle for Recognition (1992) (cf. 160), in which Honneth follows Georg Friedrich Wilhelm Hegel and George Herbert Mead to explore the role of recognition in the formation of institutions and communities. 99 Insisting on the notion “that human subjects owe their iden‐ tity to the experience of intersubjective recognition” (71), Honneth goes on to explain that “the reproduction of social life is governed by the imperative of mutual recognition because one can develop a practical relation-to-self only when one has learned to view oneself, from the normative perspective of one’s partners in interaction, as their social addressee” (ibid. 92). Recognition becomes the “means by which we form our sense of self through others” (M. J. Thompson 567), meaning that identity is discursively and performatively defined in relation to others, first and foremost the family. Continued positive feedback “creates within us a sense of integral identity that constitutes our self-identity” (ibid.). Only recognition can shape self-esteem. As Honneth argues, “in order to be able to acquire an undistorted relation-to-self, human subjects always need - over and above the experience of affectionate care and legal recognition - a form of social esteem that allows them to relate positively to their concrete traits and abilities” (121). Seeking to assert their desire for acknowledgement and respect, individuals enter relationships that enable them to fulfil this need. 103 3. The Circlers’ Loss of Identity and Longing for Recognition The Circle provides an excellent example of these dynamics at work in its portrayal of individuals on their quest for social recognition. The Circle’s at‐ traction lies in providing individuals with the chance to be acknowledged and thus to assert their own identity: “You are heard! ” ( TC 401, emphasis in the orig‐ inal) is one of the recurring catch phrases at the company. On her first day of work, the company motto is spelled out explicitly for both Mae and the reader: “this is a place where our humanity is respected, where our opinions are dignified, where our voices are heard—this is as important as any revenue, any stock price, any endeavor undertaken here” (ibid. 47, my emphasis). The Circle, at least ac‐ cording to its official company code of conduct, acknowledges its employees not on the basis of their work performance but due to their innate humanness. Feeling appreciated, Mae is hooked immediately, as her previous job had not offered her the same satisfaction: “You’re here because your opinions are valued. They’re so valued that the world needs to know them—your opinions on just about everything. Isn’t that flattering” (ibid. 229)? The Circle offers a stark con‐ trast to her former boss Kevin, whom Mae despises. She remembers that “when he was satisfied with whatever work she’d done that day, he did something worse: he praised her. He called her his protégée. He loved the word. He intro‐ duced her to visitors this way, saying, ‘This is my protégée, Mae. She’s pretty sharp, most days’” (ibid. 10, emphases in the original). Kevin’s attitude, a com‐ bination of bore-out, unnecessary praise, and over-affectionate professions of sympathy, irritates Mae immensely. Not taking him seriously, she describes him as an “awful assault on the senses, his breath smelling of ham and his mustache furry and wayward” (ibid.), illustrating that she will accept neither his praise nor his supervision and guidance: “[s]he couldn’t stand it” (ibid. 11). Recogni‐ tion, then, is an exclusive good, which Mae continues to search for and finally finds at the Circle: “Now she was communicating with clients all over the planet, commanding six screens, training a new group of newbies, and altogether feeling more needed, more valued, and more intellectually stimulated than she ever thought possible” (ibid. 243). Enjoying the power she now holds, i.e. being “in command” of six screens and responsible for the training of the new em‐ ployees, Mae’s happiness is demonstrated in an anaphoric repetition of “more needed, more valued, and more intellectually stimulated.” At the Circle, Mae has thus found the recognition essential for her sense of self. She thus can be read as a placeholder for all those, who hope to get their fair share of recognition by logging into the network. The novel, however, also criticises the Circle by showing how the very same network standards accidentally created by individuals in search of individual progress and social recognition can result in systemic structures that prevent 104 III. ‘Crowd-Founded’ Dystopia: Dave Eggers’ The Circle (2013) characters from experiencing their life and self as meaningful. Having grown used to the constant stream of virtual acknowledgement, Mae, for instance, be‐ comes addicted to social recognition, even reacting defensively when she feels she has not received enough attention by others: “[a]fter Janice, Mae had a series of clients who did not know it was her answering their queries, and Mae found that this bothered her” (ibid. 328). Mae exhibits the first signs of pathological behaviour, expressing a need for constant evaluation and acknowledgement, especially after she has attracted considerable attention and fame as an impor‐ tant brand ambassador. However, Mae is not the only one to react defensively: The Circle is peopled by characters in desperate search for acknowledgement with whom the text satirizes the need for recognition. Every social interaction deteriorates into a potential minefield of social faux pas, in which needy char‐ acters tiptoe around the imperative of providing enough recognition to one an‐ other. The definition of ‘enough recognition,’ however, differs significantly from person to person, resulting in awkward and almost absurd conflicts between the Circlers: One of [her clients], a T-shirt distributor from Orlando named Nanci, asked her to join her professional network, and Mae readily agreed. […] she got another message from Nanci. She asked Mae to respond to a short questionnaire about her preferences in casual apparel, and Mae agreed. She linked to the questionnaire, which she realized was not short; it encompassed fully 120 questions. But Mae was happy to answer them, feeling her opinion mattered and was being heard […] Mae then took the next query, […] when another message came from Nanci. Sorry to be Ms. Sensitive, but after I invited you to join my professional network, you didn’t ask me to join your professional network, and though I know I’m just a nobody in Orlando, I felt like l had to tell you that it made me feel devalued. (ibid. 328 f., emphasis in the original) Nanci expresses an increased need for recognition; feeling “devalued” by Mae, she decides to share her disappointment by writing yet another e-mail, thereby demanding to be recognised by Mae, while Mae - and by extension the reader - feels annoyed by the constant nagging and needy messages sent by Nanci. The incident stretches over a couple of pages, over which Nanci constantly returns to Mae, although the protagonist does her best to satisfy Nanci’s demand for attention. Through the character of Nanci the text highlights the dangers of identity formation processes that rely mostly on other’s, criticising the ensuing dependency, which in turn blurs the boundary between private and professional life. Arguing that she feels devalued and not able to assert her identity, Nanci ironically nurtures Mae’s own disintegration of identity, as Mae loses the power 105 3. The Circlers’ Loss of Identity and Longing for Recognition to define the boundaries between her private and professional life: her customers constantly trespass on her privacy. As already said, The Circle presents a world in which network membership is no longer voluntary. While Circle membership creeps up on them under the cloak of choice, characters cannot voluntarily choose between membership and non-membership for they fear they might lose their privileged access to recog‐ nition and in turn to their own identity. The Circle can thus be read as the story of alienated individuals longing for social integration (cf. Hugendick et al.), strengthening a standard that will limit their own range of actions. The more dependent characters are on the constant feedback, the more devastating the threat of social exclusion becomes. Mae even quits kayaking - a solitary sport which she used to love over the fear of missing out. The key ‘to be acknowledged’ and ‘to be heard,’ the precondition for assessing one’s own identity, lies in per‐ manent participation in the network. As Dennis Smith writes, Mae expresses a defining element of postmodernity that “witnesses repeated upsurges of so‐ ciality: the urge to assemble, the wish to feel the irresponsible joy of being part of a crowd. People feel safer, less empty and alone, when they wear the clothes and markings of a specific tribe” (160). After not having visited her colleague Alistair’s Portugal-themed brunch, Mae is convinced to have committed the cardinal sin of non-participation: “‘Thank you,’ Mae said, feeling sure that she was being fired” ( TC 181). Non-participation of any kind is dangerous because it might lead to social exclusion. This appears to echo Theodor W. Adorno’s ironic remark that “not to be a member of anything arouses suspicion” (“Bottle” 34). As the novel shows, the fear of social exclusion and loss of membership is universal, unifying almost all characters: Most people would trade everything they know, everyone they know - they’d trade it all to know they’ve been seen, and acknowledged, and they might even be remem‐ bered. We all know we die. We all know the world is too big for us to be significant. So all we have is the hope of being seen, or heard, even for a moment. (TC 490, em‐ phasis in the original) Willing to sacrifice “everything” and “everyone” they know, i.e. both the mate‐ rial and immaterial goods they enjoy, the Circle users long to be “acknowledged” or even to “be remembered.” Afraid of death (“we all know we die”), they would trade in every resource at hand in exchange for “a moment” of recognition. The Circle’s network is so immensely appealing to characters in their quest to assess their own identity because by collecting, measuring, and unifying this data, the Circle promises to hold the unique key to revealing the true self of its customers. 106 III. ‘Crowd-Founded’ Dystopia: Dave Eggers’ The Circle (2013) TruYou—one account, one identity, one password, one payment system, per person. There were no more passwords, no multiple identities. Your devices knew who you were, and your one identity—the TruYou, unbendable and unmaskable—was the person paying, signing up, responding, viewing and reviewing, seeing and being seen. (ibid. 21) Originally born out of the ideal to reflect the true self online, the Circle claims to have captured the essence of individuals by collecting their data and by ex‐ pressing the identity of customers in numbers. Adopting procedures and methods from the Quantified Self movement, the Circlers rely increasingly on technology such as algorithms, tracing devices, statistics, and data to assess their self: “[t]hat way you’ll always know how you’re doing, recently and generally” (ibid. 50). The employees find themselves on any number of charts and rankings, evaluated according to, among other metrics, their work performance and their participation rate. Examples include the PartiRank, Retail Rank, and Conversion Rank, as well as the Customer Rating. Furthermore, young Circlers outside the company find themselves on YouthRank, a system showing parents how their offspring are doing in school in comparison to other children in the country, which encourages them to constantly optimise their results. While The Circle cultivates this trope for a reading audience, Charlie Brooker has harvested the nightmarish potential of this proposition for his show Black Mirror (2011-). In the episode “Nosedive” (directed by J. Wright, 2016), a person’s status and pres‐ tige within society depends on the ratings of other people. Concomitantly, apartments and jobs are distributed based on the rating systems, forcing indi‐ viduals to win the masses’ approval. With this social-media dystopia, Black Mirror, and also The Circle, aptly comment on the peer pressure especially teen‐ agers and young adults face in times of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. The supposed clarity provided by numerical evaluation appeals to the Circlers to the extent that they increasingly rely on scorer points in other areas of life (other than the ratings at work) as well. As Giorgia Tommasi argues, “Mae loses sight of the boundary between her public role as the company’s employee and her private life” (250). Having had sex for just the second time, Francis asks Mae for a rating, even insisting on concrete numbers and nudging Mae until she gives him a “perfect 100” ( TC 385). Although initially irritated by Francis’ requests, Mae also becomes increasingly dependent on the quantification of the self. Stretching over more than two pages in total, Mae lists all the statistics and information available to her, starting with the number of songs in her digital library, her unread zings, and ending with her heart rate. 107 3. The Circlers’ Loss of Identity and Longing for Recognition In an hour, her PartiRank rose to 7,288. Breaking 7,000 was more difficult, but by eight o’clock, after joining and posting in eleven discussion groups, sending another twelve zings, one of them rated in the top 5,000 globally for that hour, and signing up for sixty-seven more feeds, she’d done it. She was at 6,872, and turned to her Inner-Circle social feed. She was a few hundred posts behind, and she made her way through, replying to seventy or so messages, RSVPing to eleven events on campus, signing nine petitions, and providing comments and constructive criticism on four products cur‐ rently in beta. By 10: 16 her rank was 5,342, and again, the plateau—this time at 5,000 —was hard to overcome. She wrote a series of zings about a new Circle service, al‐ lowing account holders to know whenever their name was mentioned in any messages sent from anyone else, and one of the zings, her seventh on the subject, caught fire and was rezinged 2,904 times, and this brought her PartiRank up to 3,887. (ibid. 191, my emphases) Listing all these (superfluous) data in asyndetonic compound sentences that barely allow Mae and thus the reader pause for breath, Mae realises “in a mo‐ ment of sudden clarity, that what had always caused her anxiety, or stress, or worry, was not any one force, nothing independent and external - it wasn’t danger to herself or the constant calamity of other people and their problems. It was internal: it was subjective: [sic! ] it was not knowing” (ibid. 195, emphasis in the original). The readers know, of course, that Mae’s ‘clarity’ is a self-delu‐ sional reliance on numbers and cannot provide any clarity at all. In fact, it con‐ ceals Mae’s identity behind meaningless numbers and scores. Presenting her achievements as hard facts supported by numbers, Mae loses sight of herself. The reader witnesses Mae’s demise from an independent young woman into a social media addict, constantly seeking for the approval of the community in the form of zings, evaluations, and numerical feedback. Testing the beta-version of Demoxie, the Circle holds a show survey on its campus on whether Mae is “awesome or what.” Mae is flattered and presses the “frown”-button, assuming to be the only one. As soon as the results are in, 97 percent “Smile,” three percent “Frown” (cf. ibid. 408 f.), the novel highlights the scale of Mae’s dependency and simultaneous instability of self. Although initially pleased with her over‐ whelming approval rates, Mae eventually starts to obsess about the numbers: “369 people had frowned at her, thought she was something other than awesome” (ibid. 409, my emphasis). Witnessing Mae’s fixation on her approval rate, readers are presented with the slow disintegration of Mae’s peace of mind. Increasingly anxious about the result, Mae exaggerates the negative feedback, stating even‐ tually that “[t]hree hundred and sixty-eight people who apparently actively hated her, enough to push a button at her—to send their loathing directly to her” (ibid. 413, my emphases). Ultimately, her pathological focus on popularity 108 III. ‘Crowd-Founded’ Dystopia: Dave Eggers’ The Circle (2013) pushes Mae beyond common sense logic. In the end, she is convinced that “[e]very one of them preferred her dead” (ibid. 414, my emphasis). Mae’s almost unreasonable need for acceptance and social recognition has grown so strong that she cannot focus on her 97 percent approval rate, but rather on the three percent of people who do not think she is “awesome.” This excerpt illustrates precisely the difference between what Gernot Böhme defines as ‘needs’ (Bedürfnisse) and ‘wants’ (Begehrnisse) in late capitalist soci‐ eties. According to Böhme, capitalism encourages people to consume goods they do not really need (cf. 27). Hence, once the needs (the physiological, basic needs according to A. H. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, such as food, water, shelter, and so on) are met, capitalism thrives off ‘wants’ in order to sustain itself. However, ‘wants,’ other than ‘needs’ cannot be satisfied. On the contrary, the precise mo‐ ment a ‘want’ is achieved, it increases automatically and thus furthers con‐ sumption. Böhme provides power and fame as examples, arguing that “those who are already famous want to be even more famous and so on” (29, own translation). Mae exhibits similar symptoms. Although she already is well-re‐ spected and popular, she craves for more recognition in the form of ‘likes’ and ‘smiles.’ Once this ‘want’ is denied, Mae’s common sense deactivates. Her over‐ reaction can be read as a yardstick of how low her own self-esteem has sunk. Having become dependent on the opinion of the social network, Mae is inca‐ pable of thinking in continua but focuses instead on the extremes of love and hate. She cannot exist in liminal states of in-betweens, requiring the security in the form of numbers and the approval of others. In the end, Mae’s identity rests entirely on the services provided by the Circle. As Christian Kramer argues, “[t]he less secure an individual feels, the more he or she will seek to strengthen his or her association to certain networks” (8). Whenever Mae is close to a mental breakdown, her “watchers from all over the world had reached out, sending her their support, their smiles—she’d gotten millions, tens of millions” ( TC 470). Having quarrelled with her parents, Mae decides to seek shelter in her office “knowing there she could be useful and that there, her efforts would be appreciated, immediately and demonstrably” (ibid. 374). Feeling recognised only thanks to her achievements at work, Mae finds comfort in the system that quantifies customer satisfaction, supposedly trans‐ lating her worth as a human being onto a scale from 1 to 100: “She sent surveys and got 100s on both” (ibid. 375). Mae has long forgotten how to differentiate between real human contact and the random connections made through the Circle. Since she has lost her connection to her friends, Annie, Mercer, and her parents, Mae depends on Circle contacts only - contacts Mercer describes as “snack food” and “empty calories” (ibid. 134), thereby hinting at the artificial 109 3. The Circlers’ Loss of Identity and Longing for Recognition 100 Aspects like these have prompted critics to argue that the Circlers’ characters are flat (cf. e.g. Linklater). Eggers’ characterisation of Mae, however, is extremely successful in conveying the lack of emotional depth experienced by the characters once they have succumbed to the expectations and opinions of others. nature of technology-filtered, digital human contact that is neither nurturing nor satisfactory. Although the characters fundamentally rely on ratings and statistics for their idea of self and self-esteem, the text makes explicit on more than one occasion that this numerical system is a farce, especially in the context of human rela‐ tionships. The novel depicts the system as deeply flawed, since the numbers do not correspond to the real performance. The alleged clarity and neutrality of numbers has been converted into a 100 percent dictum, in which people feel personally offended for not having received the highest score. Politeness trumps the neutrality of numbers: And then Francis pulled her down to him, and kissed her, and pulled her hips into him, and for a moment she thought they were about to have something like a real sexual experience, but just when she was taking off her shirt, she saw Francis clench his eyes and jerk forward, and she knew he was already done. After changing and brushing his teeth, he asked Mae to rate him, and she gave him a 100. (ibid. 417) Evaluating Francis’ performance at 100 - despite his erectile dysfunction that leaves Mae sexually unsatisfied (cf. ibid. 384) - Mae stands exemplarily for the movement of the Quantified Self, which the novel ridicules and criticises. To summarise, the novel caricatures the idea of assessing one’s true identity by mirroring the recognition received by others, showcasing how this attempt backfires spectacularly to create inauthentic fake identities, staged to receive more (actual and virtual) likes alone. 100 As Tommasi argues, Mae’s “supposed assertion of her individuality is somehow relegated to a sphere of social con‐ formity: she is ready to give up her uniqueness in order to feel meaningful and less alone” (250 f.). Indeed, her self-perception is filtered through the gaze of millions of watchers, which distort Mae’s behaviour and thinking, “[n]ormally, she would have grabbed a chilled brownie, but seeing the image of her hand reaching for it, and seeing what everyone else would be seeing, she pulled back. She closed the fridge, and from the bowl on the counter, she selected a packet of almonds” ( TC 331). Projecting herself into her viewers, a paradoxical tech‐ nology-induced out of body experience, Mae pictures herself filtered through the consciousness of others. She is constantly performing her identity, acting in order to convey the ideal picture of her. Under the watchful eyes of millions of viewers, Mae stages her identity for their benefit, exemplifying that “personal 110 III. ‘Crowd-Founded’ Dystopia: Dave Eggers’ The Circle (2013) consciousness, action, will, and identity can no longer be thought independently of the other entities - or ‘agents’ - with which persons are intrinsically con‐ nected” (Reichardt 19). Mae even rehearses conversations and performs family dinners, increasingly bewildering her social environment. “They sat down to eat, and Mae did something she’d never done before, and which she hoped her parents wouldn’t ruin by acting like it was unusual: she gave a toast” ( TC 366). Mae increasingly becomes an actor for an audience of millions. By this point, however, she is long past the realisation that a normal conversation between her and her friends and family is no longer possible. The readers witness Mae’s disintegration of personality and react by aban‐ doning their sympathies for the protagonist. Instead they adopt the point of view of her parents, more likeable characters, who eventually break off contact with their only child (cf. Lehnen). Mae, however, does not notice. Valuing the network of the Circle too much, she loses herself by superimposing her public image over her ‘real’ identity. Her reliance on others even takes on schizophrenic elements, culminating in the scene in which Mae no longer recognises her own voice: It was a woman’s voice. She looked around, thinking it might be Renata. But there was no one near her. ‘Mae.’ […] It was her voice, she knew, but then somehow it sounded less like her and more like some older, wiser version of herself. Mae had the thought that if she had an older sister, an older sister who had seen more than she had, that sister’s voice would sound like this. […] The voice seemed to lift Mae off her seat and spin her around. Every time she heard it, her heart sped up. ‘Mae.’ (TC 233 f.) Instead of providing her with a true sense of identity - as many of the Circlers had hoped for -, the Circle’s programmes and technologies have supplanted Mae’s sense of self with an almost Freudian superego. Thereby, The Circle com‐ ments on emerging technology-induced pathologies such as ‘selfie dysmorphia’ as described by The Guardian journalist Ellen Hunt, i.e. the “phenomenon of people requesting procedures to resemble their digital image” (“Faking”). This term was coined by cosmetic doctor Tijion Esho who had “noticed that where patients had once brought in pictures of celebrities with their ideal nose or jaw, they were now pointing to photos of themselves” (ibid.) enhanced with the help of Instagram filters and other apps to improve the skin or enlarge the eyes. When users constantly compare themselves to their digitally enhanced selves, this can lead - in extreme cases - to body dysmorphic disorder ( BDD ), “a mental health condition where people become fixated on imagined defects in their appearance” 111 3. The Circlers’ Loss of Identity and Longing for Recognition (ibid.). Mae suffers from similar disorders with regard to her voice: having lost the ability to identify her voice as her own, Mae enjoys the notion of someone else reminding her to answer questionnaires, “an older sister who had seen more than she had.” Aspiring to become that person, Mae instead becomes a non-in‐ dividual bereft of her own identity. Her hope of finding recognition and a stable sense of self within and through the company has become self-defeating: ulti‐ mately, Mae has transformed beyond recognition, acting as a poster girl for the Circle, yet without any sense of self. 4. “They Have Offered No Alternative” - The ‘Eutopian’ Monopoly of the Circle The absence of rebellion in The Circle constitutes a precipitated formal break with genre conventions, causing confusion and bewilderment on the readers’ part. After all, the subplot of resistance - to borrow the concept from Raffaella Baccolini (cf. “Womb” 293) - has long been established as the defining charac‐ teristic of dystopian fiction. By having a dystopian dissident to disagree with and rebel against the dominant social system, classical dystopian fiction criti‐ cises the intradiegetic - and by extension extradiegetic - socio-cultural reality. By flouting reader expectations, The Circle secures itself a privileged position among readers’ personal canon, standing out as one of the few dystopian nar‐ ratives which do not provide satisfaction in the form of a dissident protagonist. Refraining from including a (meaningful) rebellion, the novel refuses to con‐ centrate on a predictable content critique of capitalism alone, focusing instead on the immanent paradoxes of this form of life, such as the clash between a social order which proclaims to secure individual freedom, but which fosters the emergence of coercive, formally free but involuntary network standards. There‐ fore, The Circle directs the readers’ attention away from the content level of criticism and towards the mode of critique: the focus no longer lies on the por‐ trayal of an alternative to the status quo, as would be characteristic of external criticism. Instead, it focuses on critique itself, that is to stay the performative and discursive aspects of formulating critique by highlighting the inherent par‐ adoxes. Having demonstrated how rational individuals create less freedom for them‐ selves and others by helping to build a standard which in turn limits their options and alternatives, the novel shows how coercive structures can arise without a malevolent, totalitarian centre of responsibility. Therefore, external criticism, the preferred modus operandi of dystopian fiction, is rendered ineffective once 112 III. ‘Crowd-Founded’ Dystopia: Dave Eggers’ The Circle (2013) the target of critique changes from totalitarianism to neoliberal capitalism due to three reasons in particular. Superseding its competitors on both a technolog‐ ical and later a social level, the Circle company, firstly reduces alternatives (in both the philosophical sense of alternative societies, and in the concrete sense of competition) to non-alternatives from the beginning: the Circle is defined by its extraordinary position as the only tech company left, having subsumed “Facebook, Twitter, Google, and finally Alacrity, Zoopa, Jefe, and Quan” ( TC 23). Holding the monopoly, the Circle is the only and therefore arguably the best option available, even from a neutral point of view. For its employees, the Circle surpasses every other company in terms of salary, health care, and work envi‐ ronment. There will not be, as Mercer hopes, “two societies […] - the one you’re helping create, and an alternative to it” (ibid. 370). Also, Mae’s choice between the Circle and her old company is not really a choice at all. Acting rationally, Mae decides to accept her new position, which comes with a higher salary, and, more importantly, health-care benefits for her parents. The Circle is, in fact, their last resort; with no one else willing to insure them (cf. ibid. 76), they rely on its health care programme for financing expensive medication and treatments, which ease the pain of Mae’s father. It is he - a character associated with the company only via Mae - who utters the key words that decipher the power structures of the Circle: they have “offered no alternative” (ibid.). With the other health care providers having denied his request for pain killers, he has nowhere else to go. Once they opted in, however, characters are unable to opt out again; their decisions have created a path-dependence, which renders switching net‐ works impossible. The second reason why external criticism no longer provides a useful frame for critique is grounded in the absence of a moral high ground, an outside space, so to speak, from where external criticism could be formulated. Even Mercer, the only ‘rebel’ in the narrative, cannot totally cloister himself away: “You’re not so pure, Mercer. You have an email account. You have a website” (ibid. 262). Mae’s comments delegitimise external criticism, implying that the partial Circle membership in the form of using programmes and apps already undermines the necessary moral authority. According to Mae, Mercer is not allowed to criticise the Circlers since he is but a diluted version of herself, who cannot circumvent the Circle’s products: he, too, is ‘impure,’ for he has come in contact with the company. Interestingly, commentators have devalued Eggers’ criticism based on the very same argument. Claiming that “Eggers is LinkedIn to everyone who’s anyone” (Charles), critics indirectly attack his moral high ground and question the legitimacy of his criticism. Mae and Eggers’ reviewers, then, maintain that 113 4. The ‘Eutopian’ Monopoly of the Circle 101 Referring to “the Circle” as if it were one actor, is thus a fallacy in terms though. Strictly speaking one must not talk about the company as if it were one entity, rather, it is a group of millions of individuals, which come to constitute the entity. 102 The two contradictive opinions on the Circle are anticipated by the epigraph taken from John Steinbeck’s East of Eden (1952): “There wasn’t any limit, no boundary at all, to the future. And it would be so a man wouldn’t have room to store his happiness.” The epigraph serves two main functions: to the characters in support of the company, and to those readers as of yet unaware of the novel’s plot, it ties in nicely with the Circle’s evaluation as eutopia. Those, however, familiar with Steinbeck’s work, will immediately recognise the negative implications involved. Writing about the tragic lives of two families during the time before WWI, Steinbeck introduces questions of moral failure, religion, and furthermore, choice - themes that will later reappear Eggers’ novel. critics have forfeited their right to formulate external criticism once they enjoy the benefits provided by the object of their critique. Thirdly, in contrast to totalitarian states with their infringements of personal laws, torture chambers, assassinations and violations of basic human rights, it is very hard to criticise the shining world of the Circle externally in any way. Having developed from the combined rational choices of individuals, who hope to secure monetary, personal, and social advantages from joining the network, the company is not a totalitarian system imposed from above, but - as has al‐ ready been made clear - sought from below. Moreover, due to its network nature, it lacks a moral centre of authority that could be made responsible. 101 If the Circle, and the networked individuals who constitute it, violate any positive or negative freedom rights and if the company trespasses one’s right for privacy, their ac‐ tions are legitimised by their (initially) consensual membership, which granted the company more and more space in everyday lives. Contrary to Winston Smith, who presents the reader with a ready-made world with stable rules and prohibitions, Mae introduces us to a world in the making, one step at a time. That is, as Bailey tells the reader, the unofficial company motto: “I like the words one step further. That’s how this company was built” ( TC 390, emphasis in the original). Its power is not imposed overnight but grows organically by increasing the number and intensity of network membership. Eggers’ text is first and fore‐ most a dystopia about one company installing a global monopoly on information and data, and what happens when, all of a sudden, the population is left with no choice but to opt into this one - although arguably best - network. In terms of critique, The Circle is an ambitious novel for it does not - as dystopian fiction usually does - provide a template for critique in the form of a dissident protagonist as a reference character, with whom readers can sympa‐ thise. In Eggers’ text, readers and characters disagree over the Circle. 102 While the former are supposed to reject the company’s propositions, the latter engage 114 III. ‘Crowd-Founded’ Dystopia: Dave Eggers’ The Circle (2013) 103 The company buildings of the Circle (“four hundred acres of brushed steel and glass,” TC 1) remind readers of similar technology centres, for instance the ‘Apple Park,’ a circular building made of glass and steel with a courtyard in the middle. Eggers eerily anticipated this real-world headquarter architecture, which is surrounded by different orchards, where the company even grows its own fruit (cf. S. Levy). enthusiastically with the company, hoping for improvements in their personal life (salary, status, recognition, even identity). For Mae, the Circle is the expres‐ sion of the utopian desire par excellence: My God, Mae thought. It’s heaven. The campus was vast and rambling, wild with Pacific color, and yet the smallest detail had been carefully considered, shaped by the most eloquent hands. […] there were now soft green hills and a Calatrava fountain. And a picnic area, with tables arranged in concentric circles. And tennis courts, clay and grass. […] Amid all this was a workplace, too, four hundred acres of brushed steel and glass on the headquar‐ ters of the most influential company in the world. The sky above was spotless and blue. (TC 1) Triggering associations to the Garden of Eden, heaven, and Cockayne, the quote introduces the company as an eutopian land of milk and honey, which is “shaped by the most eloquent hands” (ibid.). Deliberately introducing ambiguity as to whether Mae refers to God Himself or talented gardeners who have created the campus, the text presents the company as a modern Arcadia, with “green hills,” fountains, picnic areas and neatly arranged tables. The spotless blue sky and idyllic nature, such as exotic lemon and orange trees, strengthen the implications of an eutopian paradise. The glass building, which symbolises the novel’s the‐ matic focus on transparency, resonates with trends in contemporary architec‐ ture (cf. Gellai 291). 103 The setting of the novel thus expresses the reputation of the Circle as a company everyone wants to work for: “[a] million people, a billion, wanted to be where Mae was at this moment” ( TC 3). After all, the com‐ pany is the embodiment of the American dream. It promises good payment, healthcare, and the chance to move through the ranks quickly, provided the Circlers work diligently. Seen from this perspective, Mae’s story is one of suc‐ cess: through a mixture of talent, good work, and her good connections to Annie, Mae has escaped her old workplace, described as “a tragic block of cement with narrow vertical slits for windows” (ibid. 9). All her hatred towards her old em‐ ployer is captured in Mae’s disgust of burlap, the one material her office cube seems to consist of: “[a] dirty sort of burlap, a less refined form of burlap. A bulk burlap, a poor man’s burlap, a budget burlap. Oh god, she thought, when she left that place she vowed never to see or touch or acknowledge the existence of 115 4. The ‘Eutopian’ Monopoly of the Circle 104 Such as the “Three Wise Men,” “Group of 40,” Garden Eden-references, and conceptu‐ alising employees as “cherubs” (cf. TC 49; also Atwood, “Privacy”). that material again” (ibid. 11 f.). Mae even calls her old company “gulag” (ibid. 4), a drastic comparison to the detention camps of the Soviet Union, voicing the extent of her frustration and hatred. The Circle, however, represents “heaven”; it is a place to recognise her full potential. She rises quickly through the ranks, from a company “holding back the turning of the globe” (ibid. 11) to the central node of a globalised network, the Circle, living the American dream. What is more, the reader struggles to find words associated with the concept of ‘work’ at all, a detail upon which Mae’s father also comments: “I love that you call it a campus. That’s very cool. We used to call those places offices” (ibid. 74, emphasis in the original). Certainly, the excerpt does not hint at a workplace environment: “[b]ut here, all had been perfected. The best people had made the best systems and the best systems had reaped funds, unlimited funds, that made possible this, the best place to work. And it was natural that it was so, Mae thought. Who else but [e]utopians could make [e]utopia” (ibid. 31)? In this respect, the Circle performs a function similar to a religion - a com‐ parison introduced by Mae’s heaven reference on the first page of the novel and reiterated multiple times. When Mae announces the imminent completion of the Circle, the need to register in order to vote for political representatives, she and Francis meet an ex-priest while out partying in San Francisco. He attests to the Circle’s close proximity to religion by stating that [y]ou connected it all. You found a way to save all the souls. This is what we were doing in the church - we tried to get them all. How to save them all? This has been the work of missionaries for millennia […] You and yours at the Circle […] you’re gonna save all the souls. You’re gonna get everyone in one place, you’re gonna teach them all the same things. There can be one morality, one set of rules. Imagine! (ibid. 398) The Circle, the “golden calf ” of the 21 st century (ibid. 435) with its religious jargon and symbolism 104 is clearly established as a belief system, exuding the power formerly held by religion. Eggers’ The Circle can be read as a critical novel, one which coquets with the depiction of eutopia, yet which is ultimately interested in deconstructing the promise of freedom associated with a decidedly Western understanding of neoliberalism, criticising the widespread conviction that neoliberalism provides and thrives on individual freedom. Characterising itself as an eutopian paradise, Eg‐ gers’ company taps into a discourse about the relationship between capitalism 116 III. ‘Crowd-Founded’ Dystopia: Dave Eggers’ The Circle (2013) 105 In his talk “Utopia or Bust” (Utopian Studies Society: Annual Conference, Prato, 2019), Darko Suvin has contested the idea that capitalism harbours any eutopian potential: “capitalism has morphed into an existential anti-utopia […] like the comet that de‐ stroyed the dinosaurs.” According to him, “corporate dominance of the globe” is funda‐ mentally anti-eutopian for it offers freedom only in perverted version. Technically speaking, Suvin thus aptly connects Grewal’s condition of voluntariness to the absence of freedom in capitalist societies. In a response to his propositions, Raffaella Baccolini has offered to read capitalism as a “fake eutopia,” rather than anti-eutopia - an elegant way around, for surely, many would attest capitalism a great potential for eutopia. and eutopia, opening up a discussion about the captivation of the former by the latter. As Baccolini and Moylan argue, the concept of eutopia has been hijacked since the 1980s by a neoliberal discourse “proclaim[ing] the end of history and celebrat[ing] simultaneously the end of radical social dreaming and the achievement of an instantaneous ‘[e]utopia’ of the market” (“Introduction” 6 f.; cf. also Levitas and Sargisson 26). Capitalism has promoted the ideal of a market utopia “taking up [the concept] and selling it back to us as an already-achieved dream” (Baccolini and Moylan, “Conclusion” 237). Therein lies one of the reasons for the success of free-market capitalism, namely that “it pretends this is finally realized eutopia (end of qualitative history)” (Suvin, “Theses” 192). 105 The Circle manages to illustrate and pinpoint this abstract discourse within 400 pages. It describes how one monopoly can rise to claim the position of the perfect place on Earth, neutralising the eutopian ideal and desire. Stylising itself as the epitome of human achievement, the Circle does not suppress eutopian desire, but rather incorporates it wholly, absorbing its potential: The walkway wound around lemon and orange trees, and its quiet red cobblestones were replaced, occasionally, by tiles with imploring messages of inspiration. ‘Dream,’ one said, the word laser-cut into the stone. ‘Participate,’ said another. There were dozens: ‘Find Community.’ ‘Innovate.’ ‘Imagine.’ [A young man] was installing a new stone that said, ‘Breathe.’ (TC 1 f.) The company “comes to power by stimulating desire for new things” (Martin 56), thereby annihilating the characters’ utopian desire. By constantly daring its employees to “dream,” “participate,” “innovate,” and “imagine,” the Circle at‐ tempts and exploit their eutopian desire for the purpose of social and political improvement. Having tapped into the eutopian discourse, the novel goes on to conceptualise the Circle not as a company, but instead as the final stage of a teleological process of improvement and progress: “[o]n land that had once been a shipyard, then a drive-in movie theater, then a flea market, then blight, there were now soft green hills and a Calatrava fountain” ( TC 1). It seems as if the land had finally reached 117 4. The ‘Eutopian’ Monopoly of the Circle its full potential by hosting the company headquarters. Indeed, the Circle itself seems to be the crown jewel of human accomplishments, a symbiosis of every‐ thing deemed exceptional. It does not only employ the “best minds of our gen‐ eration” (ibid. 47) but also owns a collection of artworks that readers might expect in museums, rather than in a company atrium: a Calatrava fountain, Calder mobiles, which used to hang in the French parliament, mosaics from the Byzantine era, and stained glass ceilings from churches in Rome. The names of the company buildings also reflect to the Circle’s identification as the epitome of history. These are retrieved from epochs of human history, such as “Renais‐ sance,” “Old West,” and “Industrial Revolution.” Reference is not only made to the West, however; the company also culturally appropriates non-Western cul‐ tures, freely cherry-picking from world history such as Japan’s Nara Period (cf. ibid. 373), the Chinese Period of the Five Dynasties (cf. ibid. 323), and Egypt’s Old Kingdom (cf. ibid. 309). The company thus claims these developments as its own, irrespective of age or culture, constructing a legacy that culminates in the Circle itself: all of humanity’s achievements, both ideologically and physically, come together on the campus. To summarise, The Circle partakes of the discourse of globalisation, neoliberal capitalism, and network power. It can be read as an immanent attack on the promises of neoliberal capitalism, asking its readers to intellectually abandon the framework of coercive power structures, and to access critique with the tools provided by Grewal’s model. However, this proves to be quite a demanding request; many early reviewers and readers complained about an “implausible” and “unrealistic” characterisation of Mae and the other characters: “[r]ather than rebel and quit her job at the prestigious company, though, [Mae] becomes the fiercest adherent of its values” (Galant). A reader-review on goodreads.com ac‐ tually attacks the text furiously: “it is frustrating to realize that she never stands up for herself…at least it was until I realized she doesn’t seem to have anything to stand up for. Mae is so easily manipulated by the powers at the Circle that it is difficult to acknowledge her as a sentient being” (cf. Wenzel; goodreads.com). Eggers’ crowd-funded dystopia frustrates its readers and puts a strain on their willing suspension of disbelief by not depicting Mae’s rebellion. However, Mae is not as easily manipulated as the reviewer writes. As has been argued, she is not brainwashed, but plays an active part in constructing the dystopian reality brought about by the networked decisions of individuals, accepting a common standard in the hope of mutual benefits or access to their ‘true sense’ of self. As is demonstrated by the comments of both critics and reviewers, readers struggle to accept a form of power that has rarely featured in dystopian fiction to date. Finding The Circle difficult to read (which is invested in depicting a 118 III. ‘Crowd-Founded’ Dystopia: Dave Eggers’ The Circle (2013) different kind of power), most readers indicate that they still interpret power according to the juridico-political model. The fact that many readers struggle with the subtle web of network power depicted in the novel certainly contrib‐ uted to the plot changes made in the screen adaption of the novel. The 2017 film of the same name omits the The Circle’s elaboration on the concept of network power; screenwriters and producers felt the need to reduce Eggers’ complex elaboration of network power to the ‘traditional’ depiction of sovereign power. Instead of showing how individual choices can create powerful network standards, the production team opted for the depiction of one-dimensional power and introduced Tom Stenton (Patton Oswald) and Eamon Bailey (Tom Hanks), the company’s CEO s, as the ‘real bad guys’ and centres of responsibility. The movie refuses to cast them as convinced (if self-delusional) believers in the eu‐ topian ideal of the Circle and instead portrays them as hypocritical puppet mas‐ ters, whose goal is world domination (cf. T. Robinson). The movie thus declines the novel’s invitation to critically assess the shortcomings of methodological individualism and instead follows narrative patterns established by Orwell, Huxley, and Co. It seems, however, as if the reviewers were equally dissatisfied with the less complex version; the movie has received primarily bad reviews. David Sims calls it a “ridiculous film” (“Tech Thriller”), while Tasha Robinson criticises it as “a stripped-down, unemphatic version of the story that stream‐ lines the book’s plot and alters the ending, but nonetheless preserves many of its biggest faults.” She goes on to claim that the “conflict in the film version of The Circle is bland, neutered, and cartoony.” The Circle’s position in the canon is highly disputed. Some find it a shallow read, pointing to its many literary deficiencies. However, Eggers’ novel is more than the sum of its parts: it is an educational act (cf. Karkowsky), or as Jo‐ seph A. Domino writes, “a welcome addition to the canon of dystopian litera‐ ture” (“Privacy”), as it purposefully delineates the limits of our imagination to picture a fundamentally better place. The Circle refrains from dreaming up al‐ ternatives to its own dystopian system and restricts itself to voicing critique. Respecting its own teaching, the novel does not attempt to proselytise its own readers in championing an alternative to the status quo. The Circle demonstrates the dangers inherent in any eutopian endeavour and therefore shrinks back from presenting ready-made alternatives. It is aware of the implications that pre‐ senting an alternative would sabotage its own agenda to raise awareness and delineate the limits of our own imagination. Rather, it identifies the ills of the present and challenges the readers to start from there. 119 4. The ‘Eutopian’ Monopoly of the Circle 106 After years of commercial and critical success, especially for the first and second season, The Handmaid’s Tale faced severe criticism in 2019 for its third season: Raffaella Bac‐ colini accuses the series of being “torture porn” (“Domestication”), satisfying the view‐ ers’ voyeuristic tendencies rather than offering a subversive reading of contemporary culture. She argues that dystopia is “radically co-opted and de-radicalised” (ibid.) and that dystopia’s function of critique and warning has been tamed and commercialised IV. The Totalitarian Face of Neoliberalism: Margaret Atwood’s The Heart Goes Last (2015) In contrast to Dave Eggers, who has only recently entered the dystopian dis‐ course with The Circle, Margaret Atwood (born 1939) has been a dedicated con‐ tributor to its canon for quite some time. Ever since the publication of The Handmaid’s Tale (1981), both critics and the wider public have considered the Canadian author to be on one level with George Orwell in terms of cultural relevance. As The Guardian journalist Claire Armitstead asserts, “[o]nce or twice in a generation, a novel appears that vaults out of the literary corral to become a phenomenon, familiar to people the world over who have never read the book: George Orwell’s 1984 [sic! ] is one and Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale is another” (“Atwood”). Despite her occasional detours into realism (cf. Nischik 1), Atwood has remained truthful to her preference for dystopia. Her popular and critical fame rests chiefly on her dystopian writing, most prominently, of course, on her religious dystopia about the abuse of the Foucauldian notion of biopower, The Handmaid’s Tale (cf. Somacarrera 44). Gilead, her version of the United States of America turned into a misogynist theocracy, is ruled by a pow‐ erful military regime, robbing women of their human rights and exploiting their bodies as trophies. In The Handmaid’s Tale, Atwood introduces a world anti‐ thetical to the self-proclaimed libertarian West, in which her female narrator Offred (literally “Of Fred,” i.e. the possession of a high-ranking official named Fred) is subject to ritual rape and regularly bears witness to torture and public executions. Atwood’s novel has been discussed extensively, with scholars fo‐ cusing on the notion of ‘religious dystopia’ (cf. K. Schmidt, 2015), environmental degradation (cf. Kuźnicki, 2017), gender (cf. A. Matthews, 2008), (female) au‐ tonomy and narrativity (cf. Howells, 1989), and, notably, sexuality and violence (cf. Bach, 2009). Lately, her depiction of religious devotion gone wrong has been turned into a much-acclaimed TV series, attracting both critical and popular attention worldwide (cf. Bakare). 106 for high-class consumerism. This development is most aptly exemplified by the now-in‐ famous ‘Handmaid’s Tale Party’ organised by the U. S. American influencer and entre‐ preneur Kylie Jenner: serving “praise be vodka” and “under his eye tequila” cocktails, Jenner celebrated her motto-party as an Instagram event, posting selfies of herself and guests wearing the traditional red handmaid gown. The Guardian journalist Arwa Mah‐ dawi joined the media backlash against the internet-star, arguing that both Jenner and her friends “completely miss[ed] the point of Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel.” Yet, despite the critique, Atwood’s writing continues to inspire TV-producers: the film rights for The Heart Goes Last have already been sold to MGM Television in September 2016 (cf. Cain), making the novel the third work of Atwood’s to hit the screen after the commercial success of The Handmaid’s Tale (Hulu) and Alias Grace (CBC / Netflix). 107 See also Atwood’s Writing with Intent (2005), in which she comments on her own writing process. 108 Atwood’s most recent dystopian novel was published in September 2019. The Testaments is the prequel of The Handmaid’s Tale, describing events 15 years prior to the plot of her celebrated dystopian novel. It features additional voices from Gilead, among them Aunt Lydia, for instance. Due to her fame and extraordinary career, which has lasted for decades, At‐ wood is often granted the prerogative of interpreting her own books: for in‐ stance, she insists on using the term ‘speculative fiction’ for her writing, stating that “[s]cience fiction has monsters and spaceships; speculative fiction could really happen” (Atwood quoted in Armitstead). Moreover, Atwood prefers to speak of ‘ustopias’ instead of critical utopias, blending the concepts ‘eutopia’ and ‘dystopia’ (cf. Other Worlds 66). According to her, dystopia and eutopia are not opposites, but rather two sides of the same coin: “scratch the surface a little, and - or so I think - you see something more like a yin and yang pattern; within each [e]utopia, a concealed dystopia; within each dystopia, a hidden [e]utopia” (ibid. 85). 107 The publication of the first dystopian trilogy ever, the Maddaddam series, which begins with Oryx and Crake (2003), has affirmed Atwood’s status as “our Cassandra” (Waltonen x) or “the prophet of dystopia,” a nickname given to her by The New Yorker in 2017 (cf. Allardice). In this text, Atwood tackles questions of bioethics, corporate responsibility, and neoliberalism - themes bound to re‐ appear in her 2015 dystopian novel The Heart Goes Last, 108 originally published in serial form on the website Byliner (cf. Lyall). Therein, Atwood asks the reader to imagine what could happen “if we continue down the road we’re already on” (Atwood, Intent 286; cf. also Özkan 100)? Having always invited her readers to find connections between her novels, Atwood gives her precarious pleeblands from Oryx and Crake a cameo-appearance in The Heart Goes Last (cf. Howells, “Trash” 305; also Ingersoll 111), presenting America’s poverty-stricken suburbs as a Hobbesian nightmare. The protagonists Charmaine and Stan, a young mar‐ 122 IV. The Totalitarian Face of Neoliberalism: Margaret Atwood’s The Heart Goes Last (2015) 109 All references to The Heart Goes Last will be cited parenthetically as HGL. ried couple, have both lost their pride and status along with their jobs, house, and self-esteem. As a result, they have been living in their worn-down Honda. Theft, rape, and attacks by paramilitary forces dominate the lives of Charmaine and Stan, who must relocate multiple times every night to stay safe. As Vials argues, Atwood’s world is “all too familiar in the present day, in which an eco‐ nomic crisis provides the political opportunity for privatisation, popularly per‐ ceived as a convention resolution to a bankrupt government” (41). In The Heart Goes Last, Atwood depicts the United States as an almost post-apocalyptic wasteland, a political vacuum where police forces have long surrendered the state’s monopoly on the use of force. In the midst of these anarchic conditions, the town of Consilience / Positron emerges as an almost eutopian enclave with white picket fences, full of 1950s nostalgia, and free of charge for those hand-picked to live there (cf. Mancuso): the gated community promises secure jobs, a nice houses, law-abiding neigh‐ bours and a stable income. But there is a catch: citizens are not allowed to leave the community and must agree to living as prison inmates every other month, sharing their homes and scooters with another couple, their “alternates,” who they are forbidden to meet. In this way, Consilience / Positron (a neologism formed by blending “ CONS + RESILIENCE ,” HGL 55) 109 is able to generate more income, incarcerating half of its population respectively to save / generate money. With this scheme, as Syreeta McFadden argues, Atwood marries “eco‐ nomic nightmares with the prison industrial complex, austerity and unemploy‐ ment,” drawing her inspiration from “real communities in the US like Huntsville, Texas, where residents accept the fact that their existence is sustained by a prison economy and the local joke is ‘half the population of Huntsville’s under key, and the other half gets paid for their time’” (“Dystopian”). Atwood clearly draws her inspiration for Consilience from contemporary politics and eco‐ nomics. Although awarded with the Kitschies Red Tentacle “for progressive, intelli‐ gent and entertaining literature with a speculative element” (thekitschies.com), Atwood’s novel received primarily mediocre reviews (cf. Howells, “Trash” 304). While The Guardian journalist M. J. Harrison praised it as “a jarring, rewardingly strange piece of work,” celebrating it as a “savage, surreal adventure” (“ HGL ”), the New York Times dismissed it as secondary to Atwood’s other dystopias, claiming that halfway through, the narrative “skids into the woods, hits its head, loses its memory and emerges as a strange quasi-sex romp concerned almost exclusively with erotic power, kinky impulses and the perversity of desire” 123 IV. The Totalitarian Face of Neoliberalism: Margaret Atwood’s The Heart Goes Last (2015) (Lyall). Indeed, what starts as an investigation into the life of an ordinary middle class couple soon becomes a fantastical and farcical tour de force in which At‐ wood strains the readers’ willing suspension of disbelief to quite an extent: months after their relocation to Consilience, Charmaine begins an affair with the husband of their alternate couple, Max, believing that their secret meetings are - in fact - secret. However, Stan learns about the affair. Yet before he can confront his wife, Stan is in turn seduced by Jocelyn, the alternate couple’s wife (married to Max), who turns out to be one of the most influential people in the town. Jocelyn uses her power and sexual attraction to keep a trapped Stan as a sex slave, who gradually realises that he has lost his autonomy and is being surveilled by Jocelyn and her staff around the clock. Meanwhile, Jocelyn keeps Charmaine and Max, her unfaithful husband, in prison, punishing them for their adultery. Unable to leave the house, Stan re-arranges himself in his new position and lives together with Jocelyn for several months. She, later, will maintain that Stan’s time as her private prisoner away from his wife was, in fact, a test of his loyalty in her attempt to bring down the CEO of Consilience, Ed. To do so, she needs to smuggle Stan out of the facility together with sensitive documents, which will expose the project: Consilience is not a suburban middle-class town but a scheme for organ harvesting. The route of escape Jocelyn has chosen for Stan is rather gruesome: declared to be an enemy of Consilience / Positron for the sake of appearance, Stan is to receive a lethal injection at the hands of Char‐ maine, who happens to work as Chief Medication Administrator. Aware that she is being watched by her superiors and that she will be punished if she dis‐ obeys her orders, Charmaine acts as she was told, i.e. kills her husband, unaware that she will not kill Stan but only put him to sleep. Jocelyn’s plan succeeds. Believed to be dead, Stan is able to leave Consilience / Positron disguised as a life-size Elvis sex-doll and is flown out to Las Vegas where he poses as an Elvis imitator until the information is leaked to the news. The novel ends with a farcical showdown between Ed, Jocelyn, Stan, Stan’s brother Conor, who reap‐ pears deus ex machina to save the day, and Charmaine who is reunited with Stan (cf. Lyall). Admittedly, The Heart Goes Last is a curious, almost absurd mixing of genres, introducing a blend of Shakespearean Midsummer Night’s Dream comedy and erotic thriller, combined with a hint of “psychedelic 60s crime caper” (Harrison, “ HGL ”). Yet, as J. W. McCormack argues, its “world is our world, and the future it depicts is the present, which is where we will all be spending the rest of our lives.” It is an accurate contemporary satire about corporate greed, exploring the commodification of human bodies and the perseverance of free market capitalism although the system is in constant crisis (cf. Sethi). 124 IV. The Totalitarian Face of Neoliberalism: Margaret Atwood’s The Heart Goes Last (2015) The Heart Goes Last has escaped scholarly attention almost altogether to date. It recedes into the shadows as critics focus on Atwood’s other, more popular dystopian novels. Only Coral Ann Howells’ essay “True Trash: Genre Fiction Revisited in Margaret Atwood’s Stone Mattress, The Heart Goes Last, and Hag-Seed” (2017) and Megan E. Cannella’s “Feminine Subterfuge in Margaret Atwood’s The Heart Goes Last” (2018) have devoted critical attention to the novel, reading it in the context of postmodern aesthetics, ‘transgressive enter‐ tainments,’ and female empowerment within patriarchy, respectively. Yet At‐ wood’s novel should count as an exciting addition to the dystopian canon as Atwood (yet again) challenges the genre boundaries of dystopia (cf. C. Howells, “Dystopian Visions” 164). The Heart Goes Last offers a narratological exercise in reading and evaluating different kinds of power, enabling a direct comparison between totalitarian oppression and neoliberal network power that forecloses the option for voluntary choices. It delves into the mechanisms and nature of power and depicts a world subjected to the need for maximising profit, ulti‐ mately arguing that the free-market ideology lies at the heart of all social and political evil. By refusing to grant the readers the satisfaction of witnessing Stan and Charmaine rebel, the novel purposefully abandons the dystopian paradigm of the subplot of rebellion in order to irritate its readers, challenging them not to consume The Heart Goes Last like any other dystopian novel, but to critically asses what is presented to them: thereby, the novel actively deconstructs genre expectations and forces its readers to ponder about the absence of rebels. More‐ over, just like The Circle, Atwood’s The Heart Goes Last does not offer a eutopian silver lining or paradisiac enclave. It refrains from presenting an alternative to the status quo and thus abandons the mechanisms of external criticism: the novel refuses to offer a ready-made alternative but invests its energy into a performative critique of capitalism, voicing its dissent by highlighting the inconsis‐ tencies of the system, most prominently the impossibility of voluntariness within coercive neoliberal network structures. 1. “Jobs for All! ” - The Eutopian Facade of Neoliberalism The Heart Goes Last constitutes an intriguing addition to Atwood’s extensive and experimental dystopian canon (which includes, as already mentioned, one of the first female dystopian narrators, Offred in The Handmaid’s Tale; and the first dystopian trilogy ever, the Maddaddam series starting with Oryx and 125 1. The Eutopian Facade of Neoliberalism 110 Ever since the publication of The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood has been famous for altering and deconstructing genre expectations (cf. Bosco 157), presenting exciting changes such as, for instance, postmodern aspects (meta-reflections on the role of nar‐ ratives) or introducing female narrators such as Offred to what is traditionally perceived as a male genre (cf. Howells, “Dystopian Visions” 173; also Shead 1). Indeed, the “sub‐ versive rewriting of popular genres as significant elements in her novels, short fictions, and poetry” (Howells, “Trash” 297) has become a signature move of Atwood’s. As she herself states, “[e]very one of those art forms has a certain set of brackets around it … Some of the most interesting things happen when you expand the brackets” (quoted in Shead 5). She continues to do so in Oryx and Crake, where she combines the criteria of classical dystopian fiction with aspects of the bildungsroman, merging both into a nar‐ rative, in which the protagonists have to find their role in society (cf. Zeißler 121): now, the individual has so answer for the situation of the world - not a malevolent totalitarian state. A similar pattern is to be found in The Heart Goes Last. It thus continues ideas and developments initiated by the earlier dystopian works of Atwood’s. Crake) 110 because of its selected object of criticism: the novel abandons the state as its prime target of critique, shifting the attention towards the neoliberal eco‐ nomic system and the commodification processes constitutive of it. While At‐ wood’s novel does not portray the shift from democracy to corpocracy in detail like The Circle, it emphasises the dominance of the economic sector in general. With “only rich people [able to] afford to have police” ( HGL 18), corporations are asked to provide the services usually funded for by the state, such as public housing, security, education and unemployment support. As Stan remembers, the government agencies “said they’d keep him on file. But then the employment office itself closed down, because why keep it open if there was no employment” (ibid. 10)? At the beginning of the novel, the state and its monopoly of power are virtually non-existent in the lives of the protagonists and have given way to corporate substitutes. Moreover, like in Eggers’ The Circle, CEO s surpass politicians in social status and influence as exemplified by the character of Ed whose title as Consilience’s “president and CEO ” (ibid. 165), a curious hybrid term composed of political and economic terminology, already alludes to said paradigm change in conceptions of power. Confident of being the smartest man in the room, Ed’s vanity is sup‐ ported by the constant stream of homage paid to him by politicians from Wash‐ ington and regional governments. As Charmaine informs the reader, “three state governors called” (ibid. 317), inquisitive of an institution like Consilience for their own states, and thereby confirming the superiority of the economic factor: “[h]ead office is getting inquiries daily from other stricken communities, who see the Project as a way of solving their own problems, both economic and social” (ibid. 159). Reflecting on a “fundamental shift in which good political and business leadership are understood as one and the same” (Rhodes and Bloom, 126 IV. The Totalitarian Face of Neoliberalism: Margaret Atwood’s The Heart Goes Last (2015) “ CEO Politician”), The Heart Goes Last mirrors a certain political discourse which has prevailed since the financial crisis of 2007, according to which CEO s surpass politicians in terms of qualification, experience, and leadership skills. Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi and Australia’s Malcolm Turnbull are cases in point, with the latter even pitching himself as “a successful businessman with the knowledge and experience to also run the country’s economy” (ibid.). The political climate that prefers “ CEO politicians” (ibid.) to professional politicians seems especially dominant in the States, the setting of The Heart Goes Last: after all, Donald J. Trump’s status as businessman and self-proclaimed deal-maker helped him into office in 2016 / 17. He advertised “his experience in business to US voters, telling Rolling Stone magazine early on: ‘The point is, I’m running for office in a country that’s essentially bankrupt, and it needs a successful busi‐ nessman’” (ibid.). Also, in November 2019, the billionaire Michael Bloomberg, former mayor of New York, media mogul, and currently on position eight of the richest people on the planet according to Forbes magazine (with a fortune over 50 billion dollars as of November 2019, cf. forbes.com), entered the 2020 presi‐ dential run, also counting on his image as successful CEO and businessman, who has never lost touch with the middle class (cf. T. McCarthy). Ed, too, is a Donald Trump and Michael Bloomberg figure, in the best / worst sense of the term: he is politically obnoxious and convinced he is able solve the country’s problems in his position as CEO of Consilience. Due to its economic success and influential business model, Consilience and its residents have defied hyper-inflation, unemployment, and austerity policies, therefore standing out as attractive eutopian ideal, “[a]t last, a vision” ( HGL 56) for the entire country. As Coral Ann Howells argues, after years of hardship Consilience finally “offers a [e]utopian vision of safe suburban living modeled on the 1950s American Dream” (“Trash” 305) ready-made for those lucky enough to enter. Its supporters understand Consilience as a role model and inspiration which should shine out to other poverty-stricken communities to follow its ex‐ ample. In this regard, the discourse around the Project is reminiscent of the ‘City on a Hill’-trope which has pervaded the self-understanding of the United States ever since the days of the Founding Fathers. This trope goes back to the sermon “A Model of Christian Charity” delivered by the Puritan John Winthrop in 1630, who preached to a group of settlers embarking upon a journey to the new world: “[f]or we must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill; the eyes of all people are upon us” (original quoted in Rodgers 307). Preaching to his fellow settlers, Winthrop encourages them to see themselves as the start of a new mode of living and as a model for others to follow (cf. Conforti 2 f.), thus shaping the founding myth and self-understanding of the not-yet nation (cf. Rodgers 2). 127 1. The Eutopian Facade of Neoliberalism Centuries later, Ronald Reagan turned this idea into the guiding motif of his presidency, stating that “‘our people always have held fast… since our first days as a nation’— that they were destined from their origins to be a beacon of hope and liberty to the world, a model to all nations” (ibid., my emphasis). This phrase strongly associated with Reagan and the century-old ‘City upon a Hill’-trope reappears in The Heart Goes Last: when Ed claims that Consilience’s “new order […] is a beacon of hope” ( HGL 166, my emphasis), he seeks to enter this discourse around the eutopian potential of his community project, trying to secure his town a place therein. Indeed, the text inscribes a decidedly eutopian quality into Consilience, which stylises itself as the ultimate place to live: “it could be the salvation, not only of the many regions that have been so hard-hit in recent times but eventually, if this model comes to be adopted at the highest levels, of the nation as a whole” (ibid. 49). Described as “salvation,” the town is stylised as a eutopia come true, an ideal city state that has solved the problems of humanity since it seems to be the sole institution capable of providing not only safety, but also prosperity and individual happiness in the form of proper housing and regular pay cheques by employing those fallen on hard times: “their twin city is being viewed at a high level as a possible model for the future” (ibid. 159). This eutopian ideal stems mainly from Ed’s promise, “jobs for all” (ibid. 70), which appeals to all characters. Especially for the losers of the free market, Consilience’s promise of “[f]ull em‐ ployment” (ibid. 159) is “like a dream come true” (ibid. 43), providing the resi‐ dents with - among other things - white, fluffy towels, the symbolical anti-thesis to a precarious life on the streets characterised by fear, dirt, and hopelessnss (cf. ibid. 43, 45): Charmaine “can feel the griminess of her body, she can smell the stale odour coming from her clothes, from her hair, from the rancid fat smell of the chicken-wings place next door” (ibid. 37). Consilience’s appeal mainly stems from its image as eutopian enclave in the post-apocalyptic waste‐ land that used to be the United States of America. By describing the history of the land on which Consilience has been erected, the text suggests that the Project has helped to realise the full potential of both soil and people - another similarity to Eggers’ The Circle, in which the company campus is stylised as the crowning end point of a teleological process of con‐ tinued improvement and progress: The first industry was a beet-sugar mill; next came a furniture factory, then a corset company. Then there was an automobile plant - one of those pre-Ford cars - then a camera film corporation, and finally, a state correctional institution. After the Second World War, the key industries faded, until nothing was left […]. But now, thinks Charmaine, it’s all different. Such an improvement! (ibid. 70 f.) 128 IV. The Totalitarian Face of Neoliberalism: Margaret Atwood’s The Heart Goes Last (2015) 111 Their findings co-occur with the prognosis that the gross domestic product of highly developed states will eventually be dominated by services only, with the first and second sector losing importance (cf. Bußmann 23). See also Albert, Die neue Weltwirtschaft (1991). 112 At the same time, the prison functions not only as an example for the transformation from first sector-based economy to third sector-based economy, but simultaneously exemplifies the expansion of neoliberalism: prisons used to be about punishment, and then reform and penitence, and then keeping dangerous offenders inside. Then, for quite a few decades, they were about crowd-control - penning up the young, aggressive, marginalized guys to keep them off the streets. And then, when they started to be run as private businesses, they were about the profit margins for the prepackaged jail-meal suppliers, and the hired guards and so forth (HGL 172). While prisons used to be insti‐ tutions of punishment, and later “reform and penitence” (cf. also Michel Foucault’s Discipline and Punish, 1975), they are now “run as private businesses” interested in “profit margins for the prepackaged jail-meals suppliers” rather than the reintegration of delinquent members of the public. Including this little excursion on the history of the US-American penal system, the novel criticises the neoliberal imperative of profit maximisation, which has colonised various aspects of human life and society alike. Stating that the area used to host a beet-sugar mill, later a furniture and a corset factory, an automobile plant as well as camera film corporation, and finally a state correctional institution, this paragraph evokes similarities to the three-sector-model by Jean Fourastié, Colin Clark, and A. G. B. Fisher (cf. Bußmann 5). According to this model, a nation’s economics subdivides into the primary sector (agriculture, farming), secondary (industry) and tertiary sector (services), with the latter being the most advanced form that corresponds closely to the seize of the gross domestic product and thus the economic success of a country (cf. ibid. 16); 111 just as the Circle has grown to be a seemingly paradisiac enclave, so has Consilience, linguistically stylised as the crowning end point of a teleological development: climbing the ladder of advancement from an agri‐ cultural sugar mill (agriculture, first sector) to an automated factory for cars (industry, second sector), and finally to prison regulations (services, third sector), Consilience comprises all three sectors of the economy; thus the city is turned into the epitome of economic achievement, keeping financial profits high in times of economic unrest. 112 The eutopian appeal of Consilience is furthermore supported by religious allusions and symbols, which enrich the discourse around the Project with a theological quality. Continuous references to the religious group of the Quakers, the founding fathers of the town, structure the narrative by constantly re‐ minding the readers of Consilience’s religious origins (cf. HGL 70). Moreover, the residents cultivate a discourse that brands them to be among the elect, re‐ minding readers of cults and religious sects. When Stan informs the reader that “after all, they’ve been chosen, […] and so many have been rejected” (ibid. 48) 129 1. The Eutopian Facade of Neoliberalism 113 Neither the couple, nor the readers ever learn the qualification criteria and are thus left in the unknown concerning the conditions for entering Consilience. Stan can only speculate the others are turned down because of their “bad attitudes” (HGL 43). Common to most of the new residents of Consilience, though, is a decidedly middle-class background. The individual fates resemble one another to the degree that the inhabitants of Consilience basically come to share a narrative which describes their economic demise after the crash: “[b]efore he signed on to the Project he’d been an actuary, but he’d lost that job when his company moved west. It’s a familiar story” (ibid. 83). The homogenic composition of the population of Consilience already betrays its self-proclaimed status as communitarian eutopia, revealing the selection mechanism to be informed by social and - presumably by extension also - racial discrimination. he alludes precisely to this form of dubious, religious entitlement all characters pride themselves on after they had been handpicked to join the exclusive club of the Project, which offers “maximum possible happiness” - and “[w]ho wouldn’t tick that box” (ibid. 55, emphasis in the original)? 113 Additionally, when Charmaine and Stan enter the gated community for the first time, the “mellow sunlight breaks through the clouds, lighting them in a golden glow” (ibid. 42, emphasis in the original), evoking the notion of a halo and immersing both the characters and the town in heavenly, warm light. The sun, both literally and metaphorically a symbol for eutopian hope and prosperous times, had been ab‐ sent from Charmaine’s and Stan’s lives, which until then had been connected the darkness and night as symbols of their misfortune. If anything, sunlight outside of Consilience is not a sign of harmony and hope, but an intrusion, disturbing their sleep in the car: “the light [which] comes in through the car windows, [is] too bright” (ibid. 19). Associating the sun with warmth, growth and, peace, the couple enjoys the “a golden glow” surrounding the town and its residents, convinced that their luck has returned. As already hinted at, Consilience’s eutopian appeal stems also to a certain degree from the severe contrast to the world outside: “[t]here wasn’t anything bad going on inside Consilience. The bad stuff was on the outside; that’s why all of them had come in, to get away from it” (ibid. 164, my emphasis). As Ed main‐ tains in his welcome speech, a shocking 40 percent of the population in this region is jobless, with 50 percent of those being under twenty-five. That’s a recipe for system breakdown, right there: for anarchy, for chaos, for the senseless destruction of property, for so-called revolution, which means looting and gang rule and warlords and mass rape, and the terrorization of the weak and helpless. (ibid. 51) In contrast to the outside world defined by poverty, crime, dirt, fear, and hope‐ lessness, i.e. “the bad stuff ” in Stan’s words, Consilience “offers a complete es‐ 130 IV. The Totalitarian Face of Neoliberalism: Margaret Atwood’s The Heart Goes Last (2015) 114 To emphasise the horrific situation many characters find themselves in and to highlight the desperate situation on the job market, Atwood’s text describes finding a job as a miracle (cf. HGL 21). Getting an “ordinary job” that pays the bills, such as “butcher, cape from the dystopic realities and hells that have consumed everyday life” (Cannella 15). Indeed, the novel paints the United States in the bleakest colours possible, including abandoned, boarded-up houses, gang violence, and ruthless drug addicts (cf. HGL 3). Evoking a Hobbesian state of perpetual war for scarce resources (“40 per cent jobless,” “anarchy,” and “chaos”), the text elevates, by implication, the Project to “a [e]utopian solution for a dystopian world” (M. Johnson). While Consilience and its residents consider themselves to be the representa‐ tives of an liberal eutopian ‘city on a hill,’ which is primarily defined by finan‐ cial and economic prosperity and thus stands in full opposition to the outside world, a deconstructionist reading problematises this understanding, revealing defining similarities between the town and the outside world. Megan E. Can‐ nella is right to argue that “The Heart Goes Last complicates what is popularly understood as the [e]utopian-dystopian binary” (16), since the seemingly euto‐ pian microcosm of Consilience is in accordance with the dystopian capitalist matrix which structures the reality of the United States of America. As readers learn from Stan, there is no longer a world fundamentally different from Consi‐ lience: Stan “tries to visualise the world outside the wall of Consilience. But he has no real picture of that world anymore. All he sees is fog” ( HGL 206). Both the town and Atwood’s version of America must be seen as ideologically identical with regards to the violation of human rights, the economic efficiency argu‐ ment, and their prioritisation of free-market imperatives over human needs and rights: both are dystopias with a clear focus on the inhuman nature of neoliberal capitalism. Revealingly, both outside and inside the town, the ‘worth’ of a person is measured by his or her economic status. Thus, the difference between outside and inside effectively shrinks. Two examples illustrate this ideology, one exem‐ plifying Stan’s situation before entering the project, the other, Charmaine’s after signing on. Associating his worth as a human being with his job performance, Stan struggles to look in the mirror after having lost his job (cf. HGL 27): “Char‐ maine’s commiseration makes it worse. She tries so hard. ‘You are not a failure,’ she says. ‘Just because we lost the house and we’re sleeping in the car, and you got …” (ibid. 7, emphasis in the original). Earning money and being able to participate in consumer society and are transformed into the telos of human life and the conditio sine qua non of human rights. Having no money means one cannot be a fully-fledged member of society - at least for Stan. 114 Thus contem‐ 131 1. The Eutopian Facade of Neoliberalism baker, plumber [or] scooter repair,” is turned into the eutopian ideal most characters fail to achieve. In this context, the eutopian allure of Consilience is almost as irresistible. porary America is depicted to be decidedly anti-libertarian, attributing worth only to those who contribute economically. Charmaine, however, has a similar experience within Consilience. When she loses her “rightful job” (ibid. 165) as Chief Medications Administrator at the local hospital, she is being treated “like something that got stuck on [her co-workers’] shoe” (ibid. 187). Tables turn when she receives her nametag again: then “they’re treating her with new re‐ spect” (ibid. 185). The phrase “her name’s been cleared and she has her job again” (ibid. 195) emphasises the connection between having a job and one’s status as an acknowledged member of the community. Being ‘useful’ means contributing economically. The novel thereby highlights that the society outside the town walls is not qualitatively different from that inside. In both worlds, inside and outside Consilience, retaining employment be‐ comes the basis for further civil rights. Indeed, it becomes the defining civil right: “isn’t it a human right to have a job? Ed believes it is! And enough to eat, and a decent place to live, which Consilience provides - those are surely human rights! ” (ibid. 161) Consilience’s appeal rests on its promise of full employment - the precondition for dignity and security. Echoing the core doctrine of free market liberalism, Ed assumes that “a self-regulating market of commodities will organically generate all the other political liberties” (Vials 43), and thus shows himself to be guided by the very same maxims that ‘neoliberalised’ the society outside Consilience in the first place by eliminating unions, social safety nets, etc. As The Guardian journalist Cecilia Mancuso writes, [t]he Positron Project, a purportedly [e]utopian community [is] so obviously sinister it’s introduced in the form of a faux-1950s advertisement, complete with rhetorical questions (‘Living in your car? ’ ‘Remember what your life used to be like? ’) and a too-good-to-be-true product (‘Help solve the nation’s problems of joblessness and crime while solving your own! ’). (“Speculative”) Consilience is a capitalist fake-eutopia which reproduces the very same system which had to answer for the big economic crash and ruined the country in the first place. As Chris Vials argues, “[n]eoliberalism tries to convince us that our chaotic lives will be solved by yet more neoliberalism” (40). Indeed, The Heart Goes Last reproduces a discourse which celebrates more neoliberalism as the solution to the problems caused by neoliberalism by introducing the neoliberal project of Consilience as remedy for the social problems that emerged out of the financial crisis. Here, economic imperatives seem to function as “the only 132 IV. The Totalitarian Face of Neoliberalism: Margaret Atwood’s The Heart Goes Last (2015) 115 As Megan E. Cannella correctly points out, Consilience “look[s] more like a 1950s sitcom, with strong, traditional, patriarchal tones pervading every aspect of this new community” (17). Both men and women are constrained by traditional gender roles: while both groups are supposed to work and earn their money themselves, the colour scheme attributed to men and women reveals a gendered bias. The colours pink and purple are reserved for the women, red and green for the men. driving force of society” (Adami 133); since Consilience is first and foremost designed as a job creation scheme, geared to generating income for the investors (“[s]ome folks must be making a shitload of cash out of this thing,” HGL 110), abstract ideals such as human rights or gender equality 115 are branded as luxuries that must be cut out to recover financially - both on a personal and social level. The spokesmen […] have braved a lot of indignant screaming from the online radicals and malcontents who claim that Consilience / Positron is an infringement of individual liberties, an attempt at total social control, an insult to the human spirit. Nobody is more dedicated to individual liberties than Ed is, but […] you can’t eat your so-called individual liberties, and the human spirit pays no bills, and something needed to be done to relieve the pressure inside the social pressure-cooker. Wouldn’t they agree? (ibid. 51) Uprooting the readers’ understanding of human rights, the text reproduces a discourse that rebrands human rights as luxurious goods for those who can afford them. Brushing away legitimate complaints about the organisational model of his ‘city on a hill,’ Ed demonises critics as “online radicals” and “mal‐ contents” by implying that their “indignant screaming” warrants no serious at‐ tention. In his speech, Ed establishes a clear hierarchy of priorities that relegates “individual liberties” to second place: “you can’t eat your so-called individual liberties and the human spirit pays no bills.” In his world - just as outside of Consilience - economic deliberations (i.e. “paying the bill”) precondition uni‐ versal human rights. Thereby the Project reverses the hierarchy established by many constitutions around the world celebrating individual liberties as the highest good. Negating the US -American Declaration of Independence itself (“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”), Consilience is fundamentally un‐ constitutional, yet its representatives are seemingly above the law. Indeed, pol‐ itics curries favour with the Board members under the pretext of the economic efficiency argument. Ed’s speech can be read as both a defence against criticism from the outside and an appeal for unity inside of Consilience: his appendix, “[w]ouldn’t they 133 1. The Eutopian Facade of Neoliberalism agree? ,” puts a ready-made opinion into the heads of his audience since he seeks to generate a consensus necessary to stabilise the community. The constant appeals to unity and the make-belief arguments for neoliberalism and against human rights, convince his listeners - among them Stan - to agree with Ed’s radical market ideas and thus devalue the achievements of the Enlightenment and democracy: “[n]ot that he gives much of a flying fuck about freedom and democracy, since they haven’t performed that well for him personally” ( HGL 226). Abandoning the concept of democracy altogether, Stan creates a dangerous precedent, surrendering his constitutionally guaranteed rights in order to get a job. Yet, Stan fails to recognise, that his eutopian ideal and the post-apocalyptic wasteland outside are two sides of them same time. Ultimately, by connecting economic success and the right to live, the novel replicates a discourse that cognitively paves the way for processes of dehuman‐ isation, such as legitimising the death of those who, according to the economic efficiency argument, do not contribute enough. This logic is found both within Consilience and in the wider public, minimising the ideological difference be‐ tween the two worlds once more. The text thus makes it clear that there is no ideological break between the two parts of society, rather a continuum framed by a neoliberal discourse: Some say those who got their organs harvested and may subsequently have been converted into chicken feed were criminals anyway, and they should have been gassed, and this was a real way for them to pay their debt to society and make reparation for the harm they’d caused, and anyway it wasn’t as wasteful as just throwing them out once dead. (ibid. 389) By demonstrating that the ideology that must answer for the murders inside Consilience finds public support outside the town, the text once again stresses the fallacy of evaluating Consilience as eutopian enclave: both outside and inside worlds have become capitalist dystopias, in which the economic efficiency ar‐ gument reigns supreme. The discourse surrounding the proper strategy of dealing with those who have committed crimes is saturated by deliberations about the economic contribution of individuals, introducing questions of ‘debt’ and ‘reparations,’ originally economic terms that suddenly mushroom within the context of human rights’ discussions. Having been denied their human rights, the convicts are evaluated as resources ready to be used at will: under the gaze of a consenting public, they have their “organs harvested and may subsequently [be] converted into chicken feed.” Ironically, the text implies that these individuals might have had to resort to crimes, as they were not able to get a job paying for their expenses. Thus, they are doubly wronged by a neo‐ 134 IV. The Totalitarian Face of Neoliberalism: Margaret Atwood’s The Heart Goes Last (2015) 116 See Katharina Motyl’s essay “Der War on Drugs, die Hyperinhaftierung sozial schwacher Afroamerikaner und Perspektiven der Strafrechtsreform” (2016), in which she highlights the connection between the United States penal system and discrimina‐ tion against poverty (especially amongst ethnic minorities). liberal capitalist system which strips them of their job, thus of their humanity, and finally commodifies them as resources. 116 Being in employment and contri‐ buting to society economically is then stylised as the origin and end point of any deliberation about the value of a human being. Having illuminated the aspect of unemployment and economic despair during the first two parts, the novel goes on to introduce the reader to the hyper-capitalist culture of Las Vegas, where monetary wealth can literally buy anything: “there’ll be less scrutiny there, because anything goes” ( HGL 173). As Charmaine laments, “[h]ow bad are things when you can get nostalgic about living in your car” (ibid. 343)? Processes of supply and demand turn, for instance, baby blood and young girls into readily available goods for (sexual) consumption (cf. ibid. 332, 410). Here, Atwood’s critique on the “consumer-driven influence of the United States” (Wynne-Davies 2), which already broke through in Sur‐ facing (1972), culminates in The Heart Goes Last. The text depicts a world in which anything is up for sale. In doing so, The Heart Goes Last introduces a parallel to Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go, where comparable mechanisms are in place exploiting of the cloned adolescent body (cf. Bone 630). Las Vegas with its aura of prostitution, excess, and its neoliberal laissez faire attitude constitutes a perverted extension of what the readers have already experienced within the walls of Consilience - only more radically neoliberal. Allowing its readers to witness the suffering caused in the name of the free market and the dehuman‐ isation processes initiated by neoliberal capitalism, which will eventually render human rights meaningless, The Heart Goes Last argues that more neoliberalism can never be the answer to the problems produced by neoliberalism. 2. “The Right Choice(! ? )” - Involuntary Decisions Within Neoliberal Networks In his daring and somewhat controversial study Hyperobjects: Philosophy and Ecology at the End of the World (2013), Timothy Morton rejects the widespread notion of anthropocentrism and human exceptionalism, arguing for an equili‐ brium between humans, non-humans, and what has traditionally been referred to as objects. Encouraging his readers to adopt the insights offered by ob‐ ject-oriented ontology, Morton introduces the concept of the ‘hyperobject,’ 135 2. Involuntary Decisions Within Neoliberal Networks which he uses to refer to objects “so big that they can’t be seen, understood, or described in the ordinary spatiotemporal sense” (Bricker 359). Citing Percy Bysshe Shelley’s “Hymn to Intellectual Beauty” (1816), Morton approaches hy‐ perobjects as “[t]he awful shadow of some unseen power” (25) that is terrifying due to its immense size and influence. His examples - among others - include black holes or global heating. According to Morton, hyperobjects have always been there but up until recently, they could be easily ignored by most of hu‐ manity. Yet, the hyperobjects of the Anthropocene like oil or the climate crisis (cf. Daggett) warrant attention for they threaten the very existence of humanity and thus impose themselves on the social and political agenda. As the examples show, hyperobjects are nothing abstract or vague, but concrete phenomena which “are right here in my social and experiential space. Like faces pressed against a window” (Morton 27). Yet humans struggle to approach them cogni‐ tively and assess them as a potent influence on their daily lives due to their immense seize and vagueness: Precisely because they are here but cannot be consistently experienced, these unique objects have severely complicated our lifeworld. For example, global warming can be remedially understood as a sum of many small objects (particulate matter, sunlight, thermometer readings, hurricanes, raindrops, etc.), but it is also an object itself—one so massive that we can’t point to it or wrap our (scientific) heads around it. Similarly, plutonium-239 can be thought of as a simple object (an isotope or fuel for a nuclear reactor), but with deadly radiation and a half-life of 24,100 years, its real scale is not comprehensible. Oil fields, capitalism, cities, and endocrine disruptors share a similar set of properties. (Bricker 359) Morton asserts that “we tend to think of [hyperobjects] as abstract ideas because we can’t get our heads around them, but that are nevertheless as real as ham‐ mers” (Blasdel). Employing figures of thought reminiscent of Marx and the his‐ torical materialism school of thought, Morton then describes these kinds of phenomena that transcend the immediate realm of experience of humans, yet which nevertheless enormously influence everyday life since we cannot escape them. Since understanding hyperobjects is extremely difficult due to their size, which usually transcends the cognitive, philosophical, physical, and imaginary capaci‐ ties of humans, literature might prove to be extremely helpful in this context due to its unique ability to chart and map such phenomena. In literature, readers find the estranged conditions of their own existence refractured and broken down into digestible units: capitalism, for instance - normally a diffuse power perme‐ 136 IV. The Totalitarian Face of Neoliberalism: Margaret Atwood’s The Heart Goes Last (2015) 117 See Fredric Jameson’s “A New Reading of Capital” (2010), in which he supports capital‐ ism’s categorisation as a hyperobject, calling it a “totality” (5) that requires new modes of thinking. 118 Atwood had already started to investigate this topic in her dystopia Oryx and Crake (2003). Telling the story of how she was solved into slavery and sexual abuse by her own mother because of the precarious economic situation the family was living in, Oryx, the female co-protagonist, recalls: “[t]hey felt as if this act, done freely by themselves (no one had forced them, no one had threatened them), had not been performed willingly. They felt cheated as well, as if the price had been too low. Why hadn’t they demanded more? And yet, the mothers told themselves, they’d had no choice” (140). In this sec‐ tion, the characters muse about the difference between voluntariness and freedom, as‐ serting that the latter without the former cannot be considered fully realised. Although “no one had forced them” directly (i.e. no centre of responsibility is identifiable), they still feel as though they had had no alternatives. ating everyday life, a hyperobject (cf. Morton 100) 117 - becomes accessible as a social phenomenon trimmed down for critical analysis. The Heart Goes Last is one such novel which tackles neoliberal capitalism’s status as a hyperobject and at‐ tempts to open it up for scrutiny by demonstrating how neoliberalism forec‐ loses the option to choose voluntarily within neoliberal societies. 118 The advocates of neoliberalism pride themselves and their favoured socio-economic system on its alleged alliance to freedom. In the free market - so the name already suggests - free individuals are free to trade their labour power, time, and resources according to conditions they are willing to accept. External forces, compulsion, coercion, or threats seem no part of the equation since neoliberalism is dominated by the “assumption that individual freedoms are guaranteed by freedom of the market” (Harvey, Neoliberalism 7). To break it down: neoliberalism, the self-proclaimed “guardian of liberty” (Metcalf) or seemingly “perfection of freedom” (Wood, Origin 16), equals personal freedom. Yet, while it is certainly true that free market societies distinguish themselves from, for instance, autocratic or even totalitarian societies by an absent centre of (political) power and may therefore be called ‘free’ societies, they - however - lack the crucial feature of voluntariness: while freedom, on the one hand, is traditionally defined by the absence of coercion (cf. negative liberty) according to David Grewal’s Network Power, voluntariness, on the other hand, is defined by the existence of at least two equally desirable options and alternatives to choose from when confronted with a decision. If an individual cannot choose between two options, her choice “is in some sense coerced even while being formally free” (Grewal 112) and thus a product of network power, which has eradicated other options. Drawing on the deliberations by Olsaretti, Grewal thus identifies a crucial category for the assertion of ‘freedom,’ i.e. voluntariness, the 137 2. Involuntary Decisions Within Neoliberal Networks ability to choose between two equally desirable options, which he values higher than the absence of coercion and force. Atwood’s dystopia of absent rebels makes sense when read as an investigation into the difference between voluntariness and freedom: in the novel, meaningful choices are constantly withheld from the characters, who are almost always pre‐ sented with a free, yet involuntary choice. Since they are not coerced into ac‐ tion - as they would be in a totalitarian system - they seem formally free to act as they please, yet their choices fundamentally lack the quality of voluntariness. To put it bluntly, neither Charmaine nor Stan are presented with two equally desirable alternatives to choose from. The very choice that sets the plot in motion is a case in point: the couple is not coerced (in the juridico-political meaning of the word) into entering Consilience. Instead, their decision is explicitly contextual‐ ised as a free choice, which should be made after careful deliberation: “after that night you were either out or you were in. In was permanent. But no one would force you. If you signed up, it would be of your own free will” ( HGL 44, my em‐ phases). Yet, while the context reveals this decision to be formally free, the choice described in the TV add lacks the dimension of voluntariness. Of course, the prospect to get a house, a job, and decent living conditions is a dream come true for the homeless couple, who are desperate to regain their social status, so the town and its white fluffy towels decoy Stan and Charmaine into accepting the offer. The officials sending them back into the outside world under the pretence of giving them “time to think it over, seriously” (ibid.) know that the couple has made the decision already since the outside world, in which “[p]eople are starving[,] scavenging, pilfering, dumpster-diving” (ibid.), cannot represent a tempting alternative: Consilience, according to Stan, “beats the hell out of what they had before” (ibid. 162). Unsurprisingly, the two sign on after a hideous night in a hotel, which “has [even] been tailored for the purpose” (ibid. 45) of making the “world inside the Consilience wall seem more desirable than ever” (ibid.) - something the officials are well aware of for they joke about the unattractiveness of the outside world: “‘You’re free to leave at any time,’ he tells them, ‘if you don’t like the ambience.’ He grins, to show this is a joke” (ibid. 42). Ed’s congrat‐ ulating Charmaine and Stan for having “made the right choice” (ibid. 50) in moving to Consilience is thus a fallacy in terms: there never was a genuine choice, but only a somewhat coerced decision for they only had one acceptable option. Time and time again, characters encounter the concept of ‘free will.’ It features in the add inviting new people to apply for the town, Stan ponders about it in his inner monologues, and Charmaine wishes to get rid of it altogether so that her life will be easier. Of course, the characters open up a large discourse that 138 IV. The Totalitarian Face of Neoliberalism: Margaret Atwood’s The Heart Goes Last (2015) 119 Thereby, ‘free will’ does not coincide with Olsaretti’s definition of ‘voluntariness,’ which adds another dimension to this process: in order to speak of ‘voluntariness,’ the chooser needs to be presented with two equally desirable options. 120 See, for instance, Nicolas Rescher’s Free Will: A Philosophical Reappraisal (2015), Free Will (2003) edited by Gary Watson, The Oxford Handbook of Free Will (2011) edited by Robert Kane, The Question of Free Will (1993) by M. White, or Free Will: Sourcehood and its Alternatives (2008) by Kevin Timpe. has engaged scholars and philosophers such as Plato, Thomas Hobbes, Karl Marx, Albert Einstein, Jean-Paul Sartre, and many more. Birgit Recki, for in‐ stance, links ‘free will’ to the concept of ‘free action,’ and therefore defines the former as that type of freedom that manifests itself as a translation in actions and deeds (cf. 13). Peter Bieri argues along the same lines, when he speaks of the transformation from an idea to a concrete wish, which ultimately translates into a wilful action to execute that wish (cf. 36 f.). Ultimately, ‘free will’ seems to be associated with the ability to choose between two or more options and to be at liberty (i.e. not restrained by external forces) to put that choice into action. In accordance with Meghan Griffith (2013), ‘free will’ is therefore understood as “the power to make choices” (2). 119 While some scholars testify to the existence of ‘free will,’ others deny it exists. Representatives of the school of thought of ‘determinism’ argue that, for in‐ stance, the laws of physics precondition the outcomes of actions (cf. M. Griffith 17). Others defend the concept of ‘compatibilism,’ arguing that deterministic propositions cannot rule out ‘free will’ altogether, for ‘free will’ can only exist under determinism. Sam Harris, for instance, phrases his conviction rather drastically: “[f]ree will is an illusion” (5, emphasis in the original). While the scope of this analysis forbids to extensively comment on the rich debate, 120 the conclusion as proposed by Meghan Griffith seems ultimately plausible since it describes the everyday reality of people who think they execute their free will: Even if everything is predetermined and even if this rules out free will […], I must choose on my own. The idea is that from my perspective, there is a choice to be made. Regardless of whether determinism is true, or whether indeterminism is true and whether either of these rules out freedom, from my own standpoint, I must choose. When I am, say, filling, out a questionnaire or taking an exam, I must decide how to fill in the blanks. It could be that determinism is true and how I fill in the blanks has been pre-ordained by a chain of causes. Or it could be that indeterminism is true and there is a measure of randomness in how I ‘choose’ to fill them in. But nonetheless, from my point of view, I must choose. I cannot just let the world go on without me. Being passive is, in itself, a choice. (121 f.) 139 2. Involuntary Decisions Within Neoliberal Networks ‘Free will’ then, is conceptualised as an axiomatic assumption people act upon in their daily lives, irrespective of the (maybe legitimate) doubts concerning ‘free will’ as brought forth by various schools of thought. People assume to have free will and act according to that conviction. Coming back to The Heart Goes Last, the illusion of choice is sustained throughout the novel since time and time again the representatives of Consi‐ lience stress the ‘free’ nature of signing up multiple times, and thus replicate the neoliberal insistence on free individuals with which readers are familiar from the extraliterary world. The expository add introducing the Project to the char‐ acters, in fact, thrives on the implications of free choice. Ending with “Sign up now! ” ( HGL 36), the add formulates an invitation directed at ‘free’ individuals to change their fate and seize the opportunity. Poignantly, the advertisement creates ambiguity as to the addressee of that call for action: readers and char‐ acters might be equally attracted to what they are presented with on screen, since Atwood “makes it clear that it is unreasonably easy to become consumed by the concept and comfort of Consilience” (Cannella 20). The dilemma repeats itself over the right way of life once Charmaine and Stan have entered Consi‐ lience: they have no other option but to accept the lifestyle imposed on them, which demands part-time incarceration. Megan E. Cannella thus succumbs to the same illusion as the characters, when stating that the characters’ time “must be split between voluntary incarceration and a traditionally domestic setting” (15, my emphasis). Their incarceration is precisely not ‘voluntary’ although they freely consent to it, but part of the deal and thus non-negotiable. Charmaine offers a nuanced view on their situation in a fleeting moment of anagnorisis in which she focuses on the difference between ‘free’ and ‘volun‐ tary’ choices. During a get-together with Lucinda Quant, an aging TV host fa‐ mous for her reality show / poverty porn series “The Home Front,” in which she drags crisis victims in front of a camera, Charmaine silently wishes to have been part of the show: “because then maybe people would’ve send in money, and she and Stan would never have felt the need to sign on” ( HGL 157, my emphasis). Using the words “felt the need to sign on,” Charmaine gets closest to describing adequately her and Stan’s initial situation and their ‘free choice’ (cf. e.g. ibid. 111, 117) of signing up as a decision forced upon them by external circumstances. While she cannot speak of a ‘forced decision,’ since she cannot reasonably define a centre of responsibility other than herself and her husband, she phrases it as an involuntary decision driven by the absence of an equally desirable alternative: Consilience trumps living on the streets. The dilemma characters are confronted with in Atwood’s novel is best ex‐ pressed by way of a concept called ‘Hobson’s choice’: Thomas Hobson, a Cam‐ 140 IV. The Totalitarian Face of Neoliberalism: Margaret Atwood’s The Heart Goes Last (2015) bridge stable master, is renowned to have let students ‘freely’ choose from the horses in the stable - as long as they chose the one next in line (cf. Grewal 108 f.). The term, then, denotes a choice with really no options at all. As Grewal reminds his readers, though, “free choice must be defined not merely by the fact of someone’s having chosen something, but by the existence of viable alterna‐ tives available to her at the time when she made her choice” (109). The multiple acts of choosing in The Heart Goes Last must therefore not be confused with voluntariness - a mistake characters make regularly. Therefore, the task of identifying the inherent paradox is predominantly left to the readers. They are asked to identify the power structures at work - for Charmaine’s and Stan’s choices are never voluntary choices. To do so, they must abandon both Stan and Charmaine as reference points and figures of identification to a certain degree. Ultimately, the text requests the reader to dissociate herself from the novel’s focalizers. Paralleling Charmain’s realisation process, Stan, too, ponders about the na‐ ture of choice, freedom, and voluntariness. Reflecting on his current situation as prisoner in his own house after Jocelyn had discovered her husband’s affair, he is convinced that “[h]e shouldn’t have let himself caged in here, walled off from freedom. But what does freedom mean any more? And who had caged him and walled him off ? He’d done it himself. So many small choices” ( HGL 205). Referring to “so many small choices,” that have added up to his situation, Stan alludes to the powerful mechanism of path dependence, meaning that choices are always preconditioned by choices made earlier. These choices taken together form what, with hindsight, might be considered a path individuals follow: de‐ cision A preconditions decision B , which in turn causes C . Path dependence thus constitutes one special form of network power. Alternatives are eradicated so that the only option left is to ‘comply’ with the standard. Stan, for instance, traces his current problem (“walled off from freedom”) back to the decisions made in the past (“so many small choices”): “[h]e concentrates on the chain of causes and effects and lies and impostures - some of them his - that has stranded him in this tedious or possibly terrifying cul-de-sac” (ibid. 193). He thus also assesses his current situation as an involuntary one brought about by the non-existence of desirable alternatives. Yet, by stating that “he’d done it himself,” Stan ignores the systemic dimension of his decision-making process, i.e. the neoliberal standard which has eroded all other possible options of action. His realisation process is not as advanced and nuanced as Charmain’s assertion of the situation since he fails to emphasise the difference between freedom and voluntariness. Taking all responsibility on himself, Stan comments on the centreless nature of neoliberal capitalism as de‐ 141 2. Involuntary Decisions Within Neoliberal Networks scribed by Mark Fisher and others: “the centre is missing, but we cannot stop searching for it or positing it” (Fisher 65). Thrown back onto himself as the only identifiable centre of responsibility, he struggles to ascribe responsibility to any higher authority than himself. There appears to be no-one to blame for one’s personal misery and, indeed, The Heart Goes Last comments extensively on the centreless nature of the free-market dystopia: Then everything went to ratshit. Overnight, it felt like. Not just his own personal life: the whole card castle, the whole system fell to pieces, trillions of dollars wiped off the balance sheets like fog off a window. There were hordes of two-bit experts on TV pretending to explain why it had happened - demographics, loss of confidence, gi‐ gantic Ponzi schemes - but that was all guesswork bullshit. Someone had lied, someone had cheated, someone had shorted the market, someone had inflated the currency. Not enough jobs, too many people. Or not enough jobs for middle-of-the-road people like Stan and Charmaine. (HGL 9) The characters search for an explanation by adopting a popular, well-established narrative as to who caused the crisis; experts on TV introduce the story “that it was the fault of some greedy, ruthless capitalists along with some dopey political leaders who were either asleep at the wheel or in the pocket of said greedy capitalist” (Best 498), eventually settling for a narrative functioning according to the logic of methodological individualism. Unable to identify one centre of responsibility, Stan equally resorts to an auxiliary narrative: “someone” having “cheated,” “shorted the market,” and “inflated the currency.” However, these ex‐ planatory attempts all constitute make-shift placeholders, creating the illusion of cause and effect. In fact, both his and the experts’ explanation for the break‐ down are “guesswork bullshit” since they are at a loss to untangle the complexity of accumulated individual choices. Simple cause and effect patterns do not apply anymore and are thus insufficient for analysis. In this respect, The Heart Goes Last also maps the financial crisis of 2007, a hyperobject. As Rhodes and Bloom point out with respect to the financial crisis, “[f]or a short time after the crash, those on the top of the corporate ladder seemed as powerless as those on the bottom. The failure demonstrated that neither chief executive officers ( CEO s) nor their financial advisors had much of an idea how the market worked or how to control it” (“Fall Guys”). In The Heart Goes Last, too, nobody seems to be in charge: Oblivion is increasingly attractive to the young, and even to the middle-aged, since why retain your brain when no amount of thinking can even begin to solve the problem? It isn’t even a problem, it’s beyond a problem. It’s more like a looming 142 IV. The Totalitarian Face of Neoliberalism: Margaret Atwood’s The Heart Goes Last (2015) collapse. Is their once-beautiful region, their once-beautiful country, doomed to be a wasteland of poverty and debris? (HGL 52) With “no amount of thinking [able to] even begin to solve the problem,” The Heart Goes Last pictures capitalism as a hyperobject, that the characters cannot even being to resolve. Atwood’s novel, however, is preoccupied helping its readers to understand what happened during the breakdown at the expense of its characters. Only the readers come to realise that this situation calls for a “more structural and more historical account” (Best 498) rather than shifting the blame from one individual actor to another. They are given the opportunity to retrospectively assess the mechanisms of capitalism in general, and of the 2007 crisis in particular, and approach them through the lens offered by The Heart Goes Last, namely the analytical frame of network power, freedom and volun‐ tariness. Increasingly, the characters dread the decision-making process itself. Stan and Charmaine wish to abstain from the responsibility of deciding for them‐ selves, hoping that others will tell them what to do and thus disqualify as pro‐ totypical dystopian rebels. The novel depicts both as in need of guidance - and thus the antithesis for the revolutionary of typical dystopian fiction. For in‐ stance, when Stan asks, “[s]o what can he do? Where can they turn? There’s no safe place, there are no instructions” ( HGL 5)., he renounces the responsibility for his own actions, instead searching for “instructions.” He is not a rebel but prefers to “chicken out” - a comparison comically evoked by the novel by con‐ necting the character to the actual animal, since Stan oversees the hen house in Consilience. Explicitly referencing chickens, Stan admits to be “too chickenshit to admit he’s chickenshit” (ibid. 179). To emphasises this association, the novel depicts Stan wearing shirts with bird prints such as penguins (cf. ibid. 103), marking him as a ‘herd animal’ with no aspiration to change the course of his‐ tory. Charmaine demonstrates a similar inclination, for instance, when she con‐ sents to having her brain surgically modified so she can love her husband again - a drastic example for how much the characters dread the decision-making process: “[a]s for the operation that imprinted you on a love object - if not of your own choice, then of somebody’s choice - what was the harm in that since both parties ended up satisfied” (ibid. 389)? This very graphic example shows how much Charmaine and the other characters are desperate to surrender re‐ sponsibility and decision-making processes, constantly searching for a powerful entity which absolves them from the need to structure their own lives. The following dialogue between Jocelyn and Charmaine stresses this observation once more: 143 2. Involuntary Decisions Within Neoliberal Networks 121 Atwood explored that technique in her other works as well, for instance, The Blind Assassin (2000) and Oryx and Crake (cf. Wilson 178). ‘Isn’t it better to do something because you’ve decided to? Rather than because you have to? ’ ‘No, it isn’t,’ says Charmaine. ‘Love isn’t like that. With love, you can’t stop your‐ self.’ She wants the helplessness, she wants … ‘You prefer compulsion? Gun to the head, so to speak? ’ says Jocelyn, smiling. ‘You want your decisions taken away from you so you won’t be responsible for your own actions? That can be seductive, as you know.’ ‘No, not exactly, but …’ It will take Charmaine a while to think this through. (ibid. 416) While Jocelyn challenges Charmaine to think about the difference between co‐ ercion (“gun to the head, so to speak”) and voluntariness (“to do something because you’ve decided to”), Charmaine rejects her proposition altogether. Un‐ sure of her own preferences and priorities, she needs “a while to think this through.” The section reveals Charmaine to be a deficient intellectual sparring partner for Jocelyn, who summarises the central themes of the novel: voluntary versus forced decisions, alternatives and options, and the individual and social responsibility that come with them. Diagnosing Charmaine’s hesitation as a wish to delegate responsibility (“you want your decisions taken away from you so you won’t be responsible for your own actions”), Jocelyn offers the reader a manual on how to read the characters’ situation, pointing towards the crucial dilemma of the novel: absent rebels and their diminished agency within neo‐ liberal societies that eradicate the option to choose between two equally desir‐ able alternatives. The characters’ difficulty in assessing the difference between voluntariness and freedom stems partly from ontological obstacles: Stan, Charmaine and the other characters struggle to find access to ‘reality’ and therefore struggle to draw the correct conclusions. In The Heart Goes Last, the characters’ sight and view are constantly blocked and refractured, with the TV functioning most often as the filter which distorts ‘reality.’ 121 Tellingly, the protagonists decide to ‘opt for’ Consilience after having seen an especially tailored marketing campaign on TV which, of course, describes the Project in the most radiant words. As Anger‐ müller and Bunzmann remind their readers, the increasing medialisation of ev‐ eryday life though complicates the ability to distinguish between reality and fiction (cf. 1). To say it in the words of Gunn Enli, “the media construct reality” 144 IV. The Totalitarian Face of Neoliberalism: Margaret Atwood’s The Heart Goes Last (2015) 122 See Enli’s concept of ‘mediated authenticity’ (cf. 1), with which she discusses the ma‐ nipulation of ‘reality,’ the contract between producers and viewers and the degree ac‐ cording to which the former may tamper with ‘reality’ (cf. 131 f.). (131, emphasis in the original). 122 Although the pictures are genuine, meaning they are actually shot within the town (“from time to time a film crew may arrive to shoot some footage of the ideal life they will all be leading”; HGL 58), they do not portray Consilience as money-making machine for investors clouded by a patriarchal 1950s nostalgia, but as eutopian city on a hill. It is stylised as the ultimate place to live in, tempting viewers to reach out for the telephone and apply. The TV add glorifies this lifestyle of during a time, when the majority of American citizens cannot afford such a lifestyle anymore. The TV thus features an agreeable middle-class ideal unattainable for most people - a parallel to what Jon Kraszewski (Reality TV , 2017) says about contemporary reality TV shows and its paradoxes: Americans seem to experience two different worlds of city life. The first world, the one on reality television, is an enjoyable world […]. It’s a world in which people seemingly do well and can achieve the American dream of economic class mobility, a world in which rich people are fun and seem, in some ways, to mirror the identities of the rest of us. And then there are the real cities, cities that sociologist Saskia Sassen argues operate in a brutal economy of social expulsion. (2) While Consilience does not feature in a TV show, but only just an add, the observations made by Kraszewski are applicable to the media usage in the novel: on screen, the “American dream of economic class mobility” is depicted to be within reach for the watchers, while the “real cities” according to Kraszewski’s paraphrasing of Sassen’s work, “operate in a brutal economy of social expulsion.” Ultimately, the novel thus adds a scathing critique of TV habits to its portrayal of contemporary American consumer culture, highlighting the dangers of losing first-hand experiences. In Atwood’s world, then, it is impossible to make or receive a genuine, ‘real’ impression of ‘reality’ - not just for the characters but also for the readers, for whom the text reproduces the ontological difficulties the characters experience. For instance, they rarely ‘see’ Ed, CEO and President of Consilience, speak di‐ rectly. Stan and Charmaine, the only focalizers available, transmit his thoughts, words, and actions via reported speech, thus denying the readers a more ‘first-hand’ approach: “[t]he guy begins by saying they should call him Ed. Ed hopes they’re feeling comfortable, because they know - as he does! - that they’ve made the right choice. Now he would like to give them - share with them - a deeper peek behind the scenes” ( HGL 50). Although replicating Ed’s 145 2. Involuntary Decisions Within Neoliberal Networks style, syntax, interjections and even his choice of words (“give them - share with them”), Stan’s report nevertheless represents a mediated version of events; the audience cannot rely on what is being said since it is filtered by the protag‐ onists’ focalisation. Uncertainties as to what is true or not are thereby repro‐ duced on the extradiegetic level, mirroring the characters’ in assessing what is true or false. By allowing the readers to re-experience the characters’ problems on both content and discourse level, The Heart Goes Last reduces the distance between intraand extraliterary reality, constantly inviting the readers to compare their extraliterary reality to what they are presented with in the novel. The novel further encourages this behaviour by creating confusion as to the addressee of certain utterances: the very last words of the novel illustrates this point as they might be directed at either the characters or the readers thus blurring the boun‐ daries between fiction and reality once more: “[t]he world is all before you, where to choose” ( HGL 416). Ending with an emphasis on the word ‘choose,’ the leitmotif of the text, the novel invites its readers, on the one hand, to demand to have two equally desirable options, and, on the other hand, to not shun the responsibility of life choices like Stan and Charmaine have done for the most part of the text. The Heart Goes Last encourages its readers to search for genuine alternatives, starting the search from what is perceived as dysfunctional. If they will not do it, so the book suggests, no one will, since Charmaine and Stan are definitely not revolution material - they are simply “drawn into an organised resistance to their benefactors” (Cummins). As Claire Fallon writes, “there’s no Offred in this novel, not even a Snowman. If you’re looking for a hero, look elsewhere.” Despite their status as main characters, Stan and Charmaine are as far away from the typical dystopian protagonist as possible. 3. The Banality of Dystopia - Totalitarianism as Product of the Free Market The argument most often brought forth in favour of neoliberal capitalism is its apparent allegiance to democratic ideals. Famously, Francis Fukuyama con‐ nected the two phenomena on a conceptual level in his The End of History (1992). Friedrich August von Hayek, the intellectual father of neoliberalism, was even convinced that “the market provides all necessary protection against the one real political danger: totalitarianism” (Metcalf). Yet, this axiomatic conviction comes under increasing scrutiny as nations like China, Russia, North Korea, and others demonstrate the functionality of neoliberalism within autocratic systems. 146 IV. The Totalitarian Face of Neoliberalism: Margaret Atwood’s The Heart Goes Last (2015) 123 See Sarah Anderson’s and John Cavanagh’s study Top 200: The Rise of Corporate Global Power (1996) referenced in the introduction. As the British political and social scientist Colin Crouch asserts in his ZEIT article “Market Economy: The Superrich Endanger Democracy” (2019), [t]here are two main reasons why many observers are beginning to question the as‐ sumption - previously taken for granted - that capitalism and democracy are firm allies. First, modern capitalism is global, while democracy is mainly rooted at national and more local levels. Second, modern capitalism is driven by finance, which leads to increasing inequality. Yet, high levels of inequality threaten the operation of democ‐ racy. With his observation that capitalism increasingly leads to inequality, Crouch joins a discourse seeking to re-evaluate the capitalism-democracy axiom. Others, like the journalist Ben Tarnoff and the anthropologist Jason Hickel, argue along similar lines: On a theoretical level, neoliberalism promises to bring about a purer form of democ‐ racy, unsullied by the tyranny of the state. Indeed, this claim serves as the moral lodestar for neoliberal ideology - the banner under which it justifies radical market deregulation. But, in practice, it becomes clear that the opposite is true: that neolib‐ eralism tends to undermine democracy and political freedom […]. (Hickel 142, em‐ phasis in the original) Neoliberalism and its tendencies to disturb democratic processes by giving the wealthy more opportunities to influence - for instance - general elections by lobbyism, donations, campaigns, etc., result in an erosion of democracy itself. Hickel calls this process “creeping tyranny” (ibid. 144), which has changed the political landscape drastically: “[a] 2014 study by scholars at Princeton and Northwestern universities confirmed this with evidence from 1981 to 2002, leading the authors to conclude that the USA resembles an oligarchy more than a democracy” (ibid. 145). 123 While these studies and observations do not neces‐ sarily culminate in the conclusion that democracy will be abolished altogether, they are nevertheless alarming and thought-provoking, for they hint at a seis‐ mographic shift in national power relations. Darko Suvin for instance argues that citizens will find themselves one day in totalitarian structures beyond dem‐ ocratic control (cf. “Bust”). He bluntly claims that, gradually, “capitalism [is] sliding into totalitarianism.” While Oryx and Crake can be evaluated as a novel that “parts company with antifascism” (Vials 37), The Heart Goes Last is highly interested in the origin, 147 3. Totalitarianism as Product of the Free Market genesis, and future of totalitarianism: readers versed in the history of the 20 th century will easily detect the parallels Atwood establishes between her fictional town of Consilience and arguably the most gruesome and inhuman totalitarian system in human history, the Third Reich. One of the most obvious similarities is the dehumanising logic that ideologically legitimises the industrial killing of ‘degenerate’ life forms - the perverted ideology behind Nazi concentration camps like Auschwitz or Buchenwald. While the Third Reich considered ethnic and religious groups such as Sinti and Roma, Jews, and Slavs, but also homo‐ sexuals and political adversaries ‘unfit’ to live, Consilience turns employability and job performance into the decisive criterion (cf. chapter IV .1. “Jobs for All! ”). In this context, Josef Mengele, one of the leading figures and physician in charge of atrocious human experiments in Auschwitz serves as a template for Char‐ maine’s role as Chief Medications Administrator in the euthanasia project of Consilience. Her self-ascribed role as “angel of mercy” emphasises the similar‐ ities between herself and the Nazi physician who went down in history as the “Angel of Death.” Moreover, evoking his sinister legacy, The Heart Goes Last depicts Charmaine performing deadly medical operations on prisoners - and even her own husband -, giving them a lethal injection with the intention to euthanise them: she and her superiors precede over life and death like Mengele has down in his role in Auschwitz. Just like Mengele, Charmaine lacks feelings of guilt in her daily work. On the contrary, her image of self is strongly informed by a Christian ideal of caring. Believing that “you should keep the human touch,” Charmaine makes sure to ‘be nice’ to her victims, including “head strokings, the forehead kisses, those marks of kindliness and personal attention just before she slides in the hypo‐ dermic needle” ( HGL 119). In this context, the novel’s bizarre descriptions of systemic murder are mixed with an almost farcical quality, for example, when Charmaine informs the reader that the procedures are scheduled for early af‐ ternoon in order to avoid the darkness of the night: “[t]hat way it’s more cheerful for everyone, herself included” (ibid. 92). By trying to rectify the systemic murder of those deemed unfit to live (prisoners mostly who had been living inside the facility before it was turned into the Project) by scheduling the as‐ sassination for late afternoon, Charmaine offers the readers glimpses into a gruesome ideology whose followers display absurded thoughts in their cold-blooded recklessness. Also, Charmaine is reminiscent of another high-profile Nazi, namely Adolf Eichmann, a commander captured by the Mossad after the fall of the Third Reich, whose story has been preserved by Hannah Arendt in her analysis Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil (1963). Eichmann defies all stereotypes 148 IV. The Totalitarian Face of Neoliberalism: Margaret Atwood’s The Heart Goes Last (2015) 124 The psychologist Stanley Milgram went down in history as the father of the now infa‐ mous and highly controversial Milgram experiment, conducted 1961 in New York. Its main purpose was to investigate the nature of authority, conformity, and social pressure: Milgram “designed an unprecedented experiment […] whereby study subjects, who believed that they were participating in a learning experiment about punishment and memory, were instructed by an authority figure (the experimenter) to inflict seemingly painful shocks to a helpless victim (the learner)” (“Stanley Milgram,” Britannica). Un‐ aware that both the experimenter and the learner were hired actors, the study objects were encouraged to inflict current impulses for every wrong answer given by the learner (cf. ibid.). Although the learner soon cried out (acting as if they were in physical pain) and pleading the study objects to stop, an astonishingly high number of partici‐ pants (to Milgram and his colleagues) could be ushered into delivering pain to the learners. Interestingly, “[s]ubjects persisted in their obedience despite verbally ex‐ pressing their disapproval of continuing with the shocks” (ibid.); Milgram drew various conclusions from these findings, suspecting that “subjects struggled to disengage from the experiment because of its incremental (“slippery slope”) progression—small de‐ mands, seemingly benign, became increasingly adverse” (ibid.) and that the subjects “may have viewed themselves as being free of responsibility, simply carrying out the experimenter’s commands” (ibid.); Milgram thus described similar mechanisms as Arendt, namely, how easily ordinary people can become accomplices. 125 Referring to the danger of people like Charmaine, whose friendly appearance conceals their true nature, the author Neil Gaiman maintained in an interview with Kazuo Ish‐ iguro: “I wish that all monsters could be serial killers, could be crazed, could be dan‐ gerous, but the problem is that they’re not. Some of them are horrifyingly, people who in their own head have somehow got to the point where they think they’re doing a good job, doing the right thing” (“Genre”). on the appearance of evil. Paraphrasing Arendt, Amos Elon writes in his intro‐ duction to Eichmann in Jerusalem, “[i]n the Third Reich evil lost its distinctive characteristic by which most people had until then recognized it. The Nazis redefined it as a civil norm” (xiii). Shocking society with her findings like Stanley Milgram did in 1961 with his psychological experiments on the nature of obe‐ dience and authority, 124 Arendt portrayed Eichmann as a recontextualization of evil. To say it in the words of Milgram: “[o]rdinary people, simply doing their jobs, and without any particular hostility on their part, can become agents in a terrible destructive process” (quoted in Heath 30). Charmaine is similar to Eich‐ mann, since she, too “redefine[s evil] as a civil norm” by simply doing her job: she believes to be a valuable member of society and happily complies in the mass murder of prisoners who are deemed unfit to live. 125 In this context, Charmaine seems unable to perceive herself as the monster she is, exemplified by her failed attempt to reflect on her actions: “[s]he has a flash of herself, in a front-page photo, in her green smock, smiling eerily and holding a needle: DEATH ANGEL CLAIMS SHE SENT ME TO HEAVEN . That would be horrible” ( HGL 164, emphases in original). Despite adopting an external perspective (by extrapo‐ 149 3. Totalitarianism as Product of the Free Market lating her behaviour into a newspaper headline), Charmaine is unable to cate‐ gorise her deeds as ethically wrong. Like Eichmann, she displays an almost pathological incapability to recognise evil. Convinced that “[n]ot everyone would understand about [her job]; they wouldn’t understand the reasons for it, the good reasons” (ibid.), she chases away her doubts. Charmain concludes this train of thought by stating that “[y]ou could put a really unpleasant headline on such a story” (ibid.), and thereby cements the similarities between herself and Nazi criminals, who also - till the very end - lacked a sense of guilt. Moreover, Charmaine, like Eichmann, destabilises the categorisation of evil due to her appearance which does not correspond to stereotypical and conven‐ tional ideas on the phenomenology of evil. Stan often implicitly compares her to Doris Day, America’s blonde sweetheart and ‘girl next door’ and thus estab‐ lishes her image as little, naïve blonde: “[h]e liked the retro thing about Char‐ maine, the cookie-ad thing, her prissiness, the way she hardly ever swore” (ibid. 66). Yet, just as Doris Day’s public image as did not fit her character at all (cf. H. Freeman), so does Stan’s description of Charmaine fail to describe her appro‐ priately. Eventually, and after having seen her in her role as Chief Medications Administrator, Stan has to concede that he had “underestimated her shadow side, which was mistake number one, because everyone has a shadow side, even fluffpots like her” ( HGL 138). Surprisingly, the concept “fluffy” features as com‐ bining link between the different dystopian scenarios in the novel. For example, it links the atrocities committed by “[f]luffy, upbeat Charmaine” (ibid. 179, my emphasis), i.e. killing people to sell their organs, with the corporate-dystopia of Consilience, which is precisely defined by its fluffy sheets (cf. ibid. 34) that seal the deal and make Charmaine and Stan enter the project. Fluffiness - a concept which triggers associations to warmth, cosiness, security and community - is re-semanticised within the text: the novel increasingly connects the concept to dystopia, playing with the discrepancy between appearance and reality. Fit‐ tingly, while working at the towel folding group in Positron, Charmaine won‐ ders if “[m]aybe you can get a lung disease from the fluff ” (ibid. 155), thereby hinting at the potentially dangerous reality behind the white, cosy substance. Seen from a chronological perspective, the book places the totalitarian dys‐ topia (the episode in Consilience / Positron reminiscent of classical dystopian fiction à la Zamyatin or Orwell) at the heart of the story. Chapter VII , the exact middle, functions as a kind of climax for the novel, showing the reader Char‐ maine’s dark side when she agrees to murder her own husband. This part res‐ onates with clearly identifiable tropes and topoi of totalitarian systems, such as the concentration camps in Nazi Germany or the gulags of the former Soviet Union. Following the clear references to Nazi practices, readers are asked to 150 IV. The Totalitarian Face of Neoliberalism: Margaret Atwood’s The Heart Goes Last (2015) evaluate Positron critically, for it “seems to be bringing out the worst in […] utterly normal, nice people” (Fallon). Moreover, Consilience invites comparisons to classical dystopian fiction not least because of its structural closeness to the Panopticon-model as developed by Jeremey Bentham and described by Michel Foucault in Discipline and Punish (1979). The controlling gaze structures life both inside Foucault’s fictious prison as well as Consilience, reducing the number of crimes considerably: “[a]fter surveillance was tightened, the worst trouble‐ makers vanished. […] Behaviour improved dramatically” ( HGL 88). It is a world of total control, with the “whole town [being] under a bell jar” of surveillance (ibid. 70) that regulates communication between the inside and outside world. The Heart Goes Last consciously introduces motives and themes well established by novels such as Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four and other dystopias, such as the surveillance TV : Stan “really wants another beer. But he’ll wait until this show is over, because what if the TV can see him” (ibid. 111)? It is a “repressive regime, heavily surveilled, in which deviation from its hierarchies and regula‐ tions will result in personal disaster” (Clark). The people in dark uniforms, the suspiciously unsuspicious surveillance cars in the streets, the cameras moni‐ toring and tracking movements and actions - everything points to the conclu‐ sion that Atwood has constructed yet another totalitarian dystopia in her de‐ piction of Consilience / Positron. However, the novel thwarts a simple categorisation by complicating matters considerably since although The Heart Goes Last delves into an investigation of totalitarianism, readers must never forget to read these deliberations within the context of neoliberal capitalism. Indeed, The Heart Goes Last is unique in its depiction of dystopia, for it includes two different types of dystopian world orders. Charmaine’s task as Chief Medications Administrator is framed as pro‐ viding a “quality experience” ( HGL 119) for the prisoners. Expressions like “[i]f there’s been any complaint filed…” (ibid. 129) and “[s]he executes well, she gives good death” (ibid. 130) trigger associations connected to the service-industry, which would turn Charmaine into a profane service-provider first and a mur‐ derer second. This way, Charmaine combines the dehumanising logic of totali‐ tarian systems like the Third Reich with free-market capitalism, merging them into a cruel version of efficiency. Although the totalitarian dystopia seems to be at the heart of the novel, it is framed by a capitalist nightmare that generates the need for a project like Consilience in the first place. The novel argues that the free market does not prevent “a backslide into political chaos and fascism” (Metcalf) since it is already “pregnant with the thing it was said to protect against” (ibid.). The problems generated by neo-capitalist thinking and the maxim of cost-efficiency are depicted as fertile soil in which totalitarian thought 151 3. Totalitarianism as Product of the Free Market can strike roots: totalitarianism in The Heart Goes Last is a product of the market. While Atwood argued in her Maddaddam trilogy that “the market will create a tyranny without resort to the fascist form of government so central to earlier doomsday scenarios of the left” (Vials 42), The Heart Goes Last opts for a different conclusion, showcasing that a totalitarian regime can be the product of a neo‐ liberal market. In contrast to the totalitarian aspect of Consilience, the project itself, which will only go on as “a modified version” ( HGL 397), capitalism does / will not vanish even after the public outcry that demand the immediate closure of Con‐ silience. On the contrary, it permeates future projects in which investors sell “off the more legitimate divisions, such as Possibilibots,” manufactured sex ro‐ bots, which are a “very profitable commercial enterprise that keys into the free‐ wheeling consumerist ethic of global capitalism” (Howells, “Trash” 307) and turn the rest of the town into a tourist attraction where people could pay to role play as jailors and guards (cf. HGL 397). This paragraph obviously references the Stanford Prison Experiment (1971), a psychological study in which college stu‐ dents were randomly assigned to play the roles of prison inmates and guards respectively. (cf. “Stanford Prison Experiment,” Britannica) Originally “intended to measure the effect of role-playing, labelling, and social expectations on be‐ haviour over a period of two weeks” (ibid.), the experiment had to be terminated after six days as the “mistreatment of prisoners escalated” (ibid.). By hinting at the possible remake of the Stanford Prison Experiment by the new owners of Consilience, who want to make money by renting out the place as role-play setting, The Heart Goes Last already hints at the possibility of another failed capitalist experiment. Moreover, it criticises capitalism for its learning disability and disregard for ethical norms, showing that those responsible seize every op‐ portunity for profit despite the negative experiences of the past. In summary, The Heart Goes Last is packed with hints for the reader warning her to not read the novel as a traditional dystopian novel, despite its focus on the prototypical topic of totalitarianism. The text includes numerous warnings not to trust established genre expectations and conventions that might steer the reading process and deter the readers’ attention away from neoliberal capitalism towards totalitarianism. To do so, the novel depicts its characters as being caught in conventional patterns of thinking, stereotypes, and general assumptions about the world, which - however - are shown to be deeply faulted, ineffectual, and simply wrong. Stereotypical thinking will not help the characters to solve their problems as Charmaine and Stan have to learn soon after having moved to Consilience: “everything is so spruced up, it’s like a picture. Like a town in a movie, a movie of years ago” ( HGL 42, my emphases). Later, Stan describes him‐ 152 IV. The Totalitarian Face of Neoliberalism: Margaret Atwood’s The Heart Goes Last (2015) self “as one of those dorky video-game hero princes of his childhood, slashing his questing way through swamps full of tentacled man-eating plants” (ibid. 85, my emphasis). All these similes and comparisons follow the same pattern: the char‐ acters compare their actual lives with what they are already familiar with, that is, the narratives patterns of movies, games, or TV shows. But just like Jocelyn, the sinister head of surveillance, is not “a ballerina or a schoolteacher [from] old movies” (ibid. 103, my emphasis), so Stan and Charmaine must learn that their stored knowledge of genre patterns will backfire, since it makes the char‐ acters oblivious to the circumstances of their existence. The comparisons of reality to patterns of genre fiction prevent them from pro-actively engaging with and altering their circumstances. Charmaine, for example, is more than happy to remain passive whenever she compares her life to “the romantic movies they sometimes show on Consilience TV , where it comes out all right in the end” (ibid. 123, my emphasis). Ascribing to herself the role of the passive damsel in distress, she ensconces herself in an escapist attitude, hoping that it will somehow come “out all right in the end.” Moreover, the characters constantly draw the wrong conclusions by relying on what they know from movies. By fabricating an excuse that her husband might deserve death penalty (“[a] fatal threesome, like something she’d see on the TV news, back at Dust. […] He’s killed for her! He must have! ,” ibid. 207, my emphasis), Charmaine creates a murder narrative, which provides readymade answers for a complicated situation: her being forced to kill her husband, whose trial was fabricated to get him out of Consilience. By embellishing her made-up story with genre fiction common‐ places (following the narrative pattern of crime fiction), Charmaine constructs a pretence which absolves her of critical thinking. Rather than questioning the facts as presented to her, she arranges herself within genre fiction, making re‐ ality fit fiction rather than the other way around. By showing how the characters constantly fail in their assessment of reality when relying on stereotypical patterns of sense-making, the novel advises readers not to make the same mistakes as Charmaine and Stan; The Heart Goes Last cautions them to not think in genre patterns, warning them that these ex‐ pectations and mental frames may block their view of reality. Genre structures evoked by the various characters are nothing more than the “Grandma Win” wisdom that Charmaine constantly quotes from - nice to have, but entirely superfluous: “as Grandma Win was in the habit of saying, Cleanliness is next to godliness and godliness means goodliness” ( HGL 4, emphasis in the original). The novel thus encourages its readers not only to look for the familiar structures of dystopian fiction, like state oppression and the concomitant subplot of resistance (cf. Baccolini, “Womb” 293), but to broaden their own conception of dys‐ 153 3. Totalitarianism as Product of the Free Market topian fiction and the search for the reasons of changing that ‘recipe.’ The Heart Goes Last attacks a decidedly neoliberal economic world order by investigating the nature of power and by insisting on the notion of ‘voluntariness’ as a fun‐ damental criterion for freedom. Thereby the novel “becomes a platform for de‐ fining our concepts of a future in terms of power, community, and resources” (Cannella 26). By enabling a direct comparison between totalitarianism and capitalism and the criticism invited by each system respectively the novel - precisely, “a curious hybrid,” as reviewer Anthony Cummins called it - draws attention to the more pressing dystopian reality of the 21 st century which often recedes into the background. The Heart Goes Last insists that the real danger does not radiate from totalitarianism but from the absence of ‘voluntariness’ definitive of neoliberal societies, which force people into structures that will eradicate human rights and eventually claim human lives. Just like with her Maddaddam series Atwood’s textual strategy in The Heart Goes Last is complex: as Chris Vials argues with respect to Atwood’s writing, “rather than calling out neoliberalism for a hypocritical statism, or for creating a kind of unfreedom all too easily envisioned as dictatorship, she shows us the tyranny inherent in its very [e]utopian idea of freedom” (37, emphasis in the original), by insisting that freedom - according to the definition preferred by free market societies - without voluntariness cannot be considered freedom at all. 4. “I Need to Help Fix This” - The Impossibility of Thinking beyond Neoliberal Capitalism The totalitarian dystopia of The Heart Goes Last is far easier to decipher than its capitalist counterpart for - as already mentioned in connection with Dave Eg‐ gers’ The Circle - other than a capitalist dystopian system, totalitarianism has the ‘advantage’ that it is clearly identifiable. Readers and characters are equipped with the historical awareness and necessary vocabulary to recognise totalitarian and authoritarian structures. For instance, once Consilience / Positron is exposed as a human organ farm where employees systematically kill convicts to sell organs on the market, the intradiegetic media in the form of bloggers from across the United States immediately utter harsh criticism: “and in no time at all ‘Com‐ munist’ and ‘Fascist’ and ‘psychopathy’ and ‘soft on crime’ and a new one, ‘neuropimp,’ were whizzing through the air like buckshot” ( HGL 390). While the public opinions brought for pro and contra Consilience are controversial, with participants disagreeing over the nature of the project, the general discourse though has identified Consilience as an object of critique with participants 154 IV. The Totalitarian Face of Neoliberalism: Margaret Atwood’s The Heart Goes Last (2015) voicing their discontent and disagreement with the proceedings. This Project reminiscent of Nazi Germany doubtlessly invites a critical response from the public and its members who do not shy back from attributing blame: “the enemy is Ed - control-freak body-parts salesman, potential baby-blood vampire” (ibid. 310). Consilience’s CEO and president Ed personally invites criticism and causes public outrage: “[i]nstantly the social media sites are ablaze with outrage. Prison abuses! Organ harvesting! Sex slaves created by neurosurgery! Plans to suck the blood of babies! ” (ibid. 388) Reminding the media of the Machiavellian puppet masters of Nineteen Eighty-Four or We, he is singled out as the villain of the story. The neoliberal, free market society, identified earlier as the primal dystopian system which brings about the rise of totalitarianism in the first place, though, is exponentially more difficult to criticise for it evades the criteria of external criticism. For instance, there is no centre of responsibility - a trope Atwood explored in Oryx and Crake, which also lacks “an identifiable centre” (Vials 42). In The Heart Goes Last, as Darko Suvin notes in a different context, the “rulers are […] faceless” (“Reflections” 63); Stan fittingly summarises this peculiarity of systems with network-based power without a fascist leader: “but who will the enemy be once he gets to Las Vegas” ( HGL 310)? Using Las Vegas, the capitalist epicentre, as point of reference, Stan marvels about the appearance of evil within capitalism. His suggestions range from absurd to comical, indicating his com‐ plete helplessness in deciphering evil within neoliberal network societies: “[i]n the pitch-blackness a parade of potential enemies scrolls across his eyeballs. Corrupters of Charmaine, kidnappers of Veronica, platoons of slavering men much more lecherous than he is, with scaly skins and clawlike fingernails and slitty-pupilled lizard eyes” (ibid.). Drawing back on almost fairy tale depictions of villains, Stan composes a list of phenomenological criteria for individuals (“much more lecherous than he is with scaly skins and clawlike fingernails”), rather than systemic forces. Lacking the mental framework to conceptualise evil beyond the level of the individual, Stan thereby exemplarily represents to common struggle to process notions of power, blame, guilt, evil, victimisation, and suffering without individual agents to whom ascribe responsibility. Furthermore, external criticism falls short due to the absence of a moral high ground or alternative point of view outside the system, from which this form of criticism could be uttered. The characters are all to a certain extent, ‘complicit’ in upholding the status quo, as best exemplified by the workers in Consilience, who do not hesitate to produce any commodity the market asks for, no matter how perverted or morally deficient it may seem. 155 4. The Impossibility of Thinking beyond Neoliberal Capitalism ‘What’s that over there? ’ says Stan. He’s spotted a bin full of knitted blue teddy bears. ‘They’re for the kiddybots,’ says Kevin. ‘They get dressed in the white nighties or the flannel pjs. […]’ ‘That is fucking sick,’ says Stan. ‘I hear you,’ says Derek. ‘Yeah it’s sick. […] But a lot of customers do buy it, if you see what I mean,’ says Gary. ‘They buy it like hotcakes. This vertical is a big earner for Possibilibots. Hard to argue with the bottom line.’ ‘Jobs are at stake, Waldo,’ says Derek. ‘Mega-jobs. Folks out there have bills to pay.’ (HGL 275 f.) In The Heart Goes Last, money comes before morale, depicting a world that “subordinates the whole of civil society and democratic self-determination to the objectives of financial capital” (Suvin, “Reflections” 59). Evoking the eco‐ nomic efficiency argument (“jobs are at stake”), the workers are quick to legit‐ imise the selling of child robots for paedophiliac sexual practices with a refer‐ ence to the company’s revenue. While they recognise that their product may not uphold moral and ethical standards by casually admitting “yeah it’s sick,” they cannot wholly condemn the practice since “this vertical is a big earner.” It all comes down to the “bottom line”: creating jobs and earning money. The term “bottom line” creates an apt pun, combining both the connotations of “the fun‐ damental and most important or determining factor” and “the last line of an account, bill, etc.” (“bottom line,” OED ), the latter obviously mapping the former. The bottom line, however, is what generates income - not what is morally ac‐ ceptable. Although Stan seems to be uncomfortable in his role, stating that “that is fucking sick,” he too has subscribed to the same capitalist logic exhibited by his colleagues. Tellingly, the novel ends with Stan having found a job again, working as “Empathy Module adjustor for the newly opened Possibilibots Vegas production facility” ( HGL 409). Readers immediately recognise the name: after having escaped from Consilience, Stan has signed a contract with the very same company he accused of being “fucking sick” earlier. Working for the possibilibot production, the company half-heartedly attacked for selling “underage” sex ro‐ bots, Stan is right back where he started: working in robotics as “Empathy Module adjuster,” making them more appealing to human customers (cf. ibid. 7). The Heart Goes Last is thus cyclical in nature, showing a world that fails to abandon capitalism for good since there are not alternatives to resort to. Char‐ acters in The Heart Goes Last are firmly established as members of a capitalist world order, struggling to make themselves comfortable within the free market, irrespective of the damage to people and environment brought about by capi‐ talism. Stan and Charmaine are a case in point: approximately one year after 156 IV. The Totalitarian Face of Neoliberalism: Margaret Atwood’s The Heart Goes Last (2015) they were forced to move to Consilience, they have again acquired some prop‐ erty in Las Vegas. Now the couple considers themselves part of the middle class again: “[i]t’s the weekend, so he’s home, his own home, trimming the cactus hedge, his own cactus hedge. And with his own trimmers” (ibid. 409, my em‐ phases). The repetition of “his own” in combination with a syntax composed of parataxis indicates that Stan and Charmaine have returned to the mode of thinking and living they were used to before the crisis. The financial breakdown has not produced new modes of thinking or altered society, for the world on the closing pages of the novel bears striking similarities to the one at the beginning of the novel. Another case in point is the topic of rejuvenating baby blood. For instance, when living on the streets and in desperate need of money, Stan is turned down after having offered to sell his blood: “[y]ou wouldn’t believe it, […] but some people have asked us if we want to buy their babies’ blood, can you imagine” (ibid. 11)? Having read through 400 additional pages, readers en‐ counter a similar practice in Vegas: “there have been some unexplained baby disappearances in the news lately, and Charmaine is worried that the babies are being stolen for their valuable, age-cancelling blood” (ibid. 410). In addition to the rumours concerning the abduction of new-borns for their valuable blood, The Heart Goes Last resonates with gossip about a black market for “organs, bones, DNA ” outside and independent of Consilience: “[i]t was going on in other countries first, and they were making a killing; […] There’s a big market for transplant material among aging millionaires, no” (ibid. 173)? It is the conse‐ quence of a world subject to maximum efficiency and profit. Even characters such as Jocelyn, who seem more intelligent and critical than the protagonists, do not identify capitalism as deeply flawed system, which fails to deliver its own promises of freedom. Despite her attempt to overthrow Ed, Jocelyn is not interested in a big systemic revolution: “‘You really think I’d want him giving full testimony in front of Congress? ’ says Jocelyn. ‘Spilling all the beans? I myself am one of those beans, in case you haven’t [sic! ] forgotten.’ She does not, as Megan E. Cannella claims, “take[…] matters in her own hands and start[…] to systematically undermine the status quo” (19). Her discourse is guided by the idea of ‘repairing’ and ‘fixing,’ instead of ‘substituting’ or ‘change,’ and thus already an indicator that Jocelyn is no representative of a new world order beyond capitalism: “‘I helped build [Consilience / Positron],’ says Jocelyn. ‘I need to help fix it’” ( HGL 175, my emphasis). Like Stan and Charmaine, Jocelyn is interested in securing her own personal success, by revolting against Ed - but not the system itself. In the end, she has succeeded and replaced the former president and CEO . As Stan informs the reader, Jocelyn is away “doing some‐ thing top, top secret” (ibid. 414) in Washington. Again, the novel stresses the 157 4. The Impossibility of Thinking beyond Neoliberal Capitalism importance and dominance of the economic sector - nothing has changed com‐ pared to the beginning of the text. The best example to illustrate the wide-ranging influence of capitalism, which - like in M. T. Anderson’s Feed - has colonised the entire planet, is to be found in the character of Conor, Stan’s dubious mafia-boss, outlaw brother, who disappears for the length of the novel, only to save helpless Stan in a deus ex machina move in Las Vegas. From the start, Conor - or Con, a pun alluding to ‘convict’ - is presented as the antithesis to his law-abiding, philistine brother: “[i]n Stan’s view […] Conor was next door to a criminal. But in Con’s view Stan was a dupe of the system, an ass-kisser, a farce, and a coward. Balls of a tadpole” (ibid. 5; cf. Cummins). At first, Stan and his brother seem to be contrast char‐ acters with respect to their disposition and willingness to obey rules: Conor is at home outside the system, seemingly living an alternative lifestyle. This im‐ pression is supported by Conor’s prophesies of doom concerning Consilience: “[d]o yourself a favour, stay outside” ( HGL 47). By hinting at some superior knowledge, which separates him from the other characters, Conor positions himself as the man in charge, cast in the role of an anti-Stan and outside the system: “[i]f anyone knows how to play the angles out there, it will be Con” (ibid. 142). Con’s way of life increasingly becomes attractive to Stan. Encoun‐ tering his brother first with contempt, then respect and later eventual admira‐ tion, Stan admires Conor for his independence and freedom “because a life of outlawry is a lot more appealing than anything else that’s going on right now” (ibid. 297 f.). However, towards the end, the novel starts to deconstruct its care‐ fully crafted image of Conor as ‘the outlaw.’ He is not the anti-capitalist hero, living-in the-woods-type of guy that Stan always imagined him to be. On the contrary: in fact, he has been more deeply immersed into the capitalist logic than anybody else in the book. As it turns out, Conor has been working for Jocelyn and Consilience all along (cf. ibid. 33). Conor has been doing business with ‘these people’ from the start, making him a part of the system: “I never ask her why she wants what she wants, that’s her business. Deal is I just do the job, no loose ends; then I collect, end of story, have a nice life” (ibid. 374). Even alternatives turn out to be non-alternatives in The Heart Goes Last. There are no alternatives to capitalism the characters can conceive, so they try their best to either fix the free market or defend their place within it, despite the apparent contradictions within capitalism. ‘Alternatives’ to capitalism fea‐ ture merely as ludicrous daytime fantasies no to be taken seriously. When he is taken hostage by Jocelyn, Stan, for instance, laments that “[h]e should have left the disintegrating cities, fled the pinched, cramped life on offer there. Broken out of the electronic net, thrown away all the passwords, gone forth to range 158 IV. The Totalitarian Face of Neoliberalism: Margaret Atwood’s The Heart Goes Last (2015) over the land, a gaunt wolf, howling at midnight” (ibid. 205). Stating that “[t]here isn’t any land to range over any more. There isn’t any place without fences, roadways, networks” (ibid.), Stan shows awareness that the power structures of capitalism are not bound to space - an insight Mercer in The Circle for instance never reaches - for they are composed of “networks” as he correctly observes. Stan’s plan then is really no plan at all, but an escapist fantasy. Stan is no “gaunt wolf ” - he himself admits that he is “too chickenshit to admit he’s chickenshit” (ibid. 179) - and can therefore frame his daydreaming only in exaggerated pic‐ tures and symbols. Social improvement and reform are usually connected to the future as tem‐ poral frame of reference. Yet the future itself is conspicuously absent from the narrative, which is dominated by allusions to the past, most prominently the 50s and 60s of the 20 th century, the golden era of capitalism and economic boom; hence, the abundance of reference to the respective decade in The Heart Goes Last: Doris Day features multiple times in the text, with Stan even admitting to having married Charmaine because she reminded him of her (cf. HGL 162), Elvis and Marilyn Monroe (at least their doppelgängers) dominate the entertainment industry in Las Vegas (ibid. 327 f.), and, of course, Consilience with its white picket fence, middle class charm and 50s nostalgia attracts the masses (cf. ibid. 59). Although the town is advertised as “a possible model for the future” (ibid. 159, my emphasis), the future is non-existent in the novel, having been replaced by a reactionary longing for easier times. Characters in the novel, actually fear the future and the developments it might bring - or as Charmaine maintains: “[t]he past is so much safer, because whatever’s in it has already happened. It can’t be changed; so, in a way, there’s nothing to dread” (ibid. 258). Even if the characters could conceive of alternative ways of living, the cast of The Heart Goes Last lacks the courage and vision to pursue them. Rather, they wish for happier times, when the ills of capitalism were yet not clearly identifiable. To conclude, the book itself is an illustrative example of how alternative modes of action fail within capitalist modes of production. While it successfully exposes these structures with the help of immanent criticism by abstaining from promoting ready-made alternatives, the novel itself is a product deeply entan‐ gled in market structures. Originally published on the website Byliner, large parts of the novel were given away for free. Yet the final chapter was not up‐ loaded so fans were forced to buy a printed copy of the novel. Having started as a product of an alternative form of publishing, The Heart Goes Last ultimately found its way back in the conventional publishing industry: Widespread demand for a continuation on the theme led Atwood to produce three succeeding parts, ‘Choke Collar,’ ‘Erase Me,’ and ‘The Heart Goes Last.’ A scheduled 159 4. The Impossibility of Thinking beyond Neoliberal Capitalism fifth and final part, ‘Moppet Shop,’ was never released in serial form. Atwood fans eager to read the conclusion of the Positron series were instead encouraged to buy The Heart Goes Last, which collects revised versions of the first four parts and provides a resolution. (Mancuso) The novel - originally not part of the publishing industry - ultimately becomes a commodity thus emphasises the paradoxes of criticising free market capi‐ talism: it is a product of the free market and therefore caught within the same neoliberal deliberations it sets out to criticise. The Heart Goes Last, however, does not shrink back from criticising neoliberalism just because the novel lacks moral high ground to do so. On the contrary, fully aware of the dilemma that there is not outside of neoliberal capitalism from where to attack the free market, the novel’s breaking with genre traditions has to be read as a conscious attempt to attack the free market despite being a product of the free market. Atwood’s text - despite its own status - embraces this challenge and encourages readers, who are equally part of a neoliberal world order, to abandon the established genre patterns, with which they access both fiction and their own reality. 160 IV. The Totalitarian Face of Neoliberalism: Margaret Atwood’s The Heart Goes Last (2015) V. Feeding Neoliberal Capitalism: M. T. Anderson’s Feed (2002) Although Matthew Tobin Anderson (born 1968) has frequently written for adult readers, the Massachusetts-born author has become especially well known for his commitment to Young Adult Fiction - a fortuitous path for which he was awarded the National Book Award in 2006 for his two-volume novel The As‐ tonishing Life of Octavian Nothing (2006 and 2008). His bildungsroman about an African slave boy “who flees his subaltern position to join the Continental Army and thus secure himself freedom and relative prosperity” (Ulanowicz 268) sets the tone for many of Anderson’s narratives to come, all of which demonstrate a genuine interest in questions on the nature of history, humanism, capitalism, and identity. Often mixing different genres (cf. Corbett) - a trait he shares with writers such as Dave Eggers or Kazuo Ishiguro - Anderson explores in his latest novel, the science fiction narrative Landscape with Invisible Hand (2018), the conditions of human life after an alien invasion has replaced most of humanity’s technology and thus made thousands of workers superfluous. This futuristic social satire delves into questions around the free market, the access to tech‐ nology, and the systematic discrimination against developing countries - iron‐ ically, in this case, the United States of America whose technology cannot com‐ pete with the superior vuvv technology. Although American products cannot even begin to compete with the alien technology, the characters still believe in the free market: “[w]e just have to wait it out. The invisible hand of the market always moves to make things right” (Landscape 123). It is complex topics like these, which resurface in all of Anderson’s texts. Contrary to many YA authors working within the genre of dystopia, Anderson is known to challenge his young audience and treat them seriously: Thomas J. Morrissey notes that “[l]ike the best of YA writers, Anderson respects young people” (196) and that his books “show respect for and faith in their intended audience” (ibid. 199). Themes like those tackled in The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing or Landscape with Invisible Hand show a fundamental earnestness in Anderson’s approach towards literature: both for his own works, and, crucially, for his readership. His 2002 novel Feed (not to be confused with Nick C. Windo’s novel of the same name and with a nearly identical premise, The Feed: Never Sleep Un‐ watched, published in 2018) is probably the most ambitious project of his since it challenges his target audience (usually 12 to 18 year olds) to imagine an al‐ 126 See Gonnermann, “The Concept of Post-Pessimism in 21 st Century Dystopian Fiction.” 127 As Titus tells us, “[p]eople were really excited when they first came out with feeds. It was all da da da, this big educational thing, da da da, your child will have the advantage, encyclopedias at their fingertips, closer than their fingertips, etc.” (Feed 57, emphasis in the original). 128 Kay Sambell comments on the dilemma writers of YA dystopias face: while the genre demands them to cast a critical eye on the world as it presents itself, the conventions of writing for children expects authors to shield their underaged readers from the harsh reality. The outcome is a twisted solution and “flawed novels that are imaginatively and ideologically fractured” (“Carnivalizing” 252), resulting in narratives that “fail to repose trust in implied young readers to think for themselves” (ibid. 251). Consequently, many ternative society set in the not-so-distant future. 126 This future is immediately recognisable as a more extreme version of our own, early 21 st -century version of the United States of America, in which a corporate-owned technology called ‘the feed’ has been implanted into nearly every person’s nervous system. This technology not only connects the characters to each other via brain hardware, enabling them to communicate over long distances, share music, or exchange memories like we forward files via e-mail, it also exposes them to a never-ending stream of commercials. Advertisements for cars, clothes, TV shows, hotels, and music are streamed into the brains of the characters 24 / 7, turning them into ignorant, uncritical consumers who chase the latest trends and products. While the feed theoretically enables its users to draw on all the knowledge of humanity (a claim readers are familiar with from the extraliterary discourse concerning the advent of the internet from the 1980s and 1990s), 127 the autodiegetic narrator Titus, his friends, and even adults in his life like doctors and parents demonstrate a genuine lack of desire to access this information. On the contrary, they amuse the reader by constantly misremembering crucial historical events: “[t]hat’s one of the great things about the feed - that you can be supersmart without ever working. […] You can look things up automatic, like science and history, like if you want to know which battles of the Civil War George Washington fought in and shit” (Feed 57). To decipher this humour, the novel expects its teenage readers to be exactly unlike the teenagers that populate its narrative. In fact, Anderson challenges them to “both identify with, and resist, Titus’s world view” (Bullen and Parsons 136): while they should recognise the similarity in age and situation of life, the novel requires its readers to be well versed, for instance, in the basics of American history to understand the humour. In fact, George Wash‐ ington fought in the American War of Independence (1775-1783) and not in the American Civil War (1861-1865). Concerning the literary quality of YA fiction, some commentators reveal a clear bias; 128 The New Yorker columnist Jill Lepore concedes that “some of these 162 V. Feeding Neoliberal Capitalism: M. T. Anderson’s Feed (2002) critics have questioned the literary merit of YA dystopias, arguing that their didactic responsibilities impede any serious literary outcome. [ YA ] books are pretty good,” thereby disclosing her surprise at finding merit within the genre of YA . This is a gross error, for, although a YA novel, Feed gives significant insight into the discourse on the function of neoliberalism and con‐ sumer culture in the 21 st century. While the novel might have been written with a teenage audience in mind, adults also profit from a thorough reading of An‐ derson’s ideas. The novel’s satirical dimension is an example of what has led various scholars to claim that Feed is not a YA novel at all: “[a]lthough accessible to a YA audience, as a narrative Feed has more in common with the work of satirists like Kurt Vonnegut Jr., Norman Spinrad, Max Barry, or Sean Murphy, all of whom are writers for adults” (Morrissey 192; cf. Miller). Feed thus “reverses the pattern of reception of works like Nineteen Eighty-Four, Brave New World, and The Handmaid’s Tale, which address a primarily adult readership but have become staples of adolescent reading in and beyond the high school curriculum” (Gooding 112 f.). One reason why Feed attracts a considerable amount of adult readers and, moreover, scholarly attention is due to its innovative and deconstructive ap‐ proach to the relatively stable genre of YA dystopia. In fact, Feed overcomes the stereotypical criteria and recipes of YA dystopias. While it stays true to the idea that YA dystopias should feature “a character whose age and sex is close to the targeted readership” (Voigts and Boller 415), it does not stage “child characters pitted against a powerful adult regime” (Sambell, “Carnivalizing” 250) but de‐ picts a world of decadence kept alive by both uncritical teenagers and adults behaving like teenagers. Anderson’s child characters “come to represent a hope‐ lessly debased or dangerously polluted form of humanity themselves” (ibid. 253), unwilling or unable to represent the typical YA teenaged protagonist about to question the moral and social code embodied by the adult world (cf. Nikolajeva 73). Moreover, Feed does not comply with the convention of the happy ending - a fundamental characteristic of YA fiction as claimed by Natalie Babbit: “some‐ thing which turns the story ultimately toward hope rather than resignation and contains within it a difference not only between the two literatures but also between youth and age” (quoted in Sambell, “Change” 165). Feed introduces a merciless world of consumer culture and neoliberal thought patterns that ulti‐ mately consumes the side-lined “rebel” figure of the novel, Titus’ girlfriend Violet. While Titus and his friends got their feeds implanted in their infancy, Violet did not get hers until the age of seven, because her lower-class academic father could not afford the technology. Tragically, hers is the one that needs 163 V. Feeding Neoliberal Capitalism: M. T. Anderson’s Feed (2002) 129 The origin of the quote is somewhat unresolved. Many critics, such as Mark Fisher, attribute it to either Jameson or Žižek or both: “[w]atching Children of Men, we are inevitably reminded of the phrase attributed to Fredric Jameson and Slavoj Žižek, that it is easier to imagine the end of the world than it is to imagine the end of capitalism” (Fisher 2). Yet, in Archaeologies of the Future (2005), Jameson originally writes, “as someone has observed” (199), without referencing the original source. Matthew Beau‐ mont disentangles the history of the expression, stating that Jameson “is probably mis‐ remembering some comments made by H. Bruce Franklin about J. G. Ballard” (79). repairing after a hacker has damaged the software. Since Violet has spent her time confusing the consumer algorithm that recommends new products, she has not been able to produce a valuable consumer profile, which means she does not exist in the eyes of the companies that could pay for a feed repair. As a result, Violet is not considered for donation, and subsequently dies due to technical problems. Its absent rebels make Feed interesting for the current analysis: like in Dave Eggers’ The Circle and Margaret Atwood’s The Heart Goes Last, rebellion here exists only in a marginalised, crippled form. As will be shown, it is questionable to speak of resistance at all within the narrative. Instead, the novel presents its readers with a clearly defined neoliberal standard, the eponymous feed tech‐ nology, and outlines the dramatic consequences of characters (necessarily) sup‐ porting a standard. This, however, limits their freedom, the notion of voluntariness, and, in Violet’s case, lifespan. To map Feed’s exploration of network power, the first subchapter will locate the novel within a neoliberal, capitalist dis‐ course, showing how M. T. Anderson extrapolates and ultimately satirises con‐ temporary business practices and market imperatives. In the second chapter, the analysis will then elaborate on the thematic complex of social exclusion, in-group formation and network standards to explore the novel’s stance on differenti‐ ating between freedom and voluntariness - a crucial difference the characters never really assess. In the third chapter, the analysis will also focus on the im‐ possibility of resistance in Titus’ world. In line with Mark Fisher’s ‘capitalist realism’ argument, Feed shows how no rebellion of any form is conceivable in capitalism, for the latter knows how to incorporate dissident spirits. The last chapter will close with an investigation into the characters’ cognitive inhibi‐ tions, which - in line with Fredric Jameson’s assertion that the end of the world is easier to imagine than the end of capitalism (cf. Archaeologies 199) 129 - fail to picture a life beyond the dominant paradigm. Ultimately, external criticism is shown to be ineffective on both a content and a discourse level. The novel thus restricts itself to the performance of critique; it is content to delineate the in‐ herent paradoxes of capitalism - most notably in the discourse around freedom - 164 V. Feeding Neoliberal Capitalism: M. T. Anderson’s Feed (2002) 130 Feed self-referentially and self-critically plays with genre expectations. The novel seems consciously aware of the political dimension of classical YA fiction and its focus on totalitarian dictatorships. The chapter headline “our duty to the party” (Feed 207), for instance, satirises this relationship, by offering two contradictory readings. While “duty to the party” seems to reference Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, the Inner Party, and the totalitarian aspects of traditional dystopian writing, the plot contradicts such a reading. Titus and Violet party together with their friends, enjoying their lives as teenagers. ‘Duty to the party’ thus becomes a pledge towards the Freudian Pleasure Principle rather than a political commitment. and, crucially, does not offer a eutopian enclave or alternative as is most poign‐ antly expressed by the absence of rebels. 1. Conceptionariums and Air Factories - The Commodification of Life and Nature In What Money Can’t Buy: The Moral Limits of Markets (2012), Michael J. Sandel, Professor of Government Theory at Harvard University Law School, traces the increasing commodification of life, writing that “some things money can’t buy, but these days, not many” (3). Located in traditional Marxist thought and neo‐ liberal criticism, Sandel’s book calls the ever-increasing reach of markets into previously untapped spheres of human life “one of the most significant devel‐ opments of our time” (7). He gathers evidence from different arenas of economics and daily life, concluding that we have “drifted from having a market economy to being a market economy” (ibid. 10, emphasis in the original). Sandel’s obser‐ vations are mirrored by dystopian fiction, most notably in M. T. Anderson’s Feed. Contrary to most YA dystopias, Feed does not target totalitarianism (cf. Sambell, “Carnivalizing” 247) 130 but exposes the dehumanising logic shaping contempo‐ rary neoliberal capitalism. In Feed, as Jillian L. Canode attests, “Marx’ prediction that capitalism would continue expanding until it consumed the planet comes true” (140). Anderson’s novel is the magnifying glass allowing us to scrutinise the future ahead, in which capitalism has successfully supplanted all other forms of human interaction and has colonised the solar system. While classified as dystopian fiction, Feed also contains elements of the sci‐ ence fiction genre, which is closely related to dystopian fiction. As Darko Suvin reminds his readers, utopian fiction can be considered “both an independent aunt and a dependent daughter of sf ” (“Theses” 188; cf. also Paik 3) for both genres rely on extrapolation and speculation in their world making; the novel is littered with sci fi stock features, which signal the 21 st -century reader that the story is located in the future. For instance, the protagonist and his friends spend 165 1. The Commodification of Life and Nature spring break on the moon, Titus’ parents got engaged on Venus, and Mars is a holiday get-away: “Yeah, I’ve been to Mars, [Titus] said. It was dumb” (Feed 47, emphasis in the original). Oscillating between the readers’ fantasies about hu‐ manity conquering space and Titus’ detached disappointment when describing holidays on Mars, Feed constructs an anti-climax of reader expectations, thereby broadening the gap between the intraand extradiegetic world. Other gadgets complete the stock features of a typical science fiction narrative, such as flying cars, holidays on the bottom of the ocean, private suns and moons circling around one’s estate, genetically modified food, and, of course, the feed, the in‐ ternet device implanted into the brain and nervous system transforming all characters into a posthuman hybrid of human and machine. Yet while these elements can be classified merely as science fiction gim‐ mickry, setting the scene for a futuristic tale, other changes display a more pro‐ found change in human relations, illuminating a discrepancy between what readers think about human life, its worth, and the nature of social relations, and what is esteemed in Anderson’s world. In Feed, everything is for sale and ready to be marketed, ranging from the conception of children, former state institu‐ tions like schools, and ultimately, life and nature themselves. As Jacobo Canady argues, in Feed, “every aspect of the characters’ lives has been colonized by cap‐ italism” (275). The novel presents a world where the notions of parent / child, doctor / patient, teacher / student, citizen / state, boyfriend / girlfriend have all been condensed into the concept of “consumer” (cf. Hall and O’Shea 11), re‐ ducing the complexity of life and the subsequent social roles of the individual into one concept central to neoliberal capitalism. Indeed, the “identity of the consumer is the only available space to occupy” (Ventura 92; cf. also Gonner‐ mann 34). Feed introduces this circumstance en passant, for instance, when elab‐ orating on the topic of human procreation in the future. In the novel, most chil‐ dren are no longer born but manufactured. Echoing the ectogenesis technology introduced in Huxley’s pregnancy-free dystopia Brave New World, Feed de‐ scribes a world where parents-to-be can order a child on a date like they would order a meal at a fast food restaurant: “[s]o after the movie we went right to the conceptionarium and told them, ‘We want the most beautiful boy you’ve ever made. We want him with my nose and his dad’s eyes, and for the rest, we have this picture of DelGlacey Murdoch’” (Feed 126). As Titus’ parents elaborate on, parental responsibility is reduced to a market transaction. Tellingly, Titus was modelled in the image of a then-famous movie star, thereby almost becoming an optical clone. Tapping into the metaphorical potential of clones as capitalist cri‐ 166 V. Feeding Neoliberal Capitalism: M. T. Anderson’s Feed (2002) 131 For an investigation of clones as a thoroughly commodified form of life, see the chap‐ ters on David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas and Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go of this book. tique, 131 the novel makes this point explicit by familiarising the reader with a discourse of “investment” that surrounds Titus’ ‘conception.’ “[W]e thought he was going to be big” (ibid.), is how Titus’ father justifies the transaction, con‐ ceptualising the birth of a child as a stock market investment that did not turn out as promised. “He didn’t … he didn’t really take off the way like we expected. After that movie, he was mostly … I guess … small roles” (ibid. 127, my em‐ phasis). The birth of a child, then, is a market transaction in a double sense of the word: first, parents can order the children they like and determine their facial and bodily features. Secondly, following a perfectionist ideology, parents expect the template to succeed in life - if not, they lack a certain sense of achievement. Their “aspirations for their children are dictated by their desire for social status” (C. Bradford 135). Trying whole-heartedly to save the situation, Titus’ parents mildly attempt to defend their ‘investment’: “‘He starred in some things,’ said my mom. ‘Steve, he starred in a lot of things.’” Titus, though, is not con‐ vinced. The fact that Murdoch has only starred in movies with no more “than two stars” (Feed 127) is frustrating, leaving him with a sense of stand-in failure and underachievement. As products of a hyper-consumerist society, new-born Americans instantly and automatically become members of the feed society “when the feed is im‐ planted and they are continually profiled through product placement” (Ventura 92). Their lives are defined by commodification processes and corporate own‐ ership of what previous generations would have considered the privilege or duty of the state. This is exemplified by Feed’s nonchalant introduction of the re‐ formed educational system: School TM (Feed 119). The unregistered trademark ( TM ) identifies the educational system as private property, signalling its corporate ownership even before Titus has informed the reader of the syllabus. In Titus’ world, schools and (presumably universities and colleges, too), have ceased to be an institution funded by the state - a thought repulsive to Titus, who con‐ siders government schools anachronistic, referring to them as “completely, like, Nazi” (ibid.). Repeatedly, Titus demonstrates his inability to correctly apply po‐ litical, social, and cultural terms according to their definition, even conflating the terms democracy and totalitarianism. The protagonist thus becomes a mouthpiece for the dominant neoliberal ideology, which condemns social serv‐ ices by mislabelling them as products of a totalitarian state system. Retrospec‐ tively, Titus legitimates the hollowing out of the welfare state, echoing neolib‐ eral reasoning as brought forth by Margaret Thatcher in the 1970s. One of her 167 1. The Commodification of Life and Nature most memorable quotes, “there is no such thing as society” (cf. Bickley 22), questions the existence of a community beyond the individual and rejects thus the idea of a social welfare state. The same reasoning is to be found within the narrative: any state legislation, irrespective of whether issued by a democrati‐ cally elected government or totalitarian autocracy, is labelled potentially dan‐ gerous, for it meddles with the free market and the free exchange of goods. Building on the notion of Thatcherism, Anderson’s society consequently spells out what happens when markets “tame politics” (Fraser 218): any service monopolised by the state is rendered a taboo in a thoroughly capitalist society like Titus,’ who yet again exemplifies the distance between the reader and him‐ self. School has been reconceptualised as a consumer choice for those who can afford to send their kids to ‘School TM .’ Although it still constitutes to be an in‐ stitution of learning, the syllabus has been considerably altered to fit the chores of capitalist societies: Back then, it was big boring, and all the kids were meg null, because they didn’t learn anything useful, it was all like, da da da da, this happened in fourteen ninety-two, da da da da, when you mix like, chalk and water, it makes nitroglycerin, and that kind of shit? And nothing was useful? Now that School TM is run by the corporations, it’s pretty brag, because it teaches us how the world can be used, like mainly how to use our feeds. […] and now we do stuff in classes about how to work technology and how to find bargains and what’s the best way to get a job and how to decorate our bedroom. (Feed 119 f., emphasis in the original) School TM ceases to exist as an institution in the tradition of humanist philosophy and instead transforms into a past-time option for rich kids, who become the perfect consumer (cf. Parish). The subjects on offer teach pupils how to navigate in a consumer society but exclude critical thinking. Despite the drastic reduction of standards, pupils struggle with the curriculum: “[i]t was still hard, there were some times when none of us did good, and I felt stupid, and we all felt stupid” (Feed 120). The novel ultimately offers a bizarre caricature of the concept of ‘school,’ transmuted beyond recognition for a contemporary reader. Its sole purpose is to cultivate and market the corporate image, which perverts the original intention of universal education. As Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari argue in Anti-Oedipus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia (1977), “[c]apitalism is profoundly illiterate” (240), reducing writing to the role of an archaism. Due to the horrific educational system, in Feed, too, writing has become an anachronism of history, with technology having “replaced both written and verbal forms of communication, that is, the material signifiers of language” (C. Bradford et al. 157). Tellingly, Titus is barely 168 V. Feeding Neoliberal Capitalism: M. T. Anderson’s Feed (2002) able to read and write (cf. Feed 75). Realising he does not comprehend a reference to H. G. Well’s Time Machine (1895), he insists on it being explained to him, refusing to do the research himself (cf. ibid. 301). Illiteracy, though, is no longer an impediment in the future. On the contrary, Feed presents a world in which illiteracy and poor education pose no obstacle to participation. Titus constitutes a perfectly normal teenager in the context of Anderson’s America: a capitalist Everyman fully equipped to function in a neoliberal environment. Consequently, language in general is reduced to a necessary minimum. The characters exhibit a striking lack of vocabulary and grammatical repertoire, bringing them repeat‐ edly dangerously close to failed communication: “[i]t will be a, a, you know, fuckin,’ it will …” (ibid. 40) or “[i]t’s sometimes like - whoa, really - whoa” (ibid. 109). They seem utterly unable to wrap their emotions linguistically, falling back on onomatopoetic, analphabetic exclamations, disrupting the Saussurian rela‐ tionship between signifier and signified. The theme of the loss of language is introduced by the novel’s motto. Drawing on W. H. Auden’s “Anthem for St. Cecilia’s Day” as paratext, the novel evokes a climate of failed communication: “O dear white children casual as birds / […] So small beside their large confusing words, / So gay against the greater silences / Of dreadful things you did …” Contextualising the disintegration of language as an effect and cause of systemic conflicts (“dreadful things you did”), the novel seems to accuse first and foremost its underage characters of failure. The most prominent example in the text are so-called Nike speech tattoos, special tattoos that force the wearer to say the brand name “Nike” every other word. Exempli‐ fying the connection between consumerism and language loss, Titus informs the reader that his friend paid a lot for it: “[i]t was hilarious, because you could hardly understand what he said anymore. It was just, ‘This fuckin’ shit Nike, fuckin,’ you know, Nike,’ etc.” (ibid. 287 f.). Capitalism and its consumer products render characters literally speechless. A profound linguistic inefficiency prevails throughout the entire narrative though, linking both teenage and adult characters in their disability to master language in order to communicate, making adolescence linguistically the only “subject position available” (Gooding 117) for every character. Titus’ father struggles with words, demonstrating his failure as a role model for the younger generation when he tries to describe the feelings of his wife: “‘[s]he’s like, whoa, she’s like so stressed out. This is … Dude,’ he said. ‘Dude, this is some way bad shit’” (Feed 65). Even professionals like doctors and nurses are incompetent speakers, constantly flouting Grice’s maxims of speech: “[c]ould we get a 169 1. The Commodification of Life and Nature 132 See also Gonnermann, “The Concept of Post-Pessimism in 21 st Century Dystopian Fic‐ tion.” 133 See Guy Debord’s Society of the Spectacle (1995) for an investigation of how capitalism permeates our lives through images and spectacle: “[t]he spectacle appears at once as society itself, as a part of society and as a means of unification. As a part of society, it is that sector where all attention, all consciousness, converges” (12; cf. also Canode 142). thingie, a reading on his limbic activity” (ibid. 79, my emphasis) 132 ? All characters increasingly rely on their feed to suggest words, which fills up conceptual voids indicative of reduced mental capacity: “[m]aybe it wasn’t her face. Her spine was, I didn’t know the word. Her spine was like …? The feed suggested ‘supple’” (ibid. 24). So, the characters’ relationship to consumerism is reflected in their linguistic (in)competence. As Jacobo Canady argues, the feed society is decidedly “oneiric” (cf. 272), meaning that it functions primarily with the help of visuals and pictures and orally transmitted communication. 133 These pictures enter the minds of charac‐ ters unfiltered as a constant stream of voices, sound, and colours, often even impeding any meaningful conversation: When we got off the ship, our feeds were going fugue with all the banners. The hotels were jumping at each other, and there was bumff [sic! ] from like the casinos and mud slides and the gift shops and places where you could rent extra arms. I was trying to talk to Link, but I couldn’t because I was getting bannered so hard, and I kept blinking and trying to walk forward with my carry-on. I can’t hardly remember any of it. I just remember that everything in the banners looked goldly and sparkling. (Feed 18) Although this cacophony of expressions causes malfunctions in Titus’ nervous system, detaining him from expressing himself and even restricting him phys‐ ically (“trying to walk forward”), the characters do not experience the bom‐ bardment of advertising as negative. Rather, Titus conceptualises the stream of input as a “fugue,” a musical allusion stressing the harmony and concord of the situation. Furthermore, the advertisement presents itself to him as “goldly and sparkling,” introducing a glamorous notion of entertainment and joy to the vortex of never-ending advertisement, omnipresent and unquestioningly ac‐ cepted in the background, not only the minds of the characters (cf. ibid. 45). Feed provides its readers with a taste of what it is like to walk in Titus’ shoes by constantly inserting advertisements between chapters. The paragraphs in stream-of-consciousness style expose the reader to page after page of nonsen‐ sical, comically banal commercials for superfluous products of a supersaturated consumer society (cf. Ventura 92): 170 V. Feeding Neoliberal Capitalism: M. T. Anderson’s Feed (2002) …attracted to its powerful T44 fermion lift with vertical rise of fifty feet per second - and if you like comfort, quality and class, the supple upholstery and ergonomically designed dash will leave you something like hysterical. But the best thing about it is the financing - at 18,9 % A. P. R. … […] …month’s summer styles, and the word on the street is ‘squeaky’… …their hit single ‘Bad Me, Bad You’: ‘I like you so bad.’ (Feed 25, emphases in the original) Feed depicts a world where consumerism and advertising run amok, reminding the reader of the absurd world of marketing and commercials. Rampant adver‐ tising and images, changing at an alarming, ever-increasing rate require the characters to “surrender independence of thought to corporate messaging” (Schwebel 201), resulting in an increasingly diminished span of attention. Titus is barely able to pay attention, let alone remember the advertisement’s content. Consequently, important news and information drown in a maelstrom of input, squeezed between commercials: The sun was rising over foreign countries, and underwear was cheap, and there were new techniques to reconfigure pecs, abs, and nipples, and the President of the United States was certain of the future, and at Weatherbee & Crotch there was a sale banner and nice rugby shirts and there were pictures of freckled prep-school boys and girls in chinos playing on the beach and dry humping in the eel grass, and as I fell asleep, the feed murmured again and again. (Feed 157 f.) Just like the senators of Eggers’ The Circle wooed audiences for their attention, so do politicians in Anderson’s world. While admittedly his message constitutes an empty election slogan anyway, the President of the United States drowns in a sea of unnecessary information constantly flooding the diminished intellectual capacity of feed users. Feed elaborates on a world in which commodification has become the ac‐ cepted norm. Consequently, products have surrendered their intrinsic value, while commercials and advertisement have successfully numbed society into becoming intellectually degraded, linguistically incompetent, and morally de‐ tached. Examples range from the protagonist’s baby brother singing inappro‐ priate songs full of sexual innuendo, such as “[i]ntercrural or oral. Ain’t a ques‐ tion of moral” (Feed 137), demonstrating the absurdity of contemporary pop music, to people purchasing redundant consumer objects like “inflatable houses for their kids, and the dog massagers, and the tooth extensions that people were wearing, the white ones which you slide over your real teeth and they made your mouth just like one big single tooth going all the way across” (ibid. 106). With “no difference between a song and an advertising jingle anymore” (ibid. 171 1. The Commodification of Life and Nature 111), art and music are no longer discernible from commercials; and institutions like School TM and even muscular movements have been branded: ‘chew ® ,’ i.e. the jawbone movement when processing food has become a registered trade‐ mark (ibid. 26). Simultaneously, nature and the environment have been entirely subjected to market imperatives: “the sunset […] was spreading over the Clouds TM .” (ibid. 89) Having denied forests, oceans, and animals any value be‐ yond their capacity for economic exploitation, the society in Feed is character‐ ised by the commodification of absolutely any life form on earth. For instance, it degrades whales by turning the anachronistic, and arguably cruel and sense‐ less sport of whale hunting into a team-building experience for corporations “to promote team interface, and to get everyone to work out their stop / go hierar‐ chies” (ibid. 290). Broadcasting his memories to his family members via the feed, Titus’ father demonstrates a genuine lack of critical thinking, ignoring the moral and environmental consequences of his actions when narrating his team-building trip: So here you can see us harpooning the whale. Oh, Jesus - here we go! Feel that tug! It’s awesome. Totally awesome. Okay, this is what they call a ‘Nantucket Sleigh Ride.’ You got to be dragged by the whale until it gets tired. Then you can go up to it and puncture its lung. Oh, there: This is later. You can see Jeff Matson stabbing it. He’s Chairman of the Board. Wow! Thar she blows, huh? ! (ibid. 291) For contemporary readers, the combination of an archaic ‘sport,’ commonly considered inappropriate, and the further reference to the Chairman of the Board “stabbing it,” produce a macabre and farcical effect. The absurdity of the situation is only exceeded by the clearing of woodland to build an air factory: after, all “[y]ou got to have air” (ibid. 135). When Violet tries to argue for the forest, rightfully claiming that trees produce air, Titus’ father has another eco‐ nomic argument right up his sleeve, condescendingly shutting down what he considers charming youthful activism: “[d]o you know how much real estate costs” (ibid.)? The novel thus depicts a world fully aligned with the concept of ‘postmodernism,’ as defined by Fredric Jameson. The process of “capitalist mod‐ ernization is complete, [when] all earlier forms of cultural organization have been swept aside, and nature itself has been replaced by a thoroughly commo‐ dified version of culture” (Booker, “Feed” 215). By overstretching commodifica‐ tion into the absurd, Feed satirises neoliberal thought patterns that privilege profit over nature, market relations over people. When Titus and his friends travel to the moon, they go “all gaga over the duty-free” (Feed 16), not over the journey itself. 172 V. Feeding Neoliberal Capitalism: M. T. Anderson’s Feed (2002) The “eleventh hour capitalism” (Bullen and Parsons 128) displayed in the novel does not exempt human relations from capitalist commodification. Voicing a sense of depression and weltschmerz after having been attacked by the hacker, Titus is presented with the option of getting a new upcar, a flying car (cf. Feed 128). His parents thus translate a traumatic experience into an oppor‐ tunity to spend money: “[a]nd it unwrapped in my head, a banner for a dealer, and links to other dealers, and a big line of credit […] and suddenly, suddenly, I didn’t feel so stupid anymore” (ibid.). Likewise, they expect the ‘issue’ of Titus’ mental instability and uncertainty to be settled after the transaction, expressing their bewilderment when Titus continues to voice his irritation upon hearing about the death of the hacker: “[d]ude, I just bought you an upcar, and you’re being a brat” (ibid. 138). Time is no ‘great healer’ in Anderson’s world; money and consumption are (cf. Coats 366). Concomitantly, as the “age of disposable goods produces an environment of equally disposable relationships and values” (Bullen and Parsons 135), interpersonal responsibilities exhaust themselves in economic values. Dinner time is refashioned as “family networking and defrag‐ ging time” (Feed 136) with “Muzak” (ibid. 133), a “system for playing recorded music through speakers in shops” (“Muzak,” OED ), blaring in the background. Alongside families and work relationships, friendships are equally refash‐ ioned by the prevailing social mode: they exist only as a by-product of con‐ suming. Tellingly, Titus and his friends barely meet at each other’s homes, only when partying together. Their meetings usually take place in huge shopping malls, epicentres of hyper-capitalist societies and, according to Mark Augé ‘non-places’ where they engage in mindless consumption: “Quendy bought some shoes, but the minute she walked out of the store she didn’t like them anymore. Marty couldn’t think of anything he wanted, so he ordered this really null shirt. He said it was so null it was like ordering nothing” (Feed 41). Yet, a shirt, even if it is “null” - to say it in the characters’ words - equals consump‐ tion - an ever pressing need the characters cannot escape from. Structuring their habits and even more their way of thinking, the teenagers condition their friendship on social status and financial power. Self-consciously, Titus is most afraid to buy the ‘wrong’ car: “I didn’t know which to choose, because if I got an upcar that was too small, then Link and Marty might be like, ‘We’ll take my car instead […]’ and then I would have spent these hundreds of thousands of dollars for nothing” (ibid. 132). Each individual “has been reduced to the status of an object” (Booker, “Feed” 219 f.). Conceptualising friendship in economic terms, fearing that the wrong consumer behaviour would diminish his role, Titus exemplifies the notion that consumerism has an identity-forming quality (cf. R. 173 1. The Commodification of Life and Nature 134 The relationship between bank account and the body becomes explicit through the feed: after the attack of the hacker, Titus for instance “feels” that his credit has gone “first thing” before even opening his eyes (cf. Feed 53). 135 See the chapter on David Mitchell for an analysis of the cannibalism metaphor in Cloud Atlas. Wilkinson 25). Partaking in the consumer society becomes a precondition for social acceptance and translates directly into notions of class and social status. Feed culminates in the assertion that consumption is a precondition for life itself: when Violet’s feed needs repairing after the hacker’s attack, her father applies for corporate money to finance the repair. Having sent his petition to “several corporate sponsors” (Feed 229), he argues that if the corporations “want [them] as customers” they must provide funding (ibid. 230). However, their ap‐ plication is declined on the grounds of Violet’s unreliable consumer profile, la‐ belling her an unprofitable investment (cf. Gonnermann 35): FeedTech and other investors reviewed your purchasing history, and we don’t feel that you would be a reliable investment at this time. […] Maybe, Violet, if we check out some of the great bargains available to you through the feednet over the next six months, we might be able to create a consumer portrait of you that would interest our investment team. […] Shop till you stop and drop! (Feed 257, emphasis in the original) Feed displays a world where the worth of a human being is directly proportional to their bank account. 134 Because of Violet’s childish idea of “[c]omplicating[,] [r]esisting” (ibid. 109), i.e. confusing the consumer algorithm that creates her profile by “asking for weird shit, [she then] didn’t buy” (ibid. 110) and lacking the consumer profile that “would interest [the] investment team,” Violet’s life is reduced to a non-profitable investment and thus not considered valuable enough to be saved. Violet is advised to “shop till you stop,” that is to say, to invest her time and remaining energy into buying useless stuff, before she lit‐ erary drops dead. Tragically Violet is running out of time, so the advice offered by the investment team sadly forecasts her imminent demise. As her family is poor, Violet suddenly finds herself at the bottom of the eco‐ nomic food chain. The title of the novel becomes programmatic; it alludes to both the technical device called “the feed” and to an ongoing process of dehu‐ manisation (cf. Hanson 266). Expressing the idea of a reckless capitalist order in the metaphor for food / feeding, the novel shows how the system “devours its participants” (Ventura 100). 135 The following example protrudes, illustrating the toxic relationship between capitalism and people, consumer and consumed: “[i]t was like they were lots of friendly butterflies, and we were smeared with some‐ thing, and they kept coming and coming” (Feed 116). Conceptualising websites, 174 V. Feeding Neoliberal Capitalism: M. T. Anderson’s Feed (2002) bargains, and offers as “butterflies” and Violet and Titus as being “smeared with something,” presumably honey or nectar, the simile comments on the teenagers’ status as feed. However, being consumed is described in a positive manner: the process seems peaceful and joyful, with the butterflies of capitalism coming towards both the teenagers naturally. Nevertheless, Titus is utterly incapable of realising that, while he continues to consume, it is him who is consumed in turn (cf. R. Wilkinson 25). Violet is the only one to grasp that she and her friends “don’t have the feed” but that they “are feed”: “You’re being eaten! You’re raised for food! Look at what you’ve made yourselves! ” (Feed 212, my emphases) Yet, Violet’s epiphany remains ineffective. The characters are incapable of changing their modes of social interaction, thus remaining caught in the dehumanising ideology of a hyper-capitalist society. Fittingly, Violet’s father compares them to the race of the Eloi from The Time Machine (cf. ibid. 301), H. G. Well’s peace-loving, mild, yet naïve and child-like people, unaware that they are being reared as feed. 2. “I Did Not Get the Job” - Network Standards, Neoliberal Capitalism, and the Feed As Fredric Jameson writes in his essay “Cognitive Mapping” (1988), capitalism “is admittedly a totalizing or systemic concept: no one has ever seen or met the thing itself; it is either the result of scientific reduction […] or the mark of an imaginary and ideological vision” (“Mapping” 354). Accordingly, novelists struggle with the depiction of capitalism in their novels, as this “systemic con‐ cept” cannot be translated simply into a work of fiction, which usually relies on characters as individuals. Yet, at the same time, Philip Mirowski praises novels for their ability to “visualize neoliberal thought” (101, own translation) by adopting an estranged point of view. The challenge authors are faced with is to develop an appropriate imagery or language to capture neoliberal thought in its essence while avoiding the fallacies of methodological individualism, i.e. blaming individuals for systemic problems. Feed has mastered this challenge by translating the invisible systemic structures of neoliberal capitalism onto tech‐ nology, using the feed as a metaphor through which to examine the power dy‐ namics at work. Technology, capitalist consumption, and community form an unholy trinity in Titus’ world. Since only the wealthy can afford the feed, the technology is directly linked to the economic situation of its consumer. Tellingly, Titus checks his bank account even before opening his eyes after the hacker attack (cf. Feed 53), which strengthens the conceptual link between the capitalist 175 2. Network Standards, Neoliberal Capitalism, and the Feed economic system and the feed. Consequently, the feed is both the key and the door to consumer culture, the effect and the precondition. The imagery suc‐ cessfully evokes neoliberalism’s omnipresence, its network character, and its confusion of freedom and voluntariness, demonstrating impressively that char‐ acters have no choice but to adopt a certain standard. In contrast to Eggers’ The Circle, which presents its readers with the genesis of a standard by elaborating on the example of Congresswoman Santos, Feed presents a world already in the firm grasp of the feed technology standard. Be‐ longing to the feed network is a precondition for a successful social, political, and private life in Anderson’s Feed. While characters are not actively coerced into having the feed technology implanted in their cerebrospinal nervous system against their will (a scenario that might feature in narratives indebted to struc‐ tures of classical dystopian fiction such as The Giver or We, i.e. texts in which characters are subject to damaging surgical interventions), Feed insists that their choice to do so must not necessarily be thought of in terms of voluntariness. Most people in the novel make the rational decision to embrace the standard, hoping to gain the advantages associated with belonging to the dominant network while simultaneously fearing to suffer the negative consequences of exclusion. They freely and voluntarily adopt the standard of the feed. However, Feed also features characters that adopt the standard freely but involuntarily; they are not coerced but suffer the disadvantages of not belonging to the network, and run ultimately out of options other than able to opt in. Violet’s parents serve to illustrate said mechanism. Contrary to the other parents in the text, the two of them have long refused to access the network, deciding that their family must not get wired into the “brain mole” (Feed 234). Conceptualising the technology as a parasite that will eventually dig its way into the human brain, the centre of consciousness and critical thinking, Violet’s parents reject it on the account of its destructive impact on thought processes. Yet their refusal to accept the technology is depicted as nostalgic longing for a feed-less world: Violet’s parents are contextualised as haphazard dreamers, living in the past and misjudging the signs of the time. Tellingly, Violet’s father specialises in old programming languages that no longer serve a purpose. The novel explicitly marks him out as an other-worldly academic and denies him reader sympathies by constantly ridiculing him and the long-gone world he stands for. Violet’s mother is equally poorly suited to attract reader sympathy; she is only a “mom-shaped hole in the front door” (ibid. 197), as Violet phrases it, having abandoned her daughter long before the narrative starts. Although Violet’s parents succeed in college without the feed, their attitude towards the feed must change when Violet’s father experiences the disadvan‐ 176 V. Feeding Neoliberal Capitalism: M. T. Anderson’s Feed (2002) tages of not belonging to the dominant network - he has a technological epiphany, so to speak: I was at a job interview. I was an excellent candidate. Two men were interviewing me. Talking about this and that. Then they were silent, just looking at me. I grew uncom‐ fortable. Then they began looking at each other, and doing what I might call smirking. I realized that they had chatted me, and that I had not responded. They found this funny. Risible. That a man would not have a feed. So they were chatting about me in my presence. Teasing me when I could not hear. Free to assess me as they would, right in front of me. I did not get the job. (Feed 298, emphasis in the original) Violet’s father experiences the hard way that non-acceptance of the network standard creates disadvantages for individuals. Despite excelling in all other regards and “being an excellent candidate,” Mr Durn is not considered for a po‐ sition as he is not wired into the feed and thus fails the minimum requirement: the standard of society. For his potential colleagues, his ‘feed-lessness’ is the deal breaker: “they found this funny. Risible. That a man would not have a feed.” Conceptualising feed technology as a vital necessity, the two interviewers showcase the prevailing attitude of Titus’ society. Refusing to give him the job, they increase Mr Durn’s humiliation by gossiping about him and mocking him openly. Mr Durn’s refusal to accept the standard is severely sanctioned on both a professional (unemployment) and a personal level (mockery). Although fearing the perils of technology, he is ultimately left with no other option than to adopt a standard - freely albeit involuntarily, for he still dreads the side effects of his decision. At the end of the day, though, Mr Durn “is himself enmeshed in th[o]se structures” (Gooding 121) he deeply resents. To spare his only child the humiliating experience he had to endure, Mr Durn allows Violet feed access on her seventh birthday. As he confesses to Titus, he realised eventually that his “daughter would need the feed. She had to live in the world” (Feed 298). With the feed regulating access to all kinds of social ac‐ tivities - even teenage parties, since music is only available over the feed; ev‐ erybody else sees and hears “people moving to nothing” (ibid. 98) - characters can only participate in Titus’ society when they have both, the economic and financial means and the feed implant. These two factors predetermine access to the community. The mechanisms at work here become decipherable when read through the framework provided by Grewal’s network theory: network power “exists in all the ways people are drawn to each other, wanting to gain access to cooperative activities with other people. It is relational: […] not an abstract force, but inherent in our mediating social institutions” (Grewal 140). Deterred 177 2. Network Standards, Neoliberal Capitalism, and the Feed 136 In Feed, the classes are separated spatially: with Violet’s father being poor, the family lives in a neighbourhood “down a long droptube” (144). In order to get there, Titus needs to keep flying “down and down through all these different suburbs, called Fox Glen and Caleby Farm Estates and Waterview Park, until [he] hit[s] the bottom of the tube, where it was called Creville Heights” (ibid.). By mapping capitalist classes spatially, leaning on a rich-poor aka top-bottom imagery for mental mapping, Anderson’s novel follows established tropes as institutionalised for instance by J. G. Ballard’s 1975 novel High-Rise, which maps capitalism onto a skyscraper with the most wealthy inhabitants living at the top, while the working class occupies the lower-level apartments (cf. also Katherine McGee’s YA novel The Thousandth Floor, 2016); or the movie Snowpiercer (directed by Chun-ho Pong, 2014) based on a graphic novel of the same name, in which capitalism is visualised as a train with the wealthy classes residing in the luxurious front waggons, while the lower classes are cooped up in the back. by the negative consequences of non-compliance with the standard and wishing to “gain access to cooperative activities” such as parties, jobs, and community, the characters in Feed all eventually adopt the technology. The feed has created new social classes which differ according to their income, degree of technophilia, and, concomitantly, social status and influence: those without the feed, those struggling to make ends meet like Violet’s family but with sufficient funds to afford the technology, and the wealthy upper classes with unlimited feed access to which Titus and his friends belong. 136 Only those 73 percent of Americans with feed access can partake in social activities (cf. Feed 122). Being able to consume goods via the feed is directly linked to self-esteem and social status. The others, the “poorest quarter of the population are not participating in any cultural activity” at all (Canady 274), which results not only in their exclusion from cultural activities but also from human rights. Inhabiting a world that defines its inhabitants by their economic status, these 27 percent are “dirt of postmodern purity” to say it in the words of Zygmunt Bauman: “[i]n the postmodern world of freely competing styles and life patterns there is still one test of purity which whoever applies for admission is required to pass: one needs to be capable of being seduced by the infinite possibility and constant renewal promoted by the consumer market” (Postmodernity 14). The reader never even meets a character without the feed, which in itself speaks volumes about the social status of the feed-less: they are discriminated against and ‘oth‐ ered’ because of their feed-lessness. Consequently, they are conspicuously ab‐ sent and excluded from the narrative, virtually non-existent to characters and readers. Just like Eggers’ protagonist Mae depends on the exclusive inner circle of her employer, the characters in Anderson’s novel depend on the feed. Operating basic organic functions such as “[y]our body control, your emotions, your memory. Everything” (Feed 180), the feed has created a crucial dependency. The 178 V. Feeding Neoliberal Capitalism: M. T. Anderson’s Feed (2002) initial free and voluntary choice to adopt the network paves the way for a drug-like dependency and addiction that eventually dominates their lives. Feed thus makes a vivid comment on the dangers of universal standards, which soon take on totalitarian qualities. In fact, separation from the feed is conceptualised as a horrible disaster, the worst possible option for those involved. When Titus and his friends recover from a hacker attack, which damaged the feed tech‐ nology, both doctors and parents handle them with kid gloves - or in Titus’ limited vocabulary: the doctor and the technician were “like, da da da, must have been a difficult time for all of us […] da da da da da, he was meg sorry we had to go through this” (ibid. 78). Although the children are neither psychologically damaged nor physically harmed, their parents stylise the incident (comparable to restriction from the internet for a limited amount of time) into an absolute disaster, claiming that their children “were all suffering from a very stressful experience and [that they] weren’t used to these kinds of stresses” (ibid. 69). Visiting his son in the hospital, Titus’ father exemplifies the way in which char‐ acters take the feed and thus capitalism for granted: “[h]e stood there staring at me for a few seconds, and I was like, ‘What? What? ’ He seemed surprised, and then blinked. He said, ‘Oh. Shit. Yeah, I forgot. No m-chat. Just talking’” (ibid. 65, emphasis in the original). Mirroring Mr Durn’s job interview situation, Titus’ father shows how commonplace the technology has become. Just as the char‐ acters cannot conceive of an alternative world not structured according to the omnipresent market ideology, they cannot comprehend a feed-less world and struggle to adapt. Contrary to the claims of defenders of neoliberalism, its result is less freedom, not more: network standards increasingly demolish the agency of characters, leaving them optionless in a world defined by economic and social monopolies. Moreover, the characters are not only unable to choose voluntarily between two equally desirable options, they also grow addicted to the one option left for them - just like Eggers’ protagonist Mae. Eventually, the characters rely on the feed and its consumer algorithms for their sense of self, which seems coupled to the act of consuming: encouraged by commercials, the teenagers try to define their identity by a performative act of consumption, always searching the feed for “products that really say, ‘You.’ They’ll shout, ‘You! You! You! ’” (Feed 165) Titus, for instance, trawls pages after pages pondering which upcar to buy - after all, the vehicle will represent him, his social status, and his prestige. Yet, the novel insists that these technology-induced attempts to define identity through consumption are futile. As already mentioned, the clique mostly meets up in shopping malls; according to the French anthropologist Marc Augé, these are prime examples for so-called ‘non-places’ dedicated to the mechanisms of 179 2. Network Standards, Neoliberal Capitalism, and the Feed hyper-consumerism. Lacking identity-forming qualities and subjugated to an anonymous logic of transience, shopping malls display a profound deficiency in substance (cf. Augé 77), “exist[ing] beyond history, relations and the game of identity” (P. D. Smith). Offering the lonely capitalist individual the “illusion of being part of same grand global scheme,” they provide a surrogate for family and community ties. As Augé comments on the identity surrogates these places offer: Assailed by the images flooding from commercial, transport or retail institutions, the passenger in non-places has the simultaneous experiences of a perpetual present and an encounter with the self. Encounter, identification, image: he is this well-dressed forty-year-old, apparently tasting ineffable delights under the attentive gaze of a blonde hostess; he is this steady-eyed rally driver hurling his turbo-diesel down some godforsaken African back-road. (84, emphases in the original) Augé’s insightful comments about the identity surrogate offered by advertise‐ ment and marketing illuminate the special appeal shopping malls hold for Titus. On the one hand, their siren song promises access to one’s identity, while his affinity to places of consumption illustrates yet again the nonchalant acceptance of the dominant market ideology, exemplifying the need to commodify and consume in order to have proof of his existence; yet, on the other hand, the teenagers are defined by the absence of individuality. The novel thus insightfully satirises the teenagers’ need for substance. The feed’s centrality for the construction of identity becomes apparent once Titus and his friends find themselves in quarantine after a hacker has destroyed their software. Panicking because he cannot connect to the feed, Titus struggles even to form coherent sentences, repeating what he has said in a mechanistic continuous loop of helplessness reminiscent of the speech pattern of recorded messages annoying callers waiting in a customer hotline: I was currently disconnected from feednet. I tried to chat Link and then Marty, but nothing, there was no transmission signal, I was currently disconnected from feednet, of course, and I was starting to get scared, so I tried to chat my parents, I tried to chat them on Earth, but there was no transmission signal etc., I was currently etc. So I opened my eyes. (Feed 53) The narrative voice changes drastically when the feed is absent and Titus’ in‐ capability as narrator unfolds in its entirety: he cannot express his feelings, struggles to entertain himself, and barely manages to introduce consistency and coherence to his thoughts. Simple chapter headings barely disguise his true feelings, showing him at a loss to entertain himself while he is under quarantine 180 V. Feeding Neoliberal Capitalism: M. T. Anderson’s Feed (2002) with his best friends: “boring,” “still boring,” “missing the feed,” “night, and boring” (ibid. 55; 56; 57; 61). Repeating his key term “boring,” Titus demonstrates yet again his inadequate vocabulary and thus his failure as a narrator due to his limited mental capacities: “[e]verything in my head was quiet. It was fucked” (ibid. 54). With their “heads [feeling] real empty” (ibid. 56), Titus and his friends highlight the extent of their dependence on the programme providing them not only with news and trends but also with a coherent sense of self and language to express that identity. When Titus finally discloses that “it had been a day since any of us had heard from the feed” (ibid. 61), the reader experiences a disjunction in sense of time. It seems that without the feed structuring present and future by bombarding characters with advertisements and slogans (cf. Ventura 93), the characters fail to experience the passing of time. Titus’ narration infinitely stretches time, ex‐ tending twelve hours into what feels like much longer. He is left “without a sense of past or future” (ibid.) doomed to read through the few pages cached before the shut-down: “I flipped through them sadly. I went back and forth between them. [One] was a good sale at Weatherbee & Crotch, which, by this time, I had probably missed” (Feed 60). Titus’ isolation and separation from the feed ex‐ presses itself in more than the words themselves: the chapters produced during his time at the hospital are the shortest of the entire novel. They lack coherence and telos, instead presenting snap-shots of frustration and boredom, barely connected to one another in a comprehensible plot. It seems as if the protagonist is at a loss even to produce a coherent narrative of self without the feed, relying on the technology and its structuring quality for his sense of self. Without the ability to shop, Titus and his friends are stripped of the only identity available; unable to remain consumers, they struggle to keep up the façade at all. The characters’ dependency on the feed, a virtual network, is expressed by their longing for connection. They yearn for the physical feeling of being part of a grander network. Ironically, this connection needs to be processed by the feed, which redefines physical proximity to mean virtual (feed-)proximity. Again, the hospital episode provides the textual illustrations to support this claim: despite being in quarantine with his best friends, their close physical proximity cannot comfort Titus. He longs for the connectedness only available through the feed. When Titus informs the reader that “[y]ou need the noise of your friends, in space” (Feed 14), he displays a profound inability to function as a separate entity, indicated by his physical need to feel virtually connected. He experiences disconnection as a physical amputation, constantly reaching out to his network of like-minded members and searching for someone to “download with” (ibid. 15). Moreover, it is not enough to know they are connected. They 181 2. Network Standards, Neoliberal Capitalism, and the Feed require proof of their connected existence via acoustic and visual stimuli from the network: “[i]t’s good to have people again, like all these people, talking to you in your head” (ibid. 90). Without the voices their “heads felt real empty” (ibid. 56). Regaining access to the network, presumably after only a couple of days off‐ line, the characters celebrate the connection to their feeds again, emphasising virtual-physical traits of reunion: “[a]nd the feed was pouring in on us now, all of it, all of the feednet, and we could feel all of our favourites, and there were our files, and our m-chatlines. It came down on us like water. It came down like frickin’ spring rains, and we were dancing in it” (ibid. 80, my emphasis). Echoing a rain dance celebrating the end of a prolonged draught (“we were dancing in it"), the novel transforms the feed into a necessity for life itself. Equally signif‐ icant as water, the feed enables society. Furthermore, its virtual touch as expe‐ rienced by expressions like “pouring in” and “could feel” stresses the superiority of virtual over physical contact for the teenagers. Although the characters precondition their existence on the virtual-physical sensation of being connected to others, the novel precludes the possibility of bridging the distance between characters and readers and thus the formation of an alliance between the two, which is normally emblematic for dystopian fiction. As Elizabeth Bullen and Elizabeth Parsons write, the focal character in Feed is “unlikeable, selfish and often demonstrably stupid” (134). The characters’ de‐ pendency on the feed, their absurd ideas about life, and their naivety in questions of economic and political significance prevent them from being fully accepted by the readers. In fact, the majority of characters offers no docking station for sympathy whatsoever but erect a barrier that creates a critical distance: “The protagonists’ trauma isn’t and cannot be [the reader’s] own” (Schwebel 217). The barriers created to prevent full identification with the characters are mani‐ fold: first and as mentioned before, the characters cannot exist independently, but rely on the reassuring assistance of the feed to provide them with a stable identity or coherent sense of self. Consequently, this posthuman hybrid of tech‐ nology and human is conceptualised as robotic. Characters have a penchant to linguistically frame their friends and family as non-human, showcasing their neoliberal ideology of market relations: humans can now be “hacked” like com‐ puters (cf. Feed 48), need a technician to fix them when they have a “software problem” (cf. ibid. 86), or “go into malfunction” when they abuse drugs to get high. Titus’ vocabulary is void of organic terminology like “heal,” “wound,” or “medicine” to contrast technological terminology. When describing Violet as “broken” (ibid. 273), like a doll discarded when no longer of use, Titus brings this pattern of thought to its logical conclusion. 182 V. Feeding Neoliberal Capitalism: M. T. Anderson’s Feed (2002) Secondly, Titus and his friends exhibit no inclination to think critically; they unreflectively reproduce and accept the status quo. As the novel suggests, the standard has influenced society to such an extent that mental capacities have already declined. Confined to the quarantine room in the hospital, Titus is thrown back to his own thoughts, and yet he produces no genuine thought whatsoever. Describing the picture of a boat on his hospital room wall, he la‐ ments that he “couldn’t find anything interesting about that picture at all. There was nothing that was about to happen or had just happened. [He] couldn’t figure out even the littlest reason to paint a picture like that” (ibid. 55). Presented with no activities to pass the time other than staring at a painting, Titus is unable to bring his thinking to an abstract analytical level, i.e. to philosophise on the na‐ ture of human life. Yet, despite his intellectual and emotional deficiencies, the novel makes clear after all that Titus is to be evaluated as a “fairly conventional teenager consumer” (Gooding 113) within the society of Feed. He is “the normal guy, […] magic Mr. Normal Dumbass, with [his] dumbass normal friends” (Feed 281). By having Titus as protagonist, a character that is neither more special, nor talented, nor more intelligent than the average teenager, the novel deviates from YA dystopia traditions, as it does not thrive on the Romantic notion that the child protagonist is considered the harbinger of hope, the essence of purity and unspoiled nature. While usually in YA fiction the child protagonist’s “very existence offers a sense of hope for the future” (Bullen and Parsons 127), since they promise to prolong the existence of humanity, teenagers in Feed cannot soothe the readers into hoping for a better future. They do not answer the call for an alternative society, but rather function as the epitome of consumer-culture, disappointing all hopes for societal renewal: “[i]n the absence of a happy ending for western civilisation, what kind of children can survive in dystopia” (ibid. 128)? The reader cannot help but agree with Violet’s conclusion that Titus’ society has raised “a nation of idiots. Ignorant, self-centered idiots” (Feed 123). 3. Trendy Riot Gear & Evil Corporations - The Absence of Resistance Although Feed clearly belongs to the canon of dystopian fiction, it does modify the genre standards, refusing to comply with classical dystopia’s stable para‐ digms of form and content: it works with an atypical focus on neoliberal capi‐ talism rather than totalitarianism, rendered accessible by an apt visualisation of network structures metaphorically expressed by the feed technology. But the 183 3. The Absence of Resistance 137 In her article “Boring Dystopia Is the Way the World Ends - Not With a Bang or a Wimple” (2019), Ellen Hunt talks about the concept of ‘boring dystopia,’ describing it as “useful term for the mundane but quietly nightmarish ways in which our world is changing” (“Boring”). Dystopia is defined by quotidian boredom. As Hunt continues, “to show how society working against you has become so normalised, you can barely summon the energy to be outraged by it” (ibid.). Precisely this effect is exemplified by Titus, who is bored to death about the dystopian reality of his world yet does not do anything about it. deconstruction of genre parameters continues further. Just like the other novels chosen for this analysis, Anderson’s Feed lacks a central subplot of resistance (cf. Baccolini, “Womb” 293), showing both teenagers and adults in harmony with a neoliberal system that has successfully eroded the hard-won ideals of democ‐ racy and Enlightenment, and one which has transformed mature individuals into teenage consumers (who crave the feed as a guideline for their social lives) and destroyed the ecosystem on a planetary level. Paradoxically, although the characters know that capitalism is bad, they re‐ frain from doing something about it. Their stance towards capitalism transforms into a standardised, reactionary gesture empty of meaning. As Titus tells us, “everyone is like, da da da, evil corporations, oh they’re so bad, we all say that, and we all know they control everything. I mean, it’s not great, because who knows what evil shit they’re up to. Everyone feels bad about that” (Feed 58, emphasis in the original). Bored by commonplace anti-capitalist critique (“da da da, evil corporations”), Titus merely recites what seems to be common knowl‐ edge. Yet, although Titus and his peers claim to be ‘in the know,’ their actions perpetuate a capitalist system for they blame the corporations while simulta‐ neously supporting them. In Capitalist Realism, Mark Fisher describes this phe‐ nomenon arguing that anti-capitalist critique becomes a conventionalist and hollow gesture, serving only to silence our conscience since we are not prepared to examine our convictions and actions critically. Fisher summarises this par‐ adox as follows: “[s]o long as we believe (in our hearts) that capitalism is bad, we are free to continue to participate in capitalist exchange” (13). Feed provides the practical illustration to Fisher’s theoretical claim. Deploying characters who are aware of the socio-cultural reality around them, in this case, the omnipresent entanglements of capitalism with daily life, the novel shows characters who claim to be in the know, yet, who do not wish to interrogate the connections between capitalism, corporacy, and the breakdown of both the environment and social safety-nets further: the dystopian reality has become daily routine and is thus considered too boring to care about. 137 Moreover, ‘blaming’ an unknown capitalist common denominator, Titus absolves himself of consumption and participation: “[w]ho knows what evil shit they’re up to.” He thus comments on 184 V. Feeding Neoliberal Capitalism: M. T. Anderson’s Feed (2002) the implausibility of changing the status quo, finding excuses for his own part in bolstering the system. Knowingly speaking in platitudes, Titus even contradicts what he has just said, putting his ‘critical’ words into perspective a moment later: But they’re the only way to get all this stuff, and it’s not good getting pissy about it, because they’re still going to control everything whether you like it or not. Plus, they keep everyone in the world employed, so it’s not like we could do without them. And it’s really great to know everything about everything whenever we want, to have it just like, in our brain, just sitting there. (Feed 58 f.) Justifying his continued support of a capitalist economic system, Titus recites the ‘they keep everyone employed’ argument. Having the protagonist voice such deliberations, the text satirically comments on real-world discourses in politics that settle all sorts of anti-capitalist discussions by referring to employment rates. Stating, “it’s not like we could do without them,” Titus defends the com‐ panies’ right to exist, shutting down the discussion entirely. With the feed bringing to its logical conclusion what Eggers’ fictitious company has only sketched out, Titus’ society enjoys itself in the role of the interpassive bystander, condemning capitalism in word but not in action. Titus’ girlfriend Violet is no exception here: she, too, hides behind the seeming inevitability of the system, although the social wrongs have been pointed out loud and clear. “I was like, Then you should do something about it. It’s a free country. You should do something. She was like, Nothing’s ever going to happen in a two-party system. She was like, da da da, nothing’s ever going to change, both parties are in the pocket of big business, da da da, all that” (Feed 121, emphasis in the original)? Ignoring Titus’ incompetence as an autodiegetic narrator for a moment, the readers learn that Violet indulges in interpassive behaviour, too. Although she prides herself on having scrutinised the system, Violet merely repeats the insights available as common knowledge. Her approach is thus not qualitatively different to Titus.’ Both claim to have demystified the system, yet retreat behind their interpassivity, content to have discerned capitalism’s ‘evil side.’ Both enjoy the benefits of living in a consumer society, flying to the moon for holidays, and wearing the latest fashions. Their attitude, however, does not exhibit any transformational potential. The novel thus argues that a reductionist reading built on a unilateral allocation of blame (“evil corporations”) without taking the conditional network effects into account does not equal social acti‐ vism or indeed produce progress. It thus criticises forms of critique that settle for a mere location of society’s problems, accusing these forms of escapism and surrogate activism. 185 3. The Absence of Resistance 138 See Luc Boltanski and Ève Chiapello, The New Spirit of Capitalism (2005), in which the authors demonstrate how capitalism incorporates counter culture, thus integrating its fiercest critic (cf. Schönthaler 116). 139 Jillian L. Canode lists another example, referring to an incident the fashion label Urban Outfitters had to apologise for in 2014: having released a “sweatshirt with the Kent State [i.e. University] logo on it [splattered with] blood spray or spatter” (141), Urban Out‐ fitters faced a public outcry. Critics condemned the associations to the Kent State shootings or Kent State Massacre from 1970, which left four students protesting the Vietnam War dead (cf. Kifner). The continued presence of escapist anti-capitalist critique is just one of the reasons why critique struggles to get off the ground in Anderson’s Feed. The second has to do with capitalism’s unique capacity to incorporate criticism, to transform itself, and then to proceed with renewed vigour. As Mark Fisher fur‐ ther argues, capitalism and its critique often coincide. According to him, “anti-capitalism is widely disseminated in capitalism” (12), 138 meaning that con‐ sumers like to think of themselves as critical consumers, thus preferring those products that have been marketed as anti-capitalist or ‘alternative.’ Joseph Heath phrases this argument most pointedly in The Rebel Sell: Why the Culture Can’t be Jammed (2005). He writes that “any tension between ‘mainstream’ and ‘al‐ ternative’ culture” (3) does not exist. On the contrary, the nexus between cultural rebellion and mainstream culture is beneficial for the market, since this counter-cultural attitude, “far from being a revolutionary doctrine, has been one of the primary forces driving consumer capitalism for the past forty years” (ibid. 3 f.). Heath goes on to list countercultural movements that sooner or later fall prey to this capitalist paradox: 139 ranging from the Adbuster Magazine, the “flag‐ ship publication of the culture-jamming movement” suddenly starting to sell “subversive sneakers” (Heath and Potter 1), to the 1968 counterculture ex‐ pressing their political opinion by wearing Birkenstock and driving a Volks‐ wagen Beetle (cf. Heath 5), Heath’s examples make the point that even the great anti-capitalist movements rejuvenate capitalism. There was never “any tension between the countercultural ideas that informed the ‘60s rebellion and the ideo‐ logical requirements of the capitalist system’ (ibid.), for they operate within the same mechanisms. Feed incorporates this capitalist paradox, the fact that - ironically - it is counter culture that exhibits “the most authentic spirit of capitalism” (ibid., cf. also 72), by showing that anti-capitalist movements strengthen capitalist struc‐ tures. Anderson’s text criticises not only the interpassive attitude of the char‐ acters, but also their willingness to buy into anti-capitalist critique, thereby supporting the system by purchasing products that perform an anti-capitalist ideology for them. While the characters have always been defined by trends and 186 V. Feeding Neoliberal Capitalism: M. T. Anderson’s Feed (2002) 140 One of the girl’s names, ‘quendy,’ literally translates into “hip,” (cf. Schwebel 207); moreover, School TM teaches how to decorate a bedroom, etc. (cf. Feed 120). fashion, 140 Titus’ friends start wearing “riot gear” halfway through the novel. The new fashion trend, which includes looking as if people had “been burned up and hit with stuff ” (Feed 168), is not only a testament to the absurdity of fashion, abandoning all notions of practicality and chasing novelty for novelty’s sake, but also an impressive example for how neoliberalism profits from selling anti-neoliberal ‘merchandise’ in the form of apparel: “[i]t’s Riot Gear. It’s retro. It’s beat up to look like one of the big twentieth-century riots. It’s been big since earlier this week” (ibid. 169). Yet, and this is the twist, the products sold as ‘riot gear’ become a floating signifier, losing their original referent: ‘Which one was the Watts riot? ’ Calista and Loga stopped and looked at her. I could feel them flashing chat. ‘Like, a riot,’ said Calista. ‘I don’t know, Violet. Like, when people start breaking windows and beating each other up, and they have to call the cops. A riot. You know. Riot? ’ (ibid. 173) With Violet being the only one wondering “what incited [the riot]” (ibid.), the novel establishes the now familiar roles of mindless consumer (Calista and Loga) versus seemingly deeper reflection. Ignored by Titus’ friends, the 1965 Watts Riot could, in fact, add to the discourse of anti-capitalist critique, since it was fuelled among other factors by the growing frustration of an underprivileged class of workers enraged by racially motivated exclusion from high-paying work, police-discrimination, and a crisis in affordable housing (cf. Edy 132). Named after the poverty-stricken Watts neighbourhood in Los Angeles, an area mostly inhabited by African-American workers, the Watts Riots entered the cultural consciousness as “the community’s angry response to deprivation and neglect” (“Watts,” Britannica) both locally and nationally, and as “the most deadly riots of the [20 th ] century” (Edy 28). This violent anti-capitalist outbreak is rid of its meaning, however, and enters a fashion discourse that neglects and distorts the concerns of the protesters. In a way, the protestors are doubly wronged by capitalism: firstly, by neglect and economic exclusion in 1965, and secondly, by cultural appropriation of their protest for capitalist means in the near future. The commodification of revolutionary symbols thus not only fits into the commodifying logic of market capitalism, but also exemplifies the defence mechanisms of capitalism. In fact, it seems informed against any form of critique, and consequently against any form of revolution. When Titus is upset after Violet’s death, the only way to voice his frustration and anger is to overcom‐ 187 3. The Absence of Resistance pensate. Unable to express his disagreement, he “retires into the world of insa‐ tiable longing for stuff ” (Morrissey 196): I ordered the draft pant from Multitude. It was a real bargain. I ordered another pair. I ordered pair after pair. I ordered them all in the same colour. They were slate. I was ordering them as quickly as I could. I put in my address again and again. […] I ordered pants after pants. I put tracking orders on them. I tracked each one. I could feel them moving through the system. (Feed 303) Falling back into old habits, here the need to physically feel connected via the feed (“I could feel them moving through the system”), Titus orders pants to structure the situation and to regain control over his emotional trauma (cf. Gonnermann 36). This attempt features on the syntactical level as well: Titus’ speech is defined by hypotaxis and repetition that parallel his monotonous or‐ dering of trousers. Yet, his childish reaction is only a simulation of agency and control. In truth, “in his moment of impotent rage against the feed, he turns simply into more use of the feed, buying pants he doesn’t need” (Booker, “Feed” 221). Travelling established routes, Titus re-enacts practices common in the world of the feed. Rebellion and protest translate into an excessive confirmation of the system. Titus and his friends “have insufficient imagination to be able to conceive of any rebellion beyond doing in excess” (ibid.) that which their con‐ sumer identity prescribes them to do. Titus’ tragic flaw, so to speak, is supporting the system with his choices and deeds although he originally desired the oppo‐ site effect; by trying to rebel, the teenagers actually support capitalism. Earlier examples from the text foreshadow the novel’s somewhat tragic ending. Sensing an opportunity to “rip off the corporations, which [they] all thought was a funny idea” (Feed 168), Titus and his friends enter a marketing campaign, promising a free six-pack of Coca Cola to all who “talked about the great taste of Coca-Cola to [their] friends like a thousand times” (ibid.). Unsur‐ prisingly, their plan backfires: after having talked positively about all possible aspects of Coca Cola without getting nowhere near the required count of men‐ tions, the teenagers start to crave a taste of Coke for real. Since they have not reached the critical count to get one for free, they venture out to purchase one. Routinely, gestures of resistance or opportunities for dissident thoughts and actions transform into an affirmative stance to the status quo, empowering the economic system and the concomitant social order rather than challenging them. Every resistance movement in Feed thus ends aversely to its expectations - either as an empty identity-forming gesture (cf. Violet’s attitude and the punks at Titus school) or as a reduction to social activism without meaning: “[t]here was some shouting going on by the college campus. […] We asked the people 188 V. Feeding Neoliberal Capitalism: M. T. Anderson’s Feed (2002) what it was, and they said it was a protest. We asked for what, and they didn’t know” (ibid. 276). Resistance becomes a subculture readily incorporated by con‐ sumerism, backfiring on its original intentions. Feed is essentially a world void of meaningful resistance. 4. “Hope Was Looking off to the Side” - The Inefficiency of ‘External Criticism’ On the surface, Feed is essentially the story of how one socio-economic system has successfully colonised not only just the Earth but also the entire solar system: with Venus, Mars, and the Moon turned into a hyper-capitalist Disneyland for wealthy consumers, capitalism reigns supreme in the colonised parts of the Milky Way. With literally no place untouched by capitalism, in the words of Mark Fisher, it constitutes reality itself. Yet, as has already been shown, Feed is not interested in celebrating an Amer‐ ican way of life. On the contrary, it is deeply anti-capitalistic and therefore con‐ cerned with criticising its own intradiegetic world. The novel shows that the extension of “the shopping-mall culture to all parts of the planet (and maybe beyond) […] would be not a relief but a curse, a blight rather than a blessing” (Soper 171). In order to do so, Feed could have stayed within the parameters of classical dystopian fiction, presenting its readers with a clear-cut dualism of good versus bad: one cruel totalitarian puppet master against the sympathetic dystopian dissident. By mapping two conflicting ideologies onto the two char‐ acters, the novel would have made use of the techniques of external criticism, staging one form of life considered to be superior against another, less ideal form. Yet, Feed leaves the established paths and dystopia’s traditional alignment to external criticism and refrains from staging a plot revolving around a totali‐ tarian CEO and a dissident (teenager) protagonist (like, for instance, Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One does). Instead, as has already been argued, Feed focuses on the depiction of neoliberal capitalism’s inherent paradoxes, deconstructing the claims brought forth by its defendants who argue that more neoliberalism equals more freedom for individuals. Analysing Feed within the theoretical framework of Grewal’s network power, the reading shows the result to be less and less freedom, and even drug-like addiction. In order to encourage an analysis through the lens of immanent criticism, the novel relies on demonstrating the ineffectiveness of external criticism. Firstly, Feed shows that capitalism’s pleasure principle has successfully supplanted ear‐ lier and older forms of eutopian dreaming. The free market claims to have 189 4. The Inefficiency of ‘External Criticism’ 141 See Francis Godwin’s The Man in the Moon (1638) as an example. 142 In its attempt to colonise the eutopian spirit, Feed’s oneiric society makes no difference between Eastern and Western conceptualisations of eutopia: “I told her, ‘There’s an ancient saying in Japan, that life is like walking from one side of the infinite darkness to another, on a bridge of dreams. They say that we’re all crossing the bridge of dreams together. That there’s nothing more than that. Just us, on the bridge of dreams’” (Feed 306 f.). The cultural appropriation of non-Western ideas thus fits well into the colonial expansionism of capitalism. erected paradise on Earth (like Consilience in Atwood’s The Heart Goes Last) and thus prevents others from even trying to identify an alternative intellectual and ideological position from which to criticise it. Just like Eggers’ The Circle, Feed shows that capitalism has successfully colonised the realm of eutopia, claiming the latter’s potential for itself. The free market’s overtaking of the eutopian spirit is expressed by the four sections of the novel, “moon,” “eden,” “utopia,” and “slumberland,” all of which clearly delineate eutopian concepts. While the moon serves as a travel destination for very early eutopian science fiction speculations, harbouring the potential to host a eutopian society radically better than the earth, 141 Feed satirises this idea: the moon has become a hyper-consumerist playground for the rich and has consequently ceased to serve as a potential space for the exploration of other forms of life. Yet, the moon has not just forfeited its status as a place of eutopian otherness. The Biblical concept of the Garden of Eden has also been relocated into the realm of capitalism. Fi‐ nally, utopia and slumberland, the imaginary land of dreams to which children and adolescents ‘go’ in their sleep, complete the novel’s tour through Western eutopian concepts since the Renaissance. 142 Paralleling capitalism’s imperial conquest of the solar system, these utopian settings are equally colonised by capitalism (cf. Suvin, “Theses” 192), subsumed under a logic that promises to fulfil all dreams. It has not only successfully colonised the actual moon, but also its metaphorical potential. By adopting and monopolising the very concept of hope, capitalism stylises itself as the epitome of wish fulfilment. Feed presents a world defined by instant consumer gratification. Having grown up in a super-saturated consumer society, the characters are unfamiliar with the concept of ‘wish’ or ‘desire.’ Even Violet’s bucket list, a total of 22 dreams for her entire life, which range from flying over an active volcano to telling stories to her grandchildren, can be realised through capitalism: “[l]ook at your list. It will just take about five days. I mean, for us to do everything” (Feed 253). Dreams, aspirations and bucket lists no longer “function […] as free-floating creative expressions of the unconscious mind, but simply as artic‐ ulations of wish fulfilment, as precursors to acquisition and consumption” (Hanson 270). Feed envisions a world full of “grotesque, materialist [e]utopia[s]” 190 V. Feeding Neoliberal Capitalism: M. T. Anderson’s Feed (2002) 143 The ‘Garden City’ is a concept introduced by Sir Ebenezer Howard (1850-1928), former shorthand reporter and social reformer and visionary, who sought an “[e]utopian al‐ ternative to [the] industrial slums” (cf. Barkham), which emerged around the industrial centres at the end of the 19 th century. In his book To-morrow: A Peaceful Path to Social Reform (1898), he “proposed the founding of ‘garden cities,’ each a self-sufficient entity —not a dormitory suburb—of 30,000 population, and each ringed by an agricultural belt unavailable to builders” (“Sir Ebenezer,” Britannica). Attempting to avert the formation of slums and to prevent overpopulation, Howard made sure that his planned towns would offer enough space for private housing but also public parks. Currently, his ideas are rediscovered in the British housing crisis (cf. Barkham). (C. Bradford and Baccolini 51), in which consumption functions as the limit for creative expression. Since “no space lies between wanting and having” (R. Wil‐ kinson 23), capitalism has emerged as the ‘best’ possible world order. Even in his dreams, Titus is defined by the cognitive limits that patrol the conceptual borders of his waking mind: “[t]hat night, the night after the party, I had some‐ thing that I thought was a dream, with me at a great site where all the games were free and you could play anything” (Feed 102). The quest for improvement exhausts itself in the consumption of even more luxury goods. In truth, Titus’ society has long abandoned the dream for great social reforms, allowing their own dreams to be expressed in material consumer dreams only. Eutopia is about owning a house with its own sun, a flying upcar, and the feed. There is no grand social plan for general political, economic, and cultural pro‐ gress towards improvement, but the relocation of eutopia into the private sphere - a phenomenon Evan McKenzie has labelled ‘privatopia.’ Developing his concept from Ebenezer Howard’s garden city, 143 McKenzie focuses on the idea of the privatisation of eutopia, which had consequently ceased to mean social dreaming. Instead, the architectural design of individual homes, neigh‐ bourhoods, and entire cities was deemed more important - also because of fi‐ nancial aspects, since, other than an abstract eutopian ideal, swimming pools and fancy houses could be sold to people: When the garden city idea was transplanted to the United States it was put into prac‐ tice by real estate developers who wished merely to maximize profits and did not share Howard’s [e]utopian, social beliefs. Consequently, they emphasized the physical at the expense of the social, paying far more attention to the layout of streets, the location of swimming pools and parks, and the colors of houses than to the nature of the communities they were creating. (McKenzie 176) Feed is a world full of privatopias; each family lives in their own private paradise, each house has its own seasons, sun, and ecosystem. The idea of eutopia as a social construct, a process of social progress, is lost in the transition, sacrificed 191 4. The Inefficiency of ‘External Criticism’ by the deliberations on where to park the upcar. The quest for the best form of community has ceased to exist, replaced by a consumer dream of universal and instant gratification: “[b]ut we have entered a new age. We are a new people. It is now the age of oneiric culture, the culture of dreams. And we are the nation of dreams. […] We have only to stretch out our hand and desire, and what we wish for settles like a kerchief in our palm. […] What we wish for is ours” (Feed 159, emphasis in the original). With neoliberal capitalism as the wish-fulfilment par excellence, its conceptual limits become its very cognitive borders. Culminating in the re-enactment of advertisements and the inability to communicate outside marketing slang, capitalism has successfully become reality. As has been argued, Feed explicitly marks external criticism as unfit to address and challenge the inherent paradoxes of the free market. This form of critique cannot be realised in a system such as neoliberal capitalism, which has eroded the preconditions for voicing criticism externally in the first place. The novel demonstrates this by deconstructing the moral integrity of the character most associated with criticism and rebellion: Violet. At first glance she seems to qualify as the rebellious character many critics have alluded to (cf. Canode 140). Jennifer Mitchell calls her “the symbol of failed resistance” (233), Maria Nikolajeva testifies to her intent to change the world (cf. 86), while Clare Brad‐ ford reads her as the typical “misfit protagonist common in dystopian texts” (132) due to her different manners and language (cf. Bradford and Baccolini 51; cf. also Ventura 100). On the surface, the novel seems to justify these interpre‐ tations: the novel seemingly presents Violet as a particularly intelligent young woman, aware of the global and societal problems the current way of life has caused. She is certainly more critical than her peers, listening to the news and reflecting on America’s role as the pioneer of a commodifying world order. If uncritically accepting neoliberalism is expressed by verbal blackouts and gram‐ matical inaccuracies, resistance - in the broadest meaning of the word - is sig‐ nalled via literacy and eloquence (cf. Gooding 117). Thus, Violet is an exception to a cast of characters defined by their mere dabbling in communication. Her vocabulary encompasses a variety of words that regularly baffle Titus and his in-group, marking her as an outsider from the beginning: “[j]ust talking with Calista. Having a nice little chat. I made the mistake of saying we were back to the picayune grind. Now she keeps going, ‘Picayune’? ! ? ‘Picayune’? ! ? And pretending I’m French. I wish I hadn’t said anything” (Feed 93, emphasis in the original). As the narrative’s only competent speaker of English, Violet also critically reflects on the rampant advertisement and ongoing environmental destruction. Yet contrary to the claim of many critics, Violet is not the messiah born to challenge the status quo. As Keith M. Booker writes, Violet “is unable to con‐ 192 V. Feeding Neoliberal Capitalism: M. T. Anderson’s Feed (2002) ceive of any genuinely subversive mode of resistance to the feed” (“Feed” 222). Upon closer inspection, readers can trace the novel’s deconstruction of Violet as the typical dystopian rebel, which shows that Violet - despite her attempts - cannot claim the moral high ground necessary for external criticism; like Mercer in The Circle and Conor in The Heart Goes Last, Violet is a side character in Titus’ narrative, appearing and disappearing after the autodiegetic narrator has broken up with her. As Bullen and Parsons argue, Violet’s “dissenting voice is displaced, shifted outside the role of central protagonist and relegated instead to a side-lined and narratively punished character position” (134). Disqualifying as the plot’s trigger, her marginalised position trivialises her potential impact on the reader, who is bereft of the opportunity to fully identify and sympathise with her. Moreover, the text deceives the reader into accepting Violet as the dystopian outsider, only to put her behaviour into perspective pages later. The text’s strategy of constructing and deconstructing ultimately negates Violet’s poten‐ tial to change the system; she is instead characterised as an outsider against her will, desperately seeking what she considers a heteronormative naïve ideal of ‘normality.’ Embarrassed by her unconventional parents, Violet explicitly searches for more conventional lifestyles: ‘Where is your mom? ’ [Titus] asked. ‘Probably South America,’ Violet said. ‘She likes it warm.’ ‘Are they divorced? ’ ‘They never married.’ ‘Your life … It must be kind of strange? ’ ‘Meaning what? ’ ‘Just … it’s not … the things that most of us … do? ’ ‘No,’ she said, like she wanted to change the topic. (Feed 148) Despite her intellect, Violet is predominantly characterised by her longing for ‘normality,’ an idea informed by the dominant consumerist discourse in Feed. As a child, “she had watched all the shows about how other people live normally, and she really wanted to live like the rest of us” (ibid. 117, emphasis in the original). Admitting to her wish for inclusion into mainstream society and thus negating her rebellious potential, Violet puts Titus and his friends on a pedestal. She admires their way of life, wishing to be part of what they have standardised as ‘normality’: “[y]ou lead this life like I’ve always wanted to - just, everything is normal. We can just be normal people are, off skiing. We could even rent skis. You know, normal kids, they go off for ski weekends” (ibid. 277, my emphases). By longing for ‘normality,’ Violet disqualifies as a dystopian dissident: 193 4. The Inefficiency of ‘External Criticism’ ‘I went to the moon during spring break to see how people live. When you came along, I thought, ‘‘Now I’ll have a boyfriend, like people have boyfriends.’ Other people just have fun. They just have fun, and it comes naturally to them. I couldn’t believe it when the first night … that guy …’ She whacked the back of her own head. ‘Like a punish‐ ment. The first night. That guy. The hacker. It was like I was being punished for even trying.’ (ibid. 279 f.) Speaking of “people,” Violet excludes herself from this in-group, unaware that she is in fact defined and formed by its standards and ways of life. By desperately copying other teenagers (cf. ibid. 117), Violet proves that her idea of life is con‐ structed according to the same images and desires. Identifying Titus’ lifestyle as the only way to “live a little” (ibid. 198), Violet further exposes her own inconsistency in voicing criticism. For instance, she has no objections whatsoever to a Steak Mignon farm, a grotesque place where companies grow beef artificially. The almost Gothic setting does not concern Violet; on the contrary, she admires the Mignon hedges, accepting without fur‐ ther reflection what the reader would expect her to shun: It was like these huge hedges of red all around us, with these beautiful marble patterns running through them. They had these tubes, they were bringing the tissue blood, and we could see the blood running around, up and down. It was really interesting. I like to see how things are made, and to understand where they come from. […] We were big laughing and we’d run into each other and growl and back away. (ibid. 152) Violet obviously enjoys an afternoon in this surrounding, unperturbed by gro‐ tesque genetic malformations along the way: “some places […] the genetic code had gone wrong and there, in the middle of the beef, the tissue had formed a horn or an eye or a heart blinking up at the sunset” (ibid. 154). These ‘details,’ however, do not disrupt the Romantic atmosphere of the trip, thus exposing Violet and, unsurprisingly, Titus as less critical than one might expect a tradi‐ tional dystopian misfit to be. Violet has no environmental concerns either, com‐ muting hundreds of miles and flying to the moon. Basing her identity on replications and comparisons, Violet accentuates and follows the patterns of behaviour she has adopted subconsciously from the merchandise and TV shows on the feed. Her expectations of teenage life, for instance, are all modelled on sitcom openers: I want to go out right now and start. I want to dance. You know? That’s this dumbass thing, because it’s so cliché, but that’s what I see myself doing. I want to dance with like a whole lacrosse team, maybe with them holding me up on a Formica tabletop. […] 194 V. Feeding Neoliberal Capitalism: M. T. Anderson’s Feed (2002) 144 The relationship between Violet and her father incorporates a satirical element. Having identified him as the source of her rebellious character since Violet “grows up by con‐ sciously and unconsciously mimicking the behaviors and characteristics of her father” ( J. Mitchell 234), commentators argue that he influences his daughter heavily. Violet inevitably also inherits the tragical-comic element of his character. Contrary to his self-perception, Violet’s father proves to be an almost ridiculous, reactionary academic living in an ivory tower. Teaching useless, anachronistic languages (another joke at his expense since he does not teach Sanskrit or Latin, but Basic and Fortran), he seems just as naïve as the rest of the cast. Also, his unworldliness and stiltedness culminate in an almost incomprehensible, though pretentious style of speaking which further prevents reader sympathy: “[t]he sarcasm of my daughter notwithstanding, it is nonetheless an occasion of great moment to meet one of her erotic attachments. In the line of things, she has not brought them home, but has chosen instead to conduct her trysts at remote locals” (Feed 146). Critics have frequently commentated on his laughableness: he has been called “an impotent buffoon” (Schwebel 214) or “ineffectual […] ivory-tower aca‐ demic” (C. Bradford 135). His ridiculous method of civil disobedience, i.e. speaking “en‐ tirely in weird words and irony, so one can simplify anything he says” (Feed 147), rubs off on Violet. By ridiculing the character, the novel alienates an “implied reader likely to resent a message about an old-fashioned adult academic being ‘in the know’” (Bullen and Parsons 137), and thus eventually treats Violet’s approach with the same reserva‐ tions and resentments. 145 See Robert Troschitz’s essay “Utopia and the Politics of the Body” (2019) for a survey of eutopia’s and (concomitantly) dystopia’s relationship to the (ideal) human body. I want to go on rides. […] I want to see things grazing through field glasses. I want to go someplace now […] I want to run down to the beach, I mean, a beach where you can go in the water. I want to have a splashing fight. (ibid. 226 f., emphasis in the original) Just like Ruth and Tommy from Never Let Me Go, who imitate the behaviour of TV actors, Violet is highly influenced by the Hollywood discourse of happiness. Celebrated as authentic, Violet is in fact the one character unable to produce an original thought of her own - as she herself states, her ideas are all “so cliché.” Violet’s ideas about what constitutes the good life have been copied directly from daily sitcoms, all the way to a “Formica tabletop.” Ashamed of her preten‐ tious, over-the-top father, 144 her social milieu and the anachronistic, and the old-fashioned technology her family still uses (cf. ibid. 150), Violet seeks to es‐ cape her origins. Structuring her life accordingly, Violet directs her own private sitcom, determined to get everything right. “[G]iven her sitcom source text, she requires a boyfriend to do so” (Schwebel 203), casting Titus in the role: “[n]ow I’ll have a boyfriend, like people have boyfriends” (Feed 279). Violet’s behaviour parallels the deliberations behind Titus’ conception: just like Titus’ parents chose a movie actor to secure their son a bright future, Violet also follows the dreams laid out by Hollywood clichés. 145 195 4. The Inefficiency of ‘External Criticism’ In the end, Titus and Violet turn out to be not so different. Concealed behind her linguistic competence and her extensive liberal education, Violet, in fact, is a rather insecure teenage girl, clutching at every straw for acceptance. In analogy to what Eva Illouz has described in Emotions as Commodities: How Commodities Became Authentic (2018), Violet can no longer tell apart artificial, feed-induced emotions from ‘real’ feelings (cf. 8). Although she “prides herself on thinking outside the feed and being grounded in the real, her idealized life, her hopes and dreams for future self-actualization, amount to little more than images of other already simulated feed images” (Hanson 264). She is as much influenced by the neoliberal market as everyone else, like Titus, who comprises an elegy shortly before her death: Set against the backdrop of America in its final days, it’s the high-spirited story of their love together, it’s laugh-out-loud funny, really heartwarming, and a visual feast. […] Together, the two crazy kids grow, have made madcap escapades, and learn an important lesson about love. They learn to resist the feed. Rated PG-13. For lan‐ guage […] and mild sexual situations. (Feed 307 f.) Recapitulating their love story in the form of a cinema trailer, Titus claims to have learnt how to resist the feed. Yet, this is precisely what neither he nor Violet have achieved. Violet fails to achieve anything; her revolution is deeply flawed, failing to generate social or political transformation. While the neoliberal market economy persists unscathed, Violet does not die a martyr like Mercer. Neither does she awaken other characters, meaning, she and her death leaves “the pro‐ tagonist completely unchanged and reduced to the half-robot he was before” (Nikolajeva 88), nor does she initiate any kind of enlightened reflection on the inhuman nature of market capitalism, let alone any foundation for societal change (cf. Blasingame 89). On the contrary, her death empowers the system, and thus perverts the original logic behind Violet’s rebellion; moral critique is shown to be most unsuccessful since the system continues to exist even after it has allowed a young girl to die. In this regard, readers might still insist on parallels to classical dystopian protagonists, like D-503, Winston Smith, or the Savage, all of whom are mur‐ dered or driven into suicide. Their deaths must be read as cathartic cleansers for readers whom have learnt to condemn the respective totalitarian systems that do not recoil even from murder in their quest for social uniformity. Once they have disposed of these characters, social stability is secured once again. The elimination of the dystopian misfit thus constitutes a central plot device to re‐ gain power after the macro-systemic revolution has failed to gain momentum: since these characters pose a serious threat to the system, they must be removed. 196 V. Feeding Neoliberal Capitalism: M. T. Anderson’s Feed (2002) Having brainwashed Winston (his metaphorical death as a dissident), the Party can be positive in its claim to power. The protagonists’ deaths are thus funda‐ mental to the continued existence of totalitarian states, legitimising and securing the system’s future. Violet’s death falls into a different category, however, “that is, it should not be assumed that [the corporations] let her die because she is succeeding in her resistance and poses a threat” (Canady 283). She is not granted the status of Winston Smith or D-503, who suffer and ultimately sacrifice their lives for the revolution, in order for the reader to see the brutality of the system. Violet may be killed but is denied a meaningful death. Like her life, Violet’s death is reduced to a market transaction. Disregarding her as a valuable investment, the corporations simply “refuse to repair her feed, and therefore let her die, because she did not consume enough” (ibid.). But her death cannot be conceived of as murder. It is, at most, the denial of assistance, which constitutes a crucial difference in terms of effect and tragedy. And once Titus shifts his romantic interest to Quendy (cf. Feed 289), only Violet’s father is left to mourn her passing. It is a slow passing, too; Violet’s death stretches over weeks, in a long, painful, and frightening process, in which body parts simply cease to function, starting with her foot: “[s]omething just won’t work for an hour or two. My finger or something” (Feed 139, emphasis in the original). Despite her hopes for a quick recovery, Violet soon realises that health deteriorates. She loses her memories and her abilities to walk, talk, and move. Consequently, she is faced with the prospect of slow paralysis: “I could lose my ability to move; I could lose my ability to think. Anything. It’s tied in everywhere. […] My heart could just …” (ibid. 181). Both reader and Titus witness the progression of the disease, ex‐ pressed in chapter headlines: “81,7 %” becomes “54,1 %” until barely anything is left of Violet: “4,6 %.” These percentages become a hallmark for the intensity of Titus’ relationship to Violet. His love “ebbs right along with Violet’s life forces” (Parish). When Titus visits her for the last time, he is repulsed by Violet’s de‐ caying and decomposing body, stating that “[s]he was covered in discs. They were on her face and up her arms. She looked real, real pale. […] Her hair had been shaved off, and it was just a fuzz, now. There were scars on her scalp from where they tried to fix her” (Feed 296). Falling into the dehumanising discourse of “fixing,” “repairing,” and “computer,” Titus aptly comments on Violet’s non-agency. Having ceased to function as a consumer, Violet simultaneously loses her agency and her status as human being. She becomes nobody: It was weird to be in the room with her. It was like being in the room with her if she was wood. It didn’t feel like you were in the room with anyone. You could stand there and you would feel completely alone, like you were in a room with a prop. You could watch the prop, and not feel anything, or remember anything about how the prop 197 4. The Inefficiency of ‘External Criticism’ 146 Violet’s imprisonment is also reflected in her decreasing ability to move, and - on a more analytical level - in the inevitability of her fate. Schwebel comments on the par‐ allelism of story lines and the similarities between what happens to the characters and what is prefigured in advertisements and commercials broadcast by the feed: “[c]areful readers, however, can’t fail to notice what Titus misses - the thematic connections between chapter and interchapter, Titus’s life and the media he is fed” (206). Having witnessed a commercial showing the “[i]mage of a girl weeping on a courtroom floor. ‘I am not Girl Number Two! Please, Judge Spandex! I’m also Number One! I’m not a product, but a person’” (Feed 36), readers remember the scene when Violet also begins to plead for her life in her application for financial funding. Real life mimics the feed, taking readers down paths that seem already to have been trodden. 147 Yet, lesions are soon turned into commodities. They are marketed as the must-have for the season: “I saw that Calista had her hair up in this new way, and on the back of her neck was this total insane macro-lesion that I never even saw before” made out of latex (Feed 193). used to joke with you, and how you wanted to kiss it and feel it up. I had thought it would feel like a tragedy, but it didn’t feel like anything at all. (ibid.) Titus’ simile, which compares Violet to a prop, yields a central metaphor: pa‐ ralysis and inability to move. The physical entrapment Violet experiences mir‐ rors the metaphorical paralysis the characters and by extension the readers seem to experience. An alternative seems inconceivable. “Imprisoned. She was im‐ prisoned” (ibid. 297). 146 This is not to suggest that the characters of Feed do not recognise the problems caused by capitalism. The signs are everywhere; the people “were getting” le‐ sions due to pollution (ibid. 21), physical injuries that seemed to come out of nowhere; 147 whales need lamination, a “non-organic covering that made it pos‐ sible for them to live in the sea” (ibid. 290). Even Titus notices environmental problems when he complains about the waste on the moon (cf. ibid. 14). To solve these issues, the government, aware of the declining living standards and de‐ termined to resolve them, has initiated a secret government project involving Titus’ friend, Link who is said to be the genetic clone of Abraham Lincoln. Link can be interpreted as one potential emergency plan the government pursues. As Link literally links back to the great success of Lincoln, the government hopes to have identified a Messianic figure, able to solve the problems of the 21 st century: “he’s part of a secrete patriotic experiment” (ibid. 21). Since Lincoln is usually credited with paving the way to a new time, having famously realised the eutopia of a United States of America without slavery, Link, his genetic clone, is supposed to provide solutions to equally fundamental problems. These include rampant consumerism and an ecological breakdown resulting from the exhaus‐ tion of natural resources. Readers, however, soon learn to view this endeavour 198 V. Feeding Neoliberal Capitalism: M. T. Anderson’s Feed (2002) critically, realising that a recurrence of the past will not solve problems of the present or future. Witnessing Link’s stupidity (for example, Link likes to do the limbo bend forward to make it easier for himself; cf. Feed 196), they are compelled to agree with Schwebel, who argues that Link, more often than not, “highlights the misguided notion that the past offers solutions to current problems” (215). The immanent problems generated by capitalism and the ensuing environ‐ mental breakdown due to overconsumption are “utterly ahistorical” (ibid.) and can therefore not be solved by resorting to the past. Referring to the failed attempt to solve today’s problems with capitalism by drawing on ancient solutions, the novel seems to agree with Fredric Jameson and his assertion that it is easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism (cf. Archaeologies 199). The failure of the government project seems to be foreshadowed by the portraits in Link’s ancestral hall: Link’s dead relatives from long ago. They had old-time names, ones from the past: Abram. Jubilee. Noah. Ezekiel. Hope. Jubilee was frowning. Ezekiel was covered with pockmarks. Hope was this fat old woman with a little dog. Hope was looking off to the side, as if someone she missed was calling her name. (Feed 206) Link’s ancestors amalgamate intertextual Biblical allusions to both divine disasters and the human reactions towards them. While Abram had to prove his faith by sacrificing his only son, both Ezekiel and Noah had to face destruction of a global level, witnessing the destruction of Jerusalem and the flood that annihilated human civilisation respectively. They all personify not only the wrath of the God of the Old Testament, but their names are also intrinsically linked to apocalypse on a private and societal level. Equally revealing are the references conjured by the two portraits of women. In “Jubilee frowning,” Feed indicates that the times for celebrating a hedonistic consumer life might be over. Of greater consequence, however, is the metaphorical implication of the other portrait: “Hope was looking off to the side.” Averting her face, Hope seems to look elsewhere. She cannot find an addressee in the world of Feed. With this meta-comment on the potential of history as a teacher, Feed asks its readers to think beyond the templates offered by the past and to consider the pressing environmental and social issues as the engine behind a much-needed social revolution. If humanity fails to alter the course of its history, insisting on the Fukuyamaist notion of liberal democracy paired with neoliberal consum‐ erism, then Feed envisions only one possible end: a Biblical apocalypse, the total annihilation of life as we know it. Titus’ very name is symptomatic of this kind of thinking. Referring to the Roman emperor Titus, who completed the Coliseum 199 4. The Inefficiency of ‘External Criticism’ and ordered the destruction of Jerusalem (cf. Schwebel 203), Titus represents the epitome of decadence, the experience of living on the edge. It is associated with “not only [the peak of Roman Empire] but also its cataclysmal fall” (ibid.). “Set against the backdrop of America in its final days,” (Feed 307) as Titus self-consciously acknowledges, Feed paints an unsettling portrait of a society in which the cumulative choices of all individuals have created a neoliberal world without alternatives, bringing down the entire solar system. If there is hope, it is certainly not to be found within this narrative. Closing the narrative, yet another advertisement is presented to Titus and the readers after Violet’s death (cf. Gonnermann 37). Exquisitely savouring the double meaning, Feed tells its readers and the characters via the feed: “Feeling blue? Then dress blue! It’s the Blue-Jean Warehouse’s Final Sales Event! Stock is just flying off the shelves at prices so low you won’t believe your feed! Everything must go! Ev‐ erything must go. Everything must go. Everything must go” (309, emphasis in the original). 200 V. Feeding Neoliberal Capitalism: M. T. Anderson’s Feed (2002) Feeling blue? Then dress blue! It’s the Blue-Jean Warehouse’s Final Sales Event! Stock is just flying off the shelves at prices so low you won’t believe your feed! Everything must go! Everything must go. Everything must go. Everything must go. Last page of Feed, 309; layout in the original. While on the surface level, the commercial promotes a sales event, the words can also be read as a final conclusion to rampant consumerism and neoliber‐ alism. The five-times repetition of the words “Everything must go! ” (ibid.), cul‐ minating in the lettering that recedes into the background as if the readers were moving away, drives home the message that humanity must change its lifestyle if it wants to survive. Otherwise, everything must go. 201 4. The Inefficiency of ‘External Criticism’ 148 All references to Cloud Atlas will be cited parenthetically as CA. All quotes refer to the UK version of Mitchell’s novel, which this book treats as the original and definitive version. However, occasionally, examples from the slightly modified US version will be introduced in order to conclude and complete the argument. The differences between the two versions are due to administrative problems experi‐ enced by Mitchell’s US-publisher, who failed to integrate changes made by Mitchell (cf. Flood). Mitchell himself apologised for the confusion, stating that “it hadn’t occurred to me that having two versions of the same novel appearing on either side of the Atlantic raises thorny questions over which is definitive, so I didn’t go to the trouble of making sure that the American changes were applied to the British version (which was entering production by that point probably) and vice versa” (Mitchell quoted in Flood). See Martin Paul Eve’s essay “‘You have to keep track of your changes’: The Version Variants VI. Predatory Capitalism Throughout History: David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas (2004) When critics are asked to describe the literary oeuvre of David Mitchell (born 1969), they usually outdo each other in praise: Mitchell has been celebrated as “a literary houdini” (Leith), as “Britain’s most sophisticated young novelist” ( J. Freeman, “Six-Stranded”), or the “best British story-teller of his generation” (Freund, own translation). His literary fame rests partly on Mitchell’s crafts‐ manship, partly on his refusal to remain silent on topics of global significance: Peter Childs describes Mitchell as part of a “largely post-millennial generation of writers” who are concerned with a “broadening of aesthetic perspective to reflect the new fluidity of global relations” (183). Wendy Knepper states that his works successfully “politicise[…] world literature” (102), and Richard Bradford affirms that Mitchell belongs to a class of contemporary writers who give “as much attention to the nature and potentialities of fiction as they do to the subject of their writing” (63; cf. also 62). He thereby hints at Mitchell’s relationship to stylistic and narrative experiments, which have dazzled readers and critics alike. Cloud Atlas (2004), Mitchell’s third novel (after Ghostwritten, published in 1999, and number9dream from 2001), is usually considered to be his best and most daring work so far. Celebrated as a “contemporary masterpiece” (Clayton 57), the novel has successfully traversed “the chasm between the world of per‐ verse experimental writing and the reading public” (R. Bradford 62): it starts with the diary entries of Adam Ewing, “The Pacific Journal of Adam Ewing,” recording the lawyer’s travel adventures set in the 1850s in the Pacific Ocean. Tasked with “notarial duties in New South Wales” ( CA 5), 148 Ewing recounts how and Publishing History of David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas” (2016) for an analysis of the differences between the two versions. 149 See A. S. Byatt’s review for a survey of different references and intertexts in Cloud Atlas. 150 Jennifer Rickel provides an entertaining anecdote. According to her, readers complained about the peculiar structure of the novel, mistakenly thinking they had been sent a misprint which ends in midsentence. Amazon then published the following disclaimer on the novel’s product page: “[w]e have received complaints from customers that they have received misprinted editions because of the way the story changes direction in the middle of a word on page 39 […]. This is not a misprint or error. It is the way the author has written the book” (quoted in Rickel 167). Unfortunately, the page is no longer ac‐ cessible, so Rickel’s source cannot be verified beyond doubt. However, the webpage accessible as of May 2019 does warn readers that “the end of p39 and p40 are inten‐ tionally blank,” preparing them for the abrupt end of Ewing’s story line (Amazon.de). he got stranded on the Chatham Islands and how he saved the life of Autua, a fugitive slave. Packed with intertextual references to the writing of Herman Melville or Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe (cf. ibid. 3), 149 the narrative abruptly ends in midsentence, only to be followed by a collection of entirely unrelated letters from a young, impoverished British composer, Robert Frobisher, written to his friend Rufus Sixsmith, dating from the 1920s. 150 Roughly fifty pages into the letters about how Frobisher had to leave his home country in order to find employment as an amanuensis in the household of the aging Belgian composer Vyvyan Ayrs, the text is interrupted again. This time, the readers find themselves catapulted into a corporate thriller, following the investigation of 26-year old journalist Luisa Rey, who is about to uncover the crimes of a Californian nuclear power station during the Reagan presidency. And thus the game goes merrily on: leaving Luisa in a moment of existential threat, we find ourselves in con‐ temporary London, following the adventures of Timothy Cavendish, a grumpy vanity publisher, who has to flee his hometown due to financial problems and ends up incarcerated in a home for the elderly in the North of England; the fifth narrative, “An Orison of Sonmi~451,” follows the short life of Sonmi, a female clone in Nea So Copros, the 22 nd century hyper-capitalist consumer dystopia that has replaced contemporary Korea. Focusing on her escape from Papa Song’s, the restaurant chain reminiscent of US -American fast food giants like Papa John’s, McDonald’s, or Burger King, the fifth part is written in the form of a recorded interview between Sonmi and a representative of the government, a historian, who is keen on archiving her ‘crimes’ for public documentation. Fi‐ nally, “Sloosha’s Crossin’ an’ Ev’rythin’ After” tells the story of Zachry, a simple goatherd living on Hawaii in a hunter-gatherer society after the collapse of modern civilisation. Delving into the complex clan structures of one of the last surviving tribes, Zachry’s oral report composed in some sort of Pidgin English 204 VI. Predatory Capitalism Throughout History: David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas (2004) illustrates the harsh living conditions of him and his family, who inhabit a Hob‐ besian nightmare after the extinction of both Western civilisation and tech‐ nology. After having presented Zachry’s account in full length, the novel col‐ lapses back onto itself, i.e. resumes its unfinished narrative arcs and progresses backwards: Sonmi, Cavendish, Rey, Frobisher, and finally Ewing, who has the last word. What connects the narratives is the presence of the earlier narratives: Sonmi reappears as a goddess in Zachry’s world; Timothy Cavendish’s ordeal has been turned into a movie, which Sonmi watches shortly before her execu‐ tion; Timothy is sent the manuscript of a thriller, featuring Luisa Rey as the protagonist; Luisa Rey encounters Frobisher in the form of his music; and Frob‐ isher reads about Ewing, after having found an edited version of the latter’s journal in the library of his employer. Due to this unique and complex narrative structure, critics have experienced difficulties in providing an adequate description for Mitchell’s narrative ap‐ proach: Dominik Büker and Valentijn Vermeer describe Cloud Atlas as a “short story sequence” (cf. 149), yet thereby fail to comment on the particular palimp‐ sestic structure, in which one narrative seamlessly disturbs the other; Astrid Bracke tries to capture Mitchell’s approach by referring to a “two-two-two-for‐ mation: two stories are set in the past, two more or less in the present, and two in the future” (429), yet thereby also ignoring the unique narrative construction. Other critics try to make do by referring to models provided by the novel itself: Melissa Denes argues that “[t]he book is structured like a Russian doll, six nar‐ ratives nestled one inside the other, with a post-apocalyptic future at its centre” (“Apocalypse”; cf. also Eakin), while Gerd Bayer concedes that the novel “con‐ sists of a collection of almost independent narratives that are built in a Chi‐ nese-box structure around each other” (345). Will McMorran further discusses different approaches concerning the narrative structure of the novel, differen‐ tiating between a mother-child-structure, linear telos, and narratological con‐ sumption (cf. 163 f.), concluding that “[t]he spatial terms according to which readers and narratologists seek to map fiction - with its levels and frames and embedded stories - seem ultimately inadequate to a novel like Cloud Atlas” (ibid. 165). To say it in the words of one character, Timothy Cavendish, “Time’s Arrow became Time’s Boomerang” ( CA 149). Cloud Atlas elaborately plays with notions of time, seemingly allowing for a co-existence of a teleological and a cyclical understanding of history (cf. Shoop and Ryan; also Cristofaro), and thus com‐ plicating its classification further. Moreover, starting in the 19 th century in the Pacific and ending in a post-apoc‐ alyptic future on Hawaii, after having travelled different settings like San Fran‐ cisco, London, Belgium and Korea, the novel does not only bridge time and space, 205 VI. Predatory Capitalism Throughout History: David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas (2004) 151 Comparing the six separate narratives (Ewing, Frobisher, Rey, Cavendish, Sonmi, Zachry) first, to each other, and second, to the writings of authors such as Herman Melville, among others, Martin P. Eve claims that the different “episodes possess enough generic distinction to separate them from one another, as though they were written by different authors” (“Close Reading” 93, emphasis in the original). The com‐ puter analysis supported by algorithms seems unable - at least within the limits of Eve’s text corpus - to correctly attribute all sections to one author, thus supporting Mitchell’s fame as a literary ventriloquist, who can jump easily between styles and conventions (cf. Eakin). but also generic conventions. Mitchell seems to effortlessly jump from one genre to another, successfully ventriloquising the style of 19 th -century journals, the epistolary novel, the crime novel or detective thriller, memoirs, science and dystopian fiction, and post-apocalyptic narratives. 151 Consequently, and due to its intertextual, intergeneric, and transhistorical approach, Cloud Atlas has in‐ vited research from quite a number of different disciplines and approaches: it has been read from an ecocritical point of view (cf. Bracke, 2014; also Baucom, 2015), in the context of American transcendentalism (cf. Shanahan, 2016) and postcolonialism (cf. Dunlop, 2011), artificial intelligence (cf. C. A. Sims, 2013) and queer posthumanism (cf. Hortle, 2016), as a representative of neo-Victorian writing (cf. Wallhead and Kohlke, 2010), or within the context of metafiction (cf. K. Brown, 2016). Most often, though, critics focus on the novel within the context of globalisation, transnationalism (cf. Connell, 2012) and cosmopolitanism (cf. Schoene, 2009). Indeed, this approach promises to be the most fruitful one: after all, Cloud Atlas is primarily concerned with the effects of globalised predatory neoliberal mechanisms. Moreover, the novel mingles Friedrich Nietzsche’s con‐ cept of the will to power, and social Darwinism into its deliberations about global capital, to explore the hardships of human life: whatever form violence takes, be it slavery, corporate crimes, or sexual exploitation, all seem to be informed by a decidedly capitalist approach towards life (cf. also Hayles, “ RFID ”). Ac‐ cording to Wendy Knepper, who analyses Mitchell’s novel as standing in the “world literary genre” of the epic rather than the novel (95), Cloud Atlas is best described as an “epic journey through the underworld of global capitalism” (113) and posits a “fractured yet interlocking narrative of global transition, capitalist crisis, and post-apocalyptic development on a planetary scale” (99). In her words, the novel follows “the global capitalist world-system through various phases” (100) closing with a “post-capitalist future of uneven development” (ibid.). As already briefly mentioned, Cloud Atlas constitutes a peculiar amalgam of travel report, spy thriller, and post-apocalyptic narrative with a special focus on 206 VI. Predatory Capitalism Throughout History: David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas (2004) 152 The majority of Mitchell’s novels is - in one way or the other - indebted to thought patterns of dystopian writing: his sixth novel, The Bone Clocks (2014), conjures the spirit of Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four - not only due to its setting in the year 1984 but also in its depiction of the ruling party ‘Stability’ and its hegemonic claims to power (cf. Childs 190). Moreover, the kinship to Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World is obvious in The Bone Clocks: in the novel, “various characters find themselves labelled within a strict socio-economic hierarchy of alphas and gammas” (Schoene 97) and thus the text re-in‐ troduces the taxonomy of Huxley’s Soma induced World State. the tropes, images, and conventions of the dystopian genre. 152 According to Caroline Edwards, the “[e]utopian mode of literary analysis is essential to un‐ derstanding the interrogation of social, political and ecological ways of being found in Mitchell’s fiction” (“Transactions” 179). Indeed, there is much to be gained from reading Mitchell with a utopian template (that is dystopia and eu‐ topia) in mind. While only the fifth narrative of Cloud Atlas, “An Orison of Sonmi~451,” is decidedly dystopian, the other narratives are equally tainted by what M. Keith Booker has called the “dystopian mood” (Literature 7): all six nar‐ ratives exhibit dystopian potential; while they may not be fully fledged dysto‐ pian narratives according to Suvin’s radically less perfect principle (cf. “Theses” 189), they employ dystopian aspects such as the genocide of the Moriori and the dangers of an atomic core melt accident. On a more individual level, the generic kinship becomes even more explicit: with varying intensity, all six narratives occupy themselves with themes of imprisonment and slavery, exploitation and oppression, surveillance, environmental pollution, as well as war and extinction. Cloud Atlas treads seemingly familiar paths in terms of adhering to conven‐ tions of dystopian writing: as A. S. Byatt concedes, “So Copros and Zachry’s Sloosha’s Crossin’ are both recognisable dystopias, one technological and po‐ litical (in the tradition of Orwell, Huxley, Alasdair Gray), the other post-tech‐ nological primitivism (as in Riddley Walker, Golding, Ursula le Guin.” While Sonmi’s name itself (Sonmi~451) is a direct allusion to Ray Bradbury’s book-burning dystopia Fahrenheit 451 (cf. Hicks, Apocalyptic 67), the blissful consumerist world featured in the Sonmi-narrative recalls the Soma induced happiness prescribed by the World State in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World (cf. Clayton 66 and 71). Moreover, as “[h]istory and the past are forbidden areas, pre-consumer religions have been abolished, access to knowledge is restricted” (Machinal 141). The Sonmi narrative ticks almost every stereotypical plot ele‐ ment of classical dystopian fiction off the list. Cloud Atlas even features a direct allusion: Sonmi calls both Orwell and Huxley “optimists” ( CA 220), thus com‐ menting on the extraordinary bleakness of her own contemporary socio-cultural environment in comparison, considered by the already bleak standards set by classical dystopian fiction. Additionally, the novel features more well-nuanced 207 VI. Predatory Capitalism Throughout History: David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas (2004) 153 Moreover, structurally, too, Cloud Atlas pays homage to conventions previously estab‐ lished by classical eutopian and dystopian fiction: Sonmi’s interview, i.e. the “ques‐ tion-and-answer dialogue” (Hayles, “RFID” 58) conducted by an enthusiastic archivist reminds readers not only of Dave Eggers’ The Circle but also of Plato’s Politeia. Equally, many critics have commented on the structural similarities and intertextual references to other dystopian fiction, such as Philip K. Dick, Margaret Atwood, and Ursula Le Guin (cf. Hicks, “Time”; see also Machinal 137 f. and 146). allusions: Nea So Copros owns its own “Ministry of Testaments” (ibid. 187), reminding the readers of the three Orwellian ministries (Ministry of Truth, Peace, Love, and Plenty). The clones refer to the mascot / owner of their restau‐ rant chain as “Papa Song,” thereby fostering the illusion of a familial kinship between suppressor and suppressed, just like Winston Smith and the Party’s Big Brother (cf. ibid. 206). Finally, the autocratic state of Unanimity, like the Party, too, fakes a counter-hegemonic rebellion in the form of the democratic, egali‐ tarian, liberationist resistance-movement, “the Union,” thus cementing its claim to power by conjuring an external foe (cf. O. Lindner 369). Ultimately, the in‐ tertextual dialogue between Cloud Atlas and Nineteen Eighty-Four culminates in a scene, in which one overseer in Mitchell’s futuristic capitalist state “planted his Nike on [Sonmi’s] face” ( CA 200). Here, the text explicitly recycles one of the most lingering images from Nineteen Eighty-Four, namely O’Brien’s bleak prophecy, “[i]f you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face - for ever” (Nineteen Eighty-Four 307). 153 Yet, Roy O. Kamada errs when stating that Cloud Atlas stands only “[i]n the tradition of early twentieth-century dystopian novels such as 1984 [sic! ] and Brave New World” (167). In fact, Cloud Atlas is precisely not a “political dystopia” (137) as Hélène Machinal argues, although the novel diligently establishes its place among the canonical works of dystopian fiction. Cloud Atlas abounds in depictions of economic power running amok, thus shifting the attention away from state-induced violence towards more subtle, less explored forms of coer‐ cion and involuntariness such as network power. As Casey Shoop and Dermot Ryan argue, “[w]hile George Orwell’s 1984 [sic! ] provided a Cold War consensus with the figure of the State as the logical terminus of totalitarianism, Mitchell’s novel offers our contemporary moment the corporation as the ultimate telos of the totalizing logic of neoliberalism” (94 f.). The Darwinian theme of “survival of the fittest” - perverted to fit a capitalist and imperialist logic - resurfacing in the “extermination of a peaceful island tribe by conquering Maori, in the ex‐ tinction of seals, by overhunting, in the looming environmental damage from an unscrupulous nuclear power corporation, in the cloning of human slaves in the near future, and in the radioactive deadlands that cover most of the planet 208 VI. Predatory Capitalism Throughout History: David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas (2004) in the far future” (Clayton 57 f.), more often than not takes the specific form of (neoliberal) capitalism. As Peter Childs asserts, “[a]s part of a post-Marxist view of capitalist operation, predation recurs throughout the novels and reiterates the trope of brutal cultural appropriation into an apocalyptic future” (192). The novel thus clearly identifies the economic realm as the target of critique, moving capitalism towards the centre of is moral enquiry into the ‘right’ form of living. It deconstructs the neoliberal ideology of free individuals within free markets and thus enhances the discourse about the limits of capitalism (cf. O’Donnell 90). Reading Cloud Atlas as a progressive dystopian novel, then, the following analysis is going to trace the mechanisms of critique to be found within the narrative, illuminating the thematic complex of “corporations under global cap‐ italism and the system’s staggering inequalities” (Cristofaro 251). Yet, it also keeps one eye on the historical dimensions of neoliberal capitalism and situates predatory proto-neoliberal behaviour within the 19 th -century slave trade, ex‐ ploitative employment relationships, unregulated corporate power, neoliberal work ethic, and ultimately, state-decreed hyper consumerism, which will even‐ tually lead to the destruction of planet Earth. By violating canonical dystopian genre conventions, Cloud Atlas illustrates the power of network standards to illustrate the systemic deficiencies of contemporary societies. It shows that con‐ trary to the claims brought forth by the defenders of neoliberal capitalism, freedom is not secured by the expansion of free markets - on the contrary, the characters are increasingly restrained in their options until the ecological break‐ down of planet Earth is no longer avertible. Yet, the novel refrains from applying the mechanisms of external criticism by offering a ready-made solution to the systemic problems facing contemporary readers. It identifies external criticism as a non-option that will ultimately create more damage than good. In doing so, Cloud Atlas joins the ranks of those dystopian narratives which employ the technique of immanent criticism, i.e. the formulation and explicit pointing to‐ wards deficiencies, in order to encourage readers to think about alternatives themselves. 1. From Empire to Corpocracy - The History of Capitalism Writing in the year 2000, the grand dame of literary criticism Elaine Showalter lamented about “the situation of the English novel at the turn of century: all dressed up and nowhere to go.” She wrote that “[a]t a historical moment of dazzling metamorphosis, […] English novelists are turning away from the big 209 1. The History of Capitalism 154 Similar critique has been brought forth by Amitav Ghosh. In The Great Derangement (2016), he accuses contemporary authors of being complicit in climate change for they fail to address the topic adequately, considering how urgently humanity needs to find a solution. Ghosh attacks the literary imaginary, which is “increasingly open to certain conceptions of the political while remaining closed to an issue that concerns our col‐ lective survival” (126 f.). subjects to the perennial small change of romance” (“Eternal”). 154 Contemporary novelists, according to Showalter, seem “afraid to tackle big subjects.” They are rather content with making themselves at home with domestic and personal affairs rather than attacking the big picture. Although Showalter explicitly at‐ tacks the writer Jeanette Winterson, her slashing criticism aims at a whole gen‐ eration of authors. Yet thereby she fails to acknowledge those authors and works which do favour ambitious projects and texts. David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas is one such text and not afraid to ask the very big questions. The novel addresses contemporary political issues of pressing significance, such as the conditions of our existence, the conceptualisation of time and history, and not least, the sur‐ vival of the human race faced with the devastating consequences of unmitigated climate change. Cloud Atlas has shown itself “deeply committed to a range of questions and ideas about power, history, capitalism, [and] terrorism” (Hicks, “Time”), focusing on the living conditions of humanity under neoliberal capitalism. To criticise (neoliberal) capitalism as a damaging, even auto-destructive form of life, Cloud Atlas contextualises each of its six narratives within a distinctly capitalist set‐ ting: while each is defined by a historical formation of capitalism that is distin‐ guished by socio-cultural idiosyncrasies, a decidedly capitalist approach to‐ wards life is common to all. To provide the six individual narratives with a sense of unity and relatedness, the novel reproduces a binary character constellation within each story: it contrasts those characters who personify a decidedly cap‐ italist approach towards the world, i.e. the supporters of the capitalist imperative to accumulate wealth, with those who suffer from physical and psychological exploitation in a market dominated world. Tellingly, most of the protagonists seem to belong to the latter group. Most notably, Robert Frobisher and Timothy Cavendish are defined by their inability to handle money responsibly and thus fall prey to their creditors. Cavendish, for instance, is particularly bad with money: inebriated by his surprise success as a publisher, Cavendish neglects his book keeping, downplaying his failure by stating, “[w]as it any wonder Mrs Latham and I were overstretched - just a smidge - on the bookkeeping front” ( CA 154)? This “smidge,” however, grows into a potentially life-threaten- 210 VI. Predatory Capitalism Throughout History: David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas (2004) 155 Originally introduced as the last name of Adam Ewing’s treacherous doctor, the text turns “goose” into a symbol connected to money, wealth, and the human wish for mon‐ etary independence. Inspired by the Aesopian fable about the goose with the golden eggs which cautions people about greed and avarice, Cloud Atlas recycles this motif and inserts it in both Frobisher’s and Cavendish’s tales. Both refer to their benefactors as “goose,” indicating their intention to live off other people: “I’m hardly going to make trouble for a naughty goose who lays such illuminated eggs, am I” (CA 74, emphasis in the original)? Cavendish, too, believes to have found the key to wealth and prosperity in his choleric author: “I, yes, I, had exclusive rights to this platinum goose with a bad case of the trots! ” (ibid. 154) Both, however, have to learn that their fortune will turn against them. ing problem. His rude awakening comes in the form of three abusive debt col‐ lectors, who break into his house and demand financial compensation. Frobisher, too, starts his first letter with an account of how he was forced to flee his hotel with debt collectors “nearly knocking [his] door down” (ibid. 43). From the start, the young composer is characterised by his money problems - or how he calls it, “[f]inancial ‘embarrassment’” (ibid. 57), which will eventually force him to leave his home country (his father has disinherited him), and to accept any kind of work that pays the bills. Time and time again, Frobisher begs his friend Sixsmith to “send whatever [money he] can immediately” (ibid. 58). Eventually, his financial problems start to corrupt his character: pages into his narrative, the reader witnesses how Frobisher is no stranger to prostitution and even theft to make ends meets, stealing valuable first editions from his employer (cf. ibid. 74). The novel thus demonstrates how moral and ethical questions are firmly rooted within financial and monetary deliberations. Characters like Cavendish and Frobisher are not afraid to fight fire with fire, prepared to go down illegal paths to make ends meet: “I agree, of course I’ve ‘used’ her; just as she’s ‘used’ me too” (ibid. 86). Frobisher’s quid pro quo ap‐ proach towards mutual exploitation exemplifies a world that is characterised by people adopting an egotistical approach to secure their own physical well-being no matter the cost. This approach, however, ignores the damage and casualties along the way as characters legitimise their actions by an opaque, social Dar‐ winist ideology. As Henry Goose 155 (the charlatan doctor who deliberately poi‐ sons Adam Ewing) admits, “’[t]is absurdly simple. I need money & in your trunk, I am told, is an entire estate, so I have killed you for it. Where is the mystery” (ibid. 523)? In order to profit financially, characters in Cloud Atlas are ready to sell their own grandmother - figuratively speaking. After having survived an assassination attempt, Luisa Rey believes herself safe and in the company of friends: “I’d trust Milton with my life” (ibid. 412). Ironically, it is the very same Milton, who - seconds later - is prepared to sell Rey out on the phone: “[w]ould 211 1. The History of Capitalism 156 Although the two versions of Cloud Atlas (US and UK) differ significantly in this part of the novel, both versions feature this important guiding principle of the corpocracy (cf. 325, US version). her whereabouts be worth anything to you? Yeah? How much” (ibid. 413)? Money, in this novel, makes the world go round, and creates advantages for those who can afford to bribe and threaten. Characters such as Ewing, Sonmi, or Luisa Rey remain firmly posited at the receiving end of exploitation. Capitalism functions (sometimes more prominently, sometimes less) as the defining matrix behind all social interaction. In order to criticise a thoroughly neoliberal approach towards life, Mitchell introduces a hyper-capitalist society set in the 22 nd century, i.e. the Sonmi narrative: the text “delineates a sinister future riddled with hypercapitalism, environmental pollution, irresponsible ge‐ netic engineering and continual war” (O. Lindner 364), in which the maxim “I consume, therefore I am” has been elevated to a nearly religious doctrine. Indi‐ viduals no longer occupy the status of ‘citizens’ but are addressed as ‘consum‐ ers’: “[h]ow the consumers seethed to buy, buy, buy; a many-celled sponge of demand that sucked goods and services from every vendor, dinery, bar, shop and nook as it spilled dollars” ( CA 236). In Sonmi’s description, consumers morph into a non-human, sponge-like entity which is defined by its un-reflected con‐ sumption of “goods and services.” Sonmi’s words conjure the image of a mind‐ less, parasitic being that “sucks,” i.e. rapidly consumes, a never-ending stream of products, thereby spilling dollars in return. The repetition of “buy, buy, buy” places the focus on the act of purchasing goods as if it were a means in itself. Reminiscent of the mechanism that turns US citizens into customers in Dave Eggers’ The Circle, the functional shift from citizen to consumer in Cloud Atlas highlights market-dominance over politics and the complete reconceptualiza‐ tion of human beings within a neoliberal world order. Consumers, unlike citi‐ zens, do not own inalienable human rights but are valued according to their economic performance and wealth. Cloud Atlas fittingly underlines this re-con‐ ceptualisation from ‘citizen’ to ‘consumer’ by other semantic shifts to enhance the effect, namely, by re-defining the meaning of “soul”: originally referring to “the spiritual or immaterial part of a person considered in relation to God and religious or moral precepts” (“soul,” OED ), the concept now delineates an im‐ planted chip that stores information about its carrier, enabling individuals to access their bank account, purchase goods, and to operate elevators, for instance (cf. Hayles, “ RFID ” 57): “A Soul’s Value is the Dollars Therein” ( CA 341). 156 Conspicuously, the term “has lost its spiritual connotations” (Hicks, Apocalyptic 68 f.), yet highlights capitalism’s elevation to a curious amalgam of religion and ideology, which has replaced all “pre-consumer religions” ( CA 346): all con‐ 212 VI. Predatory Capitalism Throughout History: David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas (2004) 157 Employing the concept of ‘untermenschen,’ Mitchell knowingly resorts to Nazi termi‐ nology, and thus to a discourse circling around euthanasia, racism, and questions about lives worth living. Moreover, like Atwood in The Heart Goes Last, Cloud Atlas seems to suggest an intrinsic if not causal relationship between free-market capitalism and to‐ talitarianism, with the former paving the way for the latter. sumers are required to “spend a fixed quote of dollars each month, depending on their strata” to keep consumption high and the economy ready-oiled. Hoarding, i.e. not spending any money, has become an “anti-corpocratic crime” (ibid. 237). Those who cannot keep up due to poverty or illness end up in un‐ termensch slums like “Huamdonggil,” the futuristic variation of what contem‐ porary readers know as “Huam-dong,” a neighbourhood of today’s Seoul. These areas are viewed as a chemical toilet where unwanted human waste disintegrates, discreetly; yet not quite invisibly. Untermensch slums motivate downstrata consumers by showing them what befalls those who fail to spend and work like good citizens […] MediCorp open a weekly clinic for dying Untermensch to xchange [sic! ] healthy-body parts for euthanazing [sic! ]; (ibid. 332, emphasis in the original) The untermensch  157 slums serve as metaphorical dumping ground for “unwanted human waste,” i.e. those individuals who cannot contribute to the economy, either because they have no credit left or since they have become part of the surplus population after having fled the production zones in Africa or Indonesia because of “malaria, flooding, drought, rogue crop-genomes, parasites, [or] en‐ croaching deadlands” (ibid.). Semantically analogous to “waste” and thus stripped bare of their humanity (compare to the clones in Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go), this faceless mass of ‘human waste’ stands metonymically for all those who fail to contribute as workers or consumers. Just like in Atwood’s The Heart Goes Last, being in employment predisposes human dignity in Mitchell’s futur‐ istic dystopia. Yet, this 22 nd century version of Marx’ “relative surplus population” or “re‐ serve army of labour” does have a task to fulfil. They remind downstrata con‐ sumers, i.e. the lower middle class in today’s jargon, “what befalls those who fail to spend and work like good citizens.” Their lamentable fates are turned into cautionary tales, conditioning others to fulfil their duties as consumers: ‘con‐ sume and work,’ a crude perversion of the medieval monastic motto ‘ora et labora.’ Moreover, they demonstrate how thoroughly commodified Mitchell’s futuristic Korea has become: untermenschen constitute a valuable resource, serving as welcome spare parts depots, for they provide a never-ending stream of “healthy body parts.” Even in their death and after having been stripped of 213 1. The History of Capitalism 158 Mitchell’s text is an exercise in language change throughout the centuries. Especially the last two narratives, Sonmi’s and Zachry’s stories, attract attention in this respect since they deviate strongly from today’s Standard English. In Sonmi’s part, “we are presented with an exceedingly modern world composed of purebloods, xecs, genomicists, syntaxists, aides, tellers, archivist and fabricants, who have been given mathematical names” as well as “unfamiliar technological and medical words (kalodoxalyn, stimulin, amnesiads, xenon, neon, carbdiox, ascension catalysts, soporifix, medics, aircon in‐ flows, Medicorp, biocosmeticians, healant), sometimes in the form of abbreviations or capital letters (sync, EyeSats, Xultation, AdV)” (Sorlin 76, emphasis in the original). This technological and mathematical precision and efficacy stands in sharp contrast to the language spoken by Zachry and his people: the “linguistic fabric has become threadbare; some letters have completely disappeared, replaced by apostrophes, which makes the text sometimes hard to read” (ibid.). To increase the readability of this analysis, the deviations from standard English will not be marked by “[sic! ]” within the quotes taken from Mitchell’s novel. 159 Fittingly, the pharmaceutical industry in Mitchell’s futuristic Korea does provide rem‐ edies for diseases of affluence: corpulence, anorexia, and aging; yet, there is no talk of medicine for the diseases plaguing the inhabitants of the production zones, for instance, Malaria. Readers might suspect that the research involved in fighting Malaria & Co. does not promise equally high profits as selling anti-aging creams and pills to wealthy ‘upstrata consumers’ and is not conducted since it does not promise financial benefits. both money and thus value in both the literal and metaphorical sense, the un‐ termenschen support a profit-oriented industry specialised on extracting value from the death of Copros’ ‘surplus population.’ Indeed, in Nea So Copros the market has entered all aspects of human life, just like in M. T. Anderson’s Feed. As Kunkel concedes, “all things and many persons are for sale - a condition no one any longer recognizes as political - and the state exists only to keep the peace in wealthier districts and ensure the continued functioning of markets and labor and other commodities” (“Dystopia” 92). The right to bear children is regulated by a fixed quota, which can be traded and purchased (cf. CA 194) and customers can have the gender of their new-born genetically modified (cf. ibid. 352). The wealthy may purchase “pills for cancer, aids, alzheimer’s, lead-tox; for corpulence, anorexia, baldness, hairiness, xuber‐ ance, 158 glumness, dewdrugs for aging; drugs for overindulgence in dewdrugs” (ibid. 236). 159 Moreover, in exchange for money, customers can employ the services of facescapers and have their appearance altered, rejuvenated, and beau‐ tified beyond recognition and according to the latest fashion (cf. ibid. 238). For corporations and those wealthy enough to consume, Nea So Copros con‐ stitutes an eutopia - for those, as suggested by Ewing, “moneyed, the privileged, the fortunate, [who do] not fare so badly in this world, provided our luck holds” (ibid. 528). For all others, it is a nightmarish dystopia, that discriminates against those who have been denied access to this consumerist heaven by birth: genet‐ 214 VI. Predatory Capitalism Throughout History: David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas (2004) 160 Up until now, the figure of the zombie had been the metaphor of choice for criticising capitalism (cf. Lieber). As Sherryl Vint argues, “such creatures are ways of working through the alienation of capitalist extraction of surplus value: they mirror how hu‐ man’s living labor is turned into a dead thing, a commodity”(135). Yet, Cloud Atlas employs the figure of the clone - a stylistic choice Kazuo Ishiguro had made before - and thus constructs its critique around the idea of humans specifically produced for hard physical labour. Both, Ishiguro’s cloned organ donators, and Mitchell’s labour slaves contribute to a particular discourse: what makes a human human? As Roy Ka‐ mada describes, in both novels, their “ontological difference from the human is insisted upon even as that difference remains mysterious and nearly inarticulable” (165). 161 The movie version (by Tom Tykwer and Andy and Lana Wachowski, 2011 / 12) places more emphasis on Sonmi’s gender and sexuality than the novel does. Whereas the latter describes her and Hae-Joo’s love-making as “joyless, graceless, and necessarily impro‐ vised, but it was an act of the living” (CA 361), the movie adds a romantic sublevel to it, turning Sonmi and Hae-Joo into almost star-crossed lovers with Hae-Joo willing to sacrifice himself for his beloved (cf. Cloud Atlas). This of course reduces Sonmi’s role, as the audiences’ attention is forced away from her political and social aspirations to‐ wards the plot of a rom-com. ically cloned fabricants, i.e. labour slaves such as Sonmi~451. 160 During her short live span, Sonmi serves one purpose only, namely, to “raise a lot of dollars” (ibid. 229), be it for the restaurant chain Papa Song, which she works for as a waitress, or later as an object of study for science labs, which have auctioned for the rights of access. Clones, to say it in the words of Benjamin Kunkel, serve as a symbol for the “nightmare of perfected neoliberalism” (“Dystopia” 92), for they consti‐ tute a thoroughly commodified form of life, most aptly symbolised by the bar‐ code they are branded with (cf. CA 335). They are thus given the status of a product, rather than a “pureblood consumer.” Mitchell criticises this ideology by highlighting both the intelligence and the emotional depth of his clone protag‐ onist Sonmi, who continues to become more human throughout the narrative (cf. ibid. 242, 335, 362) 161 - a grave crime, since commonplace logic teaches con‐ sumers that clones “‘deserve’ their enslavement because they have limited con‐ sciousness” (Hayles, “ RFID ” 59). The narrative insists on the fact that the biological and moral dichotomy separating purebloods from clones is artificial and non-sensical, for both groups suffer equally under neoliberal capitalism. Sonmi’s very name is a case in point: “[t]he play between the name (traditionally connoting an individual) and number (indicating a mass-produced objects) points to how the human / thing dynamic is destabilised” (ibid. 58). As Christopher A. Sims writes, “[w]hat this combination allows is a scenario that turns both the servers and the purebloods into resources” (202). This observation is exemplified by Sonmi’s description after having visited the slaughter ship, where veteran clones are murdered and turned into food for future workers: “[i]n the metro, the commuters swayed; I 215 1. The History of Capitalism ‘saw’ cadavers on the monorail” ( CA 361). Both the bodies of the slaughtered clones and the commuters going home after work merge into one picture, over‐ lapping each other and producing the connotation of “cadavers.” In Sonmi’s eyes, commuters and servers are ontologically equivalent to each other, with both providing the carnal basis for rapid consumption in a neoliberal world - they are, to say it in the words of Violet from M. T. Anderson’s YA dystopia, feed. Sonmi’s world illustrates the combination of “corporate capitalism, govern‐ ment, and theocracy” (Hayles, “ RFID ” 57). This new social form is captured by the neologism ‘corpocracy,’ which according to Jennifer Rickel suggests that future societies think of corporations “as individuals with rights” and that the “supposed globalization of democracy is more concerned with expanding cor‐ porate influence” (173). Indeed, to show how deeply capitalism and the imper‐ ative to consume have shaped the identity of this society, Mitchell introduces changes to the language spoken in Nea So Copros. Additionally to slightly modified grammar, which should imitate linguistic change from contemporary Standard English to the variant spoken in the 22 nd century, brand names populate the text: Sonmi and her contemporaries speak of “nikes” instead of shoes (cf. CA 198), “fords” instead of cars (cf. ibid. 209), “starbuck” instead of coffee (cf. ibid. 237), “marlboro” instead of cigarettes (cf. ibid. 351) or “disney” instead of movies (cf. ibid. 221). Reflecting the power of corporations, “[l]anguage itself is branded” (Denes) and has become commodified. The frequent use of the neologisms shows how naturalised the power of companies has become: reality itself is accessible only via a discourse that is defined by corporate names. The fact that both char‐ acters and readers have no trouble communicating, though, shows how close the readers’ reality is to Mitchell’s dystopia. This futuristic language “is a direct heir of our own” (Abley 208). The choice of words is one impetus among many which prompts readers “to reflect on the current global system of totalized cap‐ italism which promotes rampant consumption” (Ng 118), for the differences are only gradual in nature. So, the narrative does not allow for an escapist reading, which excuses the hypercapitalist excesses of the future as being far away from the readers’ on‐ tological reality. On the contrary, Sonmi explicitly links her time to the extra‐ diegetic reality of contemporary readers, when she refers back to the Timothy Cavendish narrative, which is situated at the beginning of the second millen‐ nium, i.e. approximately at the time of the book’s publication. The US version of the text is more explicit in this respect: upon watching Cavendish’s “Ghastly Ordeal,” which has been turned into a disney, Sonmi states that [t]he past is a world both indescribably different from and yet subtly similar to Nea So Copros. […] Dollars circulated as little sheets of paper and the only fabricants were 216 VI. Predatory Capitalism Throughout History: David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas (2004) 162 See Treasa de Loughry’s “David Mitchell’s Representations of Environmental Crisis and Ecological Apocalypse” (2019) for an analysis of the surplus population in the narrative of Timothy Cavendish, which creates yet another link between the two time zones. sickly livestock. However, corpocracy was emerging and social strata was demarked, based on dollars and, curiously, the quantity of melanin in one’s skin. (CA, US version 234 f.) Sonmi’s excursion into the past establishes a direct link between her society and the situation at the beginning of the 21 st century, locating the origin of the hyper-capitalist corpocracy in the neoliberal systems of today. Although “dollars circulated as little sheets of paper” and were not stored by a consumer’s soul (Sonmi comments on the bygone corporeality of money, which has been turned into an abstract token bereft of real-world equivalences), and although Sonmi’s predecessors “were sickly livestock” only (an allusion to Dolly the sheep, the first genetically cloned mammal, which was put to rest after having contracted a lung disease; cf. Gabbatiss), the similarities are more compelling than the dif‐ ferences. Sonmi concedes that “corpocracy was emerging.” The basis for the atrocities committed in the future can thus be found in the not-so-distant past, i.e. the contemporariness of Mitchell’s readers. 162 Indeed, Sonmi’s statement invites her audience to think of capitalism as a teleological process, establishing a causal-temporal link between the early 21 st and the 22 nd century. As Berthold Schoene concedes, [t]he extreme dystopia of Sonmi’s early life as a genetically engineered, subhuman server […] is presented as little more than a very rational simplification of socio-eco‐ nomic relations already prevalent in Luisa Rey’s America of the 1970s, where at cor‐ porate get-togethers ‘hispanic maids supplied by the caterers carry trays of food be‐ tween the all-white guests’ […], as well as Timothy Cavendish’s contemporary Britain. (117) Schoene is correct in identifying the capitalist matrix behind the six different narratives. Indeed, especially the Luisa Rey narrative is most revealing, for it illustrates the origins of corporate power and growing neoliberalism in the United States. Set in the 1970s, the narrative foreshadows the Reagan era - the epoch in which political leaders around the world implemented neoliberalism as part of their political agenda. In fact, Ronald Reagan, destined to become president in the 1980s and “majorly instrumental in building our current neo-lib‐ eralist world order” (ibid. 118) features as a character in the text: “[t]he telephone rings. ‘No,’ frowns Wiley, into the mouthpiece, ‘Mr Reagan can wait his turn. I’m busy’” ( CA 424). This short section serves a double function: firstly, it con‐ 217 1. The History of Capitalism textualises the narrative as set during a distinctly successful period of free-market capitalism; and, secondly, it illustrates the enormity of corporate power. Just like Tom Stenton, Dave Eggers’ Circle CEO , has democratically elected politicians wait their turn, so does Wiley, Mitchell’s all-powerful CEO behind Seaboard Corporation and its potentially devastating HYDRA Project. As Schoene writes, “[p]olitics is succumbing to the interests of corporacy [sic! ] while society’s communal dynamics wind up frozen by state control” (117 f.). Tellingly, Mitchell chooses to stage his corporate thriller in “the post-Summer of Love period” (French), in which counterculture and rebellion against con‐ sumerism and corpocratic control were already in decline. Luisa Rey inhabits a world that foreshadows many of the elements later to be rediscovered in Sonmi’s dystopian nightmare. The novel “suggests that Nea So Copros descended directly from Buenas Yerbas, California, in the 1970s” (Mezey 26). In the words of Michaela Bronstein, “the future […] lurks within the present” (128) of Luisa Rey, where the unequivocal belief in the benefits of a supposedly meritocratic system based on economic power gets hold. Invited to one of her mother’s charity lunches, Rey makes the acquaintance of three brothers, the Henderson triplets, who voice these exact convictions uncritically and unre‐ flectively, thus merging capitalism with earlier discourses about the superiority of the West and intellectually paving the way towards Nea So Copros: ‘I’d establish - I’m not afraid to say it - our country’s rightful - corporate - empire. Because if we don’t do it …’ ‘… the Japs’ll steal the march. The corporation is the future. We need to let business run the country and establish a true meritocracy.’ ‘Not choked by welfare, unions, ‘affirmative action’ for amputee transvestite col‐ ored homeless arachnophobes…’ ‘A meritocracy of acumen. A culture that is not ashamed to acknowledge that wealth attracts power …’ ‘… and that the wealthmakers - us - are rewarded. When a man aspires to power, I ask one simple question: ‘Does he think like a businessman? ’’ (CA 420, emphasis in the original) The text does not go into the trouble of differentiating between who of the Henderson triplets said what - and it does not have to. The triplets utter common place universalities of neoliberal market logic and personify an entire discourse void of substance. Their shared convictions that “the corporation is the future” ironically is to come true to the letter. Nea So Copros will establish a system in which “business run[s] the country and establish[es] a true meritocracy.” The choice of their words constructs capitalism as the most natural and concomi‐ 218 VI. Predatory Capitalism Throughout History: David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas (2004) 163 Although Cloud Atlas conceptually links the existence of clones to autocratic corporate power and neoliberal capitalism most obviously in the Sonmi narrative, the other nar‐ ratives regularly feature allusions to clones and neoliberal capitalism, such as the Hen‐ derson brothers. Them being triplets, i.e. three individuals with identical exterior and genetic code, nicely foreshadows the clones’ conceptual nexus to neoliberalism and the reduplication of humans. Ironically, the Henderson triplets consider themselves to be part of the “meritocracy of acumen,” which rewards “wealthmakers - us” (CA 420, em‐ phasis in the original), and not part of the working underclass, to which their identical appearance would align them to. Another example features in the Cavendish-text. Ab‐ sconding and trying to leave London, Cavendish strands at a train station. Frustrated by the bad customer service, he grumbles, “[t]he corporation breeds them from the same stem cell” (ibid. 170). He thereby, too, demonstrates how cloned workers and corporate power form a powerful imagery within the anti-capitalist discourse. tantly most successful form of human organisation which has - unfortunately - so far been “choked” by state interventions such as welfare and unions. If cap‐ italism - itself personified - were allowed to breathe freely and were not kept down by social programmes, it would lead the United States to their “country’s rightful - corporate - empire.” This claim is highlighted by the brothers ridi‐ culing state programmes directed at easing the economic suffering of the poor by referring to them as “‘affirmative action’ for amputee transvestite colored homeless arachnophobes.” 163 The Henderson triplets combine various discourses in this short section: cap‐ italism, racism, as well as colonialism and imperialism. Fittingly, the latter two concepts are primarily thought of in capitalist terms: “our country’s rightful - corporate - empire.” In fact, to the Hendersons, political power is virtually non-existent as a form of power in its own right. It necessarily mingles with economic power, making the latter the decisive factor in building up an empire. Their credo, to ask any man (! ) aspiring to power whether “he think[s] like a businessman,” emphasises the kinship between the two terms. Real power, the triplets seem to suggest, is economic power. Moreover, by mentioning the key words “corporate” and “empire” within one sentence, their utterance gestures beyond their own socio-cultural reality (i.e. 1970s, California) and opens a dis‐ course that reaches back in history towards the 18 th century and earlier, defined by the colonial and imperial aspirations of European super powers. Having stopped off at the Luisa Rey narrative, Cloud Atlas thus invites its readers to locate the origin of Sonmi’s neoliberal dystopia even further back in time (cf. Wallhead and Kohlke 241). Bridging the gap between the 18 th and the 20 th century, Cloud Atlas locates the logical roots of capitalism as early as at Adam Ewing’s time, namely in the 18 th and 19 th century. As Luisa Rey herself states upon stumbling into an under‐ world sweatshop: “it’s 1875 down here […] not 1975” ( CA 443, emphasis in the 219 1. The History of Capitalism 164 See Jason W. Moore’s “The Capitalocene, Part I: On the Nature and Origins of our Eco‐ logical Crisis” (2017), in which he argues along the same lines as the novel: capitalism is not a relatively young phenomenon, but, in fact, the “history of capitalism […] begins in the era of Columbus” (596). Arguing against the common notion that conflates cap‐ italism with the Industrial Revolution and thus locating it historically at the end of the 18 th and the beginning of the 19 th century, Moore tries to convince his readers that “the historical era shaped by the endless accumulation of capital” (ibid.) is essentially a modern, imperial project that encompasses for instance that practice of slavery (cf. ibid. 608, 611) - “[b]etween 1450 and 1750, a new era of human relations in the web of life begins: the Age of Capital” (ibid. 610). Mapping capitalism as “epochal shift in the ways of earth-moving (mining, farming), state-making, mechanization and symbolic prac‐ tice,” Moore favours the term “Capitalocene” to express the dominance of capital. original). The horrible working conditions, the “viscous heat,” the bleak room with “naked bulbs hanging over each machinist,” and most importantly, the “flakes of textile” hovering in the air remind readers more of the 18 th than of the 19 th century, and thus the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution. The setting is reminiscent of the Industrial Novel or Social Novel, which focuses on the depiction of social critique, most notably by illustrating the horrible working conditions and the exploitation of the workers. Novels like Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South (1855) abound in descriptions of how health-damaging “flakes of textile,” i.e. cotton “fluff ” is to for the workers: “[l]ittle bits, as fly off fro’ the cotton, when they’re carding it, and fill the air till it looks all fine white dust. […] Anyhow, there’s many a one as works in a carding-room, that falls into a waste, coughing and spitting blood, because they’re just poisoned by the fluff ” (North and South 102; cf. also Atchison and Shames 42). Working conditions within capitalist production zones, it seems, have barely changed since the Industrial Revolution. As Rey herself concedes, cheap labourers, in Mitchell’s case “His‐ panic or Chinese [women] only” ( CA 443), are exploited for profit, exposed to potentially life-threatening work processes - only to be replaced by cheap, again female, clone workers such as Sonmi in the future. Indeed, “[t]he construction of the novel gives the impression that since the end of the eighteenth century, humanity has been paving the way to that post‐ human dystopia” (Machinal 134). 164 Cloud Atlas establishes a direct causal-tem‐ poral chain between Sonmi’s Nea So Copros and the colonial enterprises that inform Adam Ewing’s time. The will to power asserting itself in the form of economic dominance supports both slavery and colonialism towards the begin‐ ning of the novel and leads to “the corporate corruption Rey discovers in the 1970s” (Rickel 168), culminating in Sonmi’s capitalist dystopia. 220 VI. Predatory Capitalism Throughout History: David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas (2004) When Adam Ewing interrogates Henry Goose about his business on the beach, Goose contextualises “the violence born of capitalist accumulation” (Knepper 104): Teeth, sir, are the enamelled grails of the quest in hand. In days gone by this Arcadian strand was a cannibals’ banqueting hall, yes, where the strong engorged themselves on the weak. The teeth, they spat out, as you or I would expel cherry stones. But these base molars, sir, shall be transmuted to gold & how? An artisan of Piccadilly who fashions denture-sets for the nobility pays handsomely for human gnashers. Do you know the price a quarter pound will earn, sir? (CA 3) Goose cherishes the mortal remains of murder victims as an opportunity to enrich himself: human teeth are described as “enamelled grails” and can be “transmuted to gold” by turning them into a commodified resource that satisfies the demand of both producers (“artisan of Piccadilly”) and customers (“no‐ bility”). As Wendy Knepper concedes, “[t]aking up where the cannibal left off, Goose outlines his grisly plans to extract profit from the trade, traffic, and re‐ incorporation of the human teeth of formerly cannibalized persons” (104). Thereby, the text deconstructs the master narrative of the civilised West and recontextualises Europe and America within the “‘primitive’ practices of capi‐ talist accumulation” (ibid. 105). Quoting from Jerry Philips, Knepper goes on to argue that capitalism is shown to be “the ultimate statement of the ‘savagery’ of history” (106) for it allows commodification, exploitation, and discrimination to prosper under the pretext of progress. This conglomerate is best exemplified by the institution of slavery. Slavery in Cloud Atlas, too, is described as a practice informed by the wish for capitalist wealth accumulation and thus sets the preliminary end point of the novel’s in‐ vestigation into capitalism’s past and origin. As Ferguson argues, “Mitchell ob‐ liquely traces the causes of his coming apocalypse all the way back to Ewing’s nineteenth century colonial account.” Indigenous slaves are treated as a source of cheap labour, ‘helping’ their owner to prosper financially (cf. Sonmi as server). Disguising the commodification of human beings as ‘progress,’ the defenders of slavery enjoy the benefits stemming from “subjugating the lives of others to the power of death, whether for power, profit, or both” (Knepper 110). Slavery, in both its ancient and its futuristic form (Moriori and clones; cf. C. A. Sims 227), is a deeply capitalist practice enabled by commodification processes and sus‐ tained due to its advantages for capitalist accumulation. Moreover, it connects the American Ewing and the Brit Goose on a conceptual level, and thus spans cultures and continents on an abstract level: after all, the transatlantic slave trade constitutes an elaborate trading system that transported 221 1. The History of Capitalism 165 While the British citizens of course pride themselves on the abolition of slavery, Lynda Ng has correctly noted, that African slaves were “simply replaced by the recruitment of Asian indentured labor” as can be seen in Amitav Ghosh’s recent Ibis trilogy (2008-2012) (115). The difference between the USA and the British Empire is thus only gradual in nature. 166 See Eric Eustace Williams’ ground-breaking Capitalism and Slavery (1944) for an in‐ vestigation of the wealth derived from cotton trade; see also Sven Beckert’s global his‐ tory of capitalism called Empire of Cotton: A New History of Global Capitalism (2018). slaves as well as goods between the British Isles, Africa, and the American col‐ onies. Once the slave trade had officially been abolished (“We Britishers abol‐ ished slavery in our empire - no American can say that much! ”), 165 Liverpool and Manhattan remained connected by the cotton trade - a resource harvested by black slaves in the South (cf. Johnson, Dark Dreams 10). 166 Slavery, and by extension, capitalism, so the novel seems to suggest, are a global phenomenon that surpasses both state boundaries and time itself. Many critics refuse to read slavery as a practice situated within the logic of capitalism. Referring back to Marx, who did not evaluate slavery as a proper capitalist practice (cf. Harvey, Neoliberalism 159), many Marxists have termed slavery a “‘pre-capitalist,’ ‘archaic,’ a ‘conservative’ residuum” ( Johnson, “Ped‐ estal” 303; cf. also Beckert and Rockmann 9). Indeed, “at first glance, the expe‐ rience of slaves in the Mississippi Valley seems far removed - even conceptually antithetical - to the world of ‘capitalism’” ( Johnson, Dark Dreams 244). Yet, Johnson also asks, “[i]f slavery was not capitalist how do we explain its com‐ mercial character” (“Pedestal” 303)? In his River of Dark Dreams (2013), Johnson continues: A materialist and historical analysis - a focus on what happened, rather than on how what happened was different from what should have happened if Mississippi had, in fact, been a bit more like Manchester - begins from the premise that in actual histor‐ ical fact there was no nineteenth-century capitalism without slavery. […] Extracting the history of industrial development […] from the historical context of its entanglement with slavery, itemizing its differences from the economic field from which it had been artificially separated, labelling it ‘capitalism’ in pure form, and then turning around and comparing it to the slavery upon which it subsisted in order to judge the latter “preca‐ pitalist” or “noncapitalist” - this way of proceeding conscripts historical analysis to the services of ahistorical ideal types. (254, emphasis in the original) The mutual dependencies of capitalism and slavery captures the attention of more and more critics. In Slavery’s Capitalism (2016), Beckert and Rockmann investigate how “slavery became central to and perhaps even constitutive of a particular formation in the history of capitalism, and how slavery helped con‐ 222 VI. Predatory Capitalism Throughout History: David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas (2004) stitute capitalist modernity in the workplace, the counting house, the country‐ side, and the factory” (10). Starting from the observation that “[n]ineteenth-cen‐ tury Americans had little difficulty grasping slavery’s capitalism” (ibid. 2), they situate slavery at the centre of their investigation about the economic history of the United States, arguing that at its heart, slavery is a capitalist practice. Having traced the history of capitalism for a time span of more than 500 hundred years in the past and in the future, Cloud Atlas demonstrates its interest in the formation of a free-market capitalist world order by arguing - in the words of Jason W. Moore - that capitalism is the constitutive factor of “the web of life” (cf. 599). As Hélène Machinal argues, Cloud Atlas is structured around “three successive revolutions” (136). These profound formations of society express themselves as industrial revolutions: The first industrial revolution coincides with the rise of the novel which is synony‐ mous with the emergence of the bourgeoisie and the individualistic ethos of capi‐ talism; it is therefore certainly not fortuitous that “The Pacific Journal” should unfold precisely during that period […]. Frobisher’s letters testify to the end of an era after which will emerge an economy of the masses and a consumer society on which power is concentrated in the hands of a few financial tycoons […]. However, the third industrial revolution is certainly that which Mitchell’s novel aims to denounce as the most dangerous threat to the future of humankind. The posthuman world described in Sonmi’s narrative leads to a de-humanizing process, which is founded on the annihilation of subjectivity and free will. (ibid.) Arguing that Cloud Atlas’ time levels (Ewing’s Journal, Frobisher’s Letter, and Sonmi’s Interview) coincide with major economic and technological develop‐ ments, Machinal also contends that the novel establishes a chronological and historical causality between the three stages. Thereby, the novel “stages a protest against big business” (Rickel 169) and argues that “the perils of allowing unre‐ strained economic competition in the present day” (ibid.) stem from centuries of unregulated capital accumulation. With (neoliberal) capitalism in various formations present throughout the centuries, the characters have learnt to accept it as constitutive of reality itself. Capitalism is an omnipresent fact which escapes critical scrutiny, as Sonmi makes clear. She compares consumers to children and their limited cognitive capacities when stating: “[w]hen you were three or four, Archivist, your father vanished daily to a realm called ‘Work,’ did he not? He stayed at ‘Work’ until curfew, but you didn’t worry yourself over the dimensions, location or nature of that realm because your concerns lay xclusively in your foreground” ( CA 223 1. The History of Capitalism 189). Capitalism, its mechanisms and ‘dimensions’ literally escaped the cognitive access of individuals. The free market has become a naturalised social system, a ‘natural order’ which is most suited for human social form - again the US version is more explicit than the UK version: “[b]e that as it may, future ages will still be corpocratic ones. Corpocracy isn’t just another political system that will come and go —corpocracy is the natural order, in harmony with human nature” ( CA , US version 234, emphasis in the original). Mitchell’s characters are deeply influenced and shaped by the cognitive limits set by a capitalist form of life. In fact, its six interlocking narratives represent distinctive historical formations of capitalism which are unique and yet related in their ideologies and norms, paving the way towards a thoroughly commodified neoliberal nightmare of rampant consumerism and ecological breakdown. The sixth narrative, the only uninterrupted episode at the very heart of the novel, Zachry’s oral account of his early adult years, “Sloosha’s Crossin’ an’ Ev’rythin’ After,” can be regarded as the culmination of the teleological process the novel depicts: the post-apocalyptic future defined by floods, draughts, toxic pollution, and mass extinction provides a provisional climax of the capitalist way of life. Moreover, it is an embodiment of the Jamesonian conviction that the end of the world is easier to imagine than the end of capitalism (cf. Archae‐ ologies 199): in fact, the only exit gate away from Sonmi’s hyper-capitalist future leads right into a post-apocalyptic, almost prehistoric future, defined by tribal warfare as well as deprivation and hardship (cf. Deckard 88) Following estab‐ lished paths of the genre of the postapocalyptic narrative, Cloud Atlas thus ad‐ mits to its own ideological and cognitive limits in thinking beyond capitalism when it resorts to the breakdown of civilisation as the only narrative means available. 2. “Free Will Plays No Part in My Story” - Networks and Path Dependence Abandoning Benedict Anderson’s paradigm of ‘imagined communities’ (cf. Imagined Communities, 1991), which identifies the novel as the preferred means to imagine the community of the nation state, Cloud Atlas is set in a world “where national boundaries are becoming increasingly fluid” (Ho 360). In fact, starting with generic conventions, any kind of boundaries and dichotomies become grad‐ ually blurred and even irrelevant: space (local/ global and national/ international), race, genetics and biology (human/ clone), time and history (past/ future), identity 224 VI. Predatory Capitalism Throughout History: David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas (2004) 167 In order to highlight Cloud Atlas’ decidedly anti-dichotomous approach towards life, the movie version works with a relatively small group of actors, among them Tom Hanks and Halle Berry, who impersonate different characters, often traversing the categories of age, gender, and even race. Hugo Weaving for instance portrays Bill Smoke, the hired gun in the Luisa Rey-narrative, as well as the resilient Nurse Noakes in Timothy Cavendish’s “Ghastly Ordeal,” and Boardman Mephi, an Unanimity disciple in Sonmi’s future. While the directors’ felt like the “story’s central premise of existential interconnectivity” was best exemplified by the “combination of several roles played by one actor representing ‘the evolution of a single being’” (Peberdy 169), their decision to cast primarily white actors and have them prosthetically altered to look like characters of Asian or African descent was heavily criticised. As Donna Peberdy puts it mildly, the “multi-role/ cross-casting ap‐ proach to performance was evidently divisive and controversial” (170): Cloud Atlas has been criticised heavily for this decision, especially the costume and make-up department for the “badly done yellowface” (N. Allen); see also Nishime “Whitewashing Yellow Fu‐ tures in Ex Machina, Cloud Atlas, and Advantageous,” 2017. 168 David Mitchell is not only famous for his intratextual references but also for his entire inter-referential fictional universe, which continues to grow. For instance, Ayrs’ teenage daughter, Eva van Outryve de Crommelynck, has a cameo appearance in Black Swan Green (2006); Boerhaave, the immoral sailor making life difficult for Adam Ewing, appears in The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet (2010, cf. Dillon, “Universe” 7; and Mezey 27); while Luisa Rey features again as a journalist in The Bone Clocks (cf. O’Donnell 72f.). One critic counted over 20 cameos in The Bone Clocks alone (cf. Freund). According to Sarah Dillon, “Mitchell is creating a fictional universe of which one mere fouror five-hundred page novel is just a fractional part” (“Universe” 5). Employing the metaphor of writing as world building, she continues that “each novel, both those written and those yet to be written, constitute[…] a room in the house of fiction that he is constructing” (ibid. 6). Patrick O’Donnell classifies Mitchell’s novels as “intertextual in a triple sense: they bear multiple references to previous literary texts, to Mitchell’s other novels, and to each other” (71). Although “Mitchell’s work has sometimes been criticized for lacking an authorial pres‐ ence or voice” (Dillon, “Universe” 8) due to narrative games like these, part Mitchell’s of fame rests precisely on this unusual approach to fiction. Its allure is grounded in the fact (individual/ collective), as well as reality itself (fact/ fiction). 167 Far from negating and eradicating differences, though, Cloud Atlas stresses the fundamental interde‐ pendency of human life in all its aspects by jumping “effortlessly from one geo‐ graphical or temporal setting to another, hopping in time and space and blithely swapping genres as they go, treating historical periods and the genres that emerged in them as a set of interchangeable units to be shuffled in an intermin‐ able, cosmopolitan present” (Deckard 88). Hence, Sharae Deckard justifiably clas‐ sifies Mitchell’s work as a “transnational network novel[…]” or “hyper-connective novel[…]” (88) that deals explicitly with the nature of the multi-faceted connec‐ tions of a global contemporaneity. While “each of this novel’s sections seems as eerily self-contained as a snow globe, […] all are intricately, even supernaturally, interlaced” (H. Anderson). Tracing the lives of six different individuals, the novel abounds in intratextual references that link the various narratives, 168 explicitly 225 2. Networks and Path Dependence that readers can revisit beloved characters, creating an “mise-en-abyme-effect” (ibid. 9, em‐ phasis in the original), which lures the reader deeper and deeper into the fictional uni‐ verse. 169 For an elaborate analysis of the comet-motif in Mitchell’s first novel Ghostwritten (1999), see Sarah Dillon “Chaotic Narrative: Complexity, Causality, Time and Autopoiesis in David Mitchell’s Ghostwritten,” 149 ff. suggesting that the characters’ lives are interwoven on both a concrete and meta‐ physical level. Mitchell’s “dense network of cross-historical connections” (G. Bayer 346) is most obviously supported by the peculiar structure of the entire novel: the characters exists on different levels of diegesis, ‘encountering’ each other as fic‐ tional characters in novels, movies, or myths; Adam Ewing, the author of (au‐ thentic, yet edited) 18 th -century diary entries, for instance, becomes a fictional character in the world of Robert Frobisher: “[p]oking through an alcove of books in my room I came across a curious dismembered volume […]. From what little I can glean, it’s the edited journal of a voyage from Sydney to California by a no‐ tary of San Francisco named Adam Ewing” ( CA 64). Frobisher, in turn, is encoun‐ tered in the form of his letters by Luisa Rey, who then becomes a fictional char‐ acter Timothy Cavendish reads about in a manuscript. The entire cast of Cloud Atlas is mediated through the act of story-telling, which - unlike humans - is able to bridge the centuries and create a notion of universal connectedness that spans space and time. Moreover, the text is scattered with intratextual allusions which connect the narratives, creating a dense web which stresses the relationality between the short stories. For instance, Ayrs dreams about a “nightmarish café, brilliantly lit, but underground, with no way out” (ibid. 80), thus foreshadowing the scene, in which the reader is to learn about Sonmi. Luisa Rey encounters the Prophetess, the very same ship Adam Ewing travelled on, in the 1970s advertised as the “best-preserved schooner in the world” (ibid. 448); Zachry recalls the names of ‘ancient’ cities from before the fall, among them “Buenas Yerbs” (ibid. 285), home to Luisa Rey; and Timothy in turn foreshadows Zachry’s own fate in the post-apocalyptic future, when he calls himself sarcastically “the Last of [his] Tribe” (ibid. 179). Especially by implying the possibility of metempsychosis, the migration of souls and the concomitant “cross-historical and global lines of rebirth hinted at by the birthmark of a comet that various characters have inscribed on their bodies” (G. Bayer 350), 169 Cloud Atlas can be read as an exploration into the in‐ terdependencies of human life. As Patrick O’Donnell argues, the birthmark “re‐ appears somewhere on the bodies of several of Cloud Atlas’ narrators as a vestige or remnant that suggests how the past corporally resurfaces in the present and 226 VI. Predatory Capitalism Throughout History: David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas (2004) 170 Interestingly, the birthmark also appears on Sonmi’s cloned body - a paradox since clones are genetical copies of other clones / humans. To say it in the words of Hélène Machinal, “Sonmi, as a ‘genomed’ clone, should not bear such a birthmark” (138). Yet, the fact that she does hints at a fundamental - metaphorical - connectedness between humans that surpasses the laws of physics and logic, enhancing the novel’s insistence that all lives are interwoven (cf. McCulloch 150). the future” (69 f.). 170 The past resurfacing in the present is also the guiding prin‐ ciple of the analytical frame of the concept of ‘path dependence’ (cf. Liebowitz and Margolis, “History” 206). Originally taken from the field of technology and boiled down to “history matters,” i.e. “[w]here we are today is a result of what has happened in the past” (Liebowitz and Margolis, “Dependence” 17), the idea of path dependence conceptualises the present as a direct result of past actions and thus establishes a chrono-causal understanding of history. As Grewal at‐ tests, “we are pulled by our choices along avenues smoothed by the prior choices of others” (140) and thus subject to forces beyond our control. The concept of path dependence understood as a special form of Grewal’s network power makes those coercive structures the characters struggle with visible and explains why Cloud Atlas does not feature big systemic revolutions. Contrary to reader expectations, the novel does not provide the canonical dys‐ topian subplot of resistance (cf. Baccolini, “Womb” 293) as a form of relief in the face of continuous atrocities committed throughout the centuries. Characters are able to make free choices, yet cannot choose voluntarily between two equally desirable options since their actions are heavily influenced, constricted, and even obstructed by decisions previously made by both the characters them‐ selves, and more importantly, those who have come before. Sometimes, as it is made clear by Cavendish’s following remark, all options are already defined before a life even starts. Talking about a card game, he insists that “Patience’s design flaw became obvious for the first time in my life: the outcome is decided not during the course of play but when the cards are shuffled before the game even begins. How pointless is that” ( CA 383 f.)? Although referring to a game, Cavendish is really musing about one’s influence over one’s own life - and the absence of voluntariness due to forces beyond the individual’s control, created or eradicated in the past: you may be able to play your cards as you like, but you are heavily restricted in asserting your freedom by the options, that is non-op‐ tions left for you. In the novel, the various ‘nows’ thus present themselves as limited due to the roads taken earlier. Isaac Sachs, the scientist committed to help Luisa Rey un‐ cover the corporate crimes of Seabord, muses about this circumstance by re‐ flecting about time itself: 227 2. Networks and Path Dependence [A]n infinite matrioshka doll of painted moments, each shell” (the present) encased inside a nest of ‘shells’ (previous presents) I call the actual past but which we perceive as the virtual past. The doll of “now” likewise encases a nest of presents yet to be, which I call the actual future but which we perceive as the virtual future. (CA 409, emphases in the original) Many critics read this passage as representing symptomatically the approach the novel takes towards conceptions of history and time. Of particular interest for the current project, though, is Sachs’ assertion that “the doll of ‘now’ likewise encases a nest of presents yet to be.” Thinking about the possibilities encoded in the present, Sachs states that each moment may be estimated to be the origin of future actions. Pondering the concept of ‘actual future,’ he refers to a pro‐ spective which is yet to be brought about by actions and events in the now, whereas the ‘virtual future’ is “constructed by wishes, prophecies + daydreams” (ibid.). This infinite “matrioshka doll,” a physical impossibility but apt metaphor for time itself, encapsulates the future as part of the present, with the latter limiting the options within / for the former: some might be eradicated and fail to develop into options at all, while others might be severely handicapped. Insisting on the defining role the present has for the future, Cloud Atlas can be read as “a map into the future” (Gessert 426), demonstrating the uncontrol‐ lable impact of individual choices, which prevent other choices. Childs and Green speak of a “community of interdependence that takes the globe as its frame of reference” (36) and refer to the ‘butterfly effect,’ which is “used to describe the behaviour of complex, non-linear systems, [as] small perturbations in one part of this matrix of novels produce unpredictable air currents to waft across the fictional field as each story releases its influence like an opened gas canister” (ibid.). Indeed, “Mitchell’s ethics in these novels are focused on the choices made by those who have - or at least think they have - some power” (Bronstein 131). We encounter both privileged and less privileged characters, whose actions do influence future generations. The cryptic prophesies Zachry claims to have received from Sonmi in his dreams are a case in point: One: Hands are burnin,’ let that rope be not cut. Two: Enemy’s sleeping, let his throat be not slit. Three: Bronze is burnin,’ let that bridge be not crossed. (CA 258, emphases in the original) By having Zachry benefit from these warnings (in the end, he does survive the collapse of the bridge, for he remembers to not cross it), and thus showing the impact of these prophesies, the novel supports a reading that treats these spiri‐ tual prophecies as intelligent advice rather than superstitious coincidence. 228 VI. Predatory Capitalism Throughout History: David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas (2004) 171 See Justin McBrien’s “Accumulating Extinction: Planetary Catastrophism in the Nec‐ rocene” (2016), in which he argues that capital “necrotizes the entire planet” (116). Stating that the “Necrocene reframes the history of capitalism’s expansion through the process of becoming extinction” (ibid., emphasis in the original), McBrien redirects our attention towards the real possibility of extinction of the human race if the unregulated forces of capital are allowed to continue: “[t]he accumulation of capital is the accumu‐ lation potential extinction” (ibid.). While McBrien is also alluding to the extinction of languages and cultures (cf. ibid. 117), Zachry’s son provides a drastic example for the biological extinction of an individual and an entire race, after the planet has been pol‐ luted and destroyed by decades of unrestrained (free market) capitalism. Sonmi, now metamorphosed into the goddess of the Valleypeople, becomes a decisive factor in the unfolding of events not despite her death centuries ago, but because of the chain of events, which eventually change her ontological and metaphysical status from slave to goddess. The “doll of ‘now’” in Zachry’s world - to borrow the terms used by Sachs - is already encapsulated within Sonmi’s now. While Heather J. Hicks correctly asserts that “the novel rejects the more direct forms of cause and effect that are associated with linear history” (“Time,” my emphasis), it is nevertheless unquestionable that past lives and past events have a massive influence on the many different ‘nows’ in Cloud Atlas. The novel “suggests that the recirculation and transmission of previous narra‐ tives and characters in the shape of holograms, clones and video recordings can change the course of the future” (Loughry 143). Furthermore, many individual fates, for instance in the case of Ewing and Frobisher, “are shaped by legacies, and both are at the mercy of older, more cunning men” (Hicks, “Time”) and can therefore not be considered the true masters of their future. History perpetuates the decisions, successes, but most often failures and er‐ rors of generations long gone. Most suited for the analysis of these decisions and their cumulative effects throughout time is the chronologically last narra‐ tive of Cloud Atlas. As Peter Child observes, Zachry “is granted the clearest view of humanity’s shared journey through time” (192), and it is him and his people who shoulder the consequences. In fact, “Zach’ry’s [sic! ] world may be regarded as the logical outcome of what each chronologically earlier tale puts forward” ( J. Alyson Parker 213). His first-born son is a case in point: “[t]he babbit’d got no mouth, nay, no nose-holes neither, so it cudn’t breath an’ was dyin’ from when Jayjo’s ma skissored the cord, poor little buggah. Its eyes never opened, it just felt the warm of its pa’s hands on its back, turned bad colors, stopped kickin’ an’ died” ( CA 254). 171 Zachry’s son - so it is implied by the text - has suffocated due to physical malformation and thus fallen victim to grand-scale environmental pollution that has turned the planet into a toxic habitat, causing cancerous mutations in new-borns. The reader’s task is to defer this information 229 2. Networks and Path Dependence 172 Mitchell revisits this topic, after having written about it in his first novel Ghostwritten. There he poses the question how our lives are “pre-ghostwritten by forces around us” (296), thereby drawing attention to concepts of power that reach beyond the individual. from passages that feature in the Sonmi narrative. As Lydia Ng asserts, “[i]t is commonly understood that we need to return to the past in order to comprehend the future” (119). Casually, the interview between the fabricant and the archivist touches talk about “scalding rain” ( CA 331), encroaching deadlands which are “so infected or radioactive that purebloods perish there like bacteria in bleach” (ibid. 215), about polluted soil and “toxloaded” rivers, as well as “food supplies riddled with rogue genes” (ibid. 341). The Philippines are sinking (cf. ibid. 354) and there is talk of “the Californian Boat-people Solution” (ibid. 224), so it can be assumed that sea-levels are rising and turning coastal areas and islands un‐ inhabitable. Following the current discourse about climate crisis and the deple‐ tion of natural resources, Cloud Atlas - like M. T. Anderson’s Feed - joins an interdisciplinary dialogue about the fragility of the planet’s eco-system and the imperative to prevent climate change by mapping the full scale of a global en‐ vironmental apocalypse “conditioned by the exhaustion of nature” (Loughry 140). The past is moulding the future and so path dependence becomes a crucial explanatory frame for Cloud Atlas. Path dependence is constitutive of network structures in Mitchell’s novel, deconstructing the claim of the free market that it would create autonomous and free individuals. On the contrary, characters are only allowed involuntary choices, i.e. choices that might seem to be formally free, but they lack the crucial dimension of voluntariness. As Patrick O’Donnell argues, “[e]ach protagonist, each consequential event of Cloud Atlas, only gains the force of presence and agency in its relation to a miscellany of others over time, as one element among many in multitude of narrative trajectories and circumstances” (83). 172 Time and time again, “the novel emphasises that it is fashioned by ethical choices made by individuals and societies” (Childs 192). Luisa Rey especially is reminded that her very existence depends on events which are - naturally - beyond her influence, for her father Lester Rey nearly died in friendly fire on a patrol. As Joe Napier recalls, the two of them were working as policemen when they got caught in a shootout: “[t]hen all this hap‐ pens. A yelling man charges me from across the yard. I fire at him. I miss - the luckiest miss of my life, and yours too, Luisa, because if I’d shot your father you wouldn’t be here” ( CA 415). While Napier’s miss cannot necessarily be evaluated as a ‘ethical choice,’ the event itself certainly changed the actual future. The simple logic of “if I’d shot your father you wouldn’t be here” unleashes a series of events which are causally linked to the past. In fact, the Lester Rey incident 230 VI. Predatory Capitalism Throughout History: David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas (2004) 173 Reciprocity features in the very name Autua: this palindrome always spells Autua whether read backwards or forward, indicating that every action is followed by an equal reaction. turns his daughter Luisa and Joe Napier into unlikely partners in crime. Due to their unlikely bond, the latter - even in his dying moments - feels a sense of responsibility and duty: “I’ve done my duty, I’m dying, for Chrisssakes. Hey. Go tell Lester Rey about duty and dying” (ibid. 450, emphasis in the original). Al‐ though shot by Bill Smoke, Napier is dragged back into the realm of the living by the very thought of Luisa’s father: “[o]ften Napier wants to ebb away but his index finger has a mission that it refuses to forget. […] The trigger, this, yes. Pull her out” (ibid., emphasis in the original). This particular scene symptomatically reveals the entire novel as a “powerful mediation on causality” ( J. Freeman, “Six-Stranded”). Irrespective of time, place, race, age, and gender, characters and the characters’ fortunes are interwoven into complex cause-and effect patterns. Moments in Cloud Atlas are “elastic,” as Rey muses, “they disappear into the past and the future” ( CA 448) and must therefore not be taken as isolated incidents. As exemplified by Napier’s dying moment, the text “imagine[s] not simply the relatedness of individuals across space and time but also responsibility for them” (Bronstein 131). The unlikely friendship between the runaway slave Autua and the San Francisco-based lawyer Ewing offers an equivalent to the Rey-Napier-alliance. In this case, the cause-effect-structure is even more pro‐ nounced, for the initial event (vouching for Autua) produces immediate effects within weeks: Autua - in contrast to the other crew members - does not allow Goose to shoo him away from Ewing’s sickbed. He insists that “I see Missa Ewing! […] Missa Ewing save my life! He my duty! ” ( CA 522, emphasis in the original) Having proclaimed their interdependence (“He said he was in my debt (true enough) until the day he saves my life (may it never dawn! ),” ibid. 38, emphasis in the original), 173 Autua exemplifies an approach to life which stresses the interconnective dependencies in life. Had Ewing not saved Autua, Autua would not have been around to save Adam. This chiasmic quid pro quo turns all actions into consequentialist behaviour. In fact, the novel insists that there is no such thing as an inconsequential action. The option of opting out, i.e. the withdrawal from uncomfortable situations, is virtually non-existent and can only be considered a real alternative by those who have still fail to comprehend the mutual interdependency of and respon‐ sibility for human life. Adam Ewing serves as an example: hesitant to interrupt the flogging he witnesses on the beach, and reluctant to help the stowaway Autua he finds in his cabin, Ewing is convinced that the concerns of others are not to be meddled with. Attempting to exonerate himself from the burden of 231 2. Networks and Path Dependence interrelational thinking, he opts for a passive acceptance of the status quo, ig‐ norant of the fact that the decision not to act is already an act in itself. Autua points out this fallacy in thinking: “‘[t]hen kill I.’ With a terrible calmness & certitude he pressed its tip against his throat. I told the Indian he was mad. ‘I not mad, you no help I, you kill I, just same. It’s true, you know it’” ( CA 27). Autua’s consequentialist philosophy towards life acknowledges that any action as well as non-action will alter the course of history - a lesson Meronym, too, has to learn. Refusing to medically attend Zachry’s little sister, Meronym justi‐ fies her decision by resorting to a similar logic like Ewing: “[w]e Prescients vow not to interfere in no nat’ral order o’ things” (ibid. 279, emphasis in the original); Zachry’s accusations, “I reck’n you’re killin’ Catkin by not actin’” (ibid. 280, em‐ phasis in the original) in turn mirrors Autua’s plea towards Ewing to kill him there and then. Both statements, Autua’s and Zachry’s, refuse to accept passive behaviour as an option. In the words of Jonathan Boulter, the impulse behind the novel is “being able to see cause and effect as such” (133, emphasis in the original). Consequently, these characters evolve into mouthpieces through which the novel itself negates the option of bystanding. Through them, the text “shows us the dire future that present action (or inaction) may trigger” ( J. Alyson Parker 202) - on both a planetary and a local scale. When Ewing learns that the ship boy Rafael tried to tell him in confidence that he has been subject to sexual and psychological abuse for months before committing suicide, Ewing blames him‐ self for not having acted at the time. His own passive ignorance “sentences [himself] to a prison of remorse for the rest of [his] days” ( CA 518). Ewing thus demonstrates that both action and non-action have consequences, thereby stressing the impossibility of non-consequentialist behaviour. Cloud Atlas is uniquely privileged in this respect, since its complex temporal structure is per‐ fectly suited to showing consequences, although they might evolve centuries in the future. As Jay Clayton argues, the novel exhibits an exercise in “genome time,” a concept which “fuses the personal timescale of everyday life with the immense impersonal timescale of the species” (58). Cloud Atlas thus allows its readers to trace the impact of minor decisions through the centuries, charting a future dependent on the past. Although Cloud Atlas insists that the characters can always choose between acting and not acting, options for characters in general are considerably limited in the world Cloud Atlas presents its readers: whenever the characters are pre‐ sented with a choice, this ‘choice’ barely merits the name. Sonmi - to pick the example most related to neoliberal capitalism - does never have two desirable options to choose from: 232 VI. Predatory Capitalism Throughout History: David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas (2004) 174 The parts emphasised in bolt are sentences uttered by the archivist. The entire narrative is presented in an answer-question structure. Mr Chang had a message for me, for Sonmi~451 […]. The message was a choice: I could leave the dinery that morning, go Outside and repay my Investment in a new way; or I could remain in Papa Song’s […] and wait for my ascension to be brought to lite and suffer its consequences. Not much of a choice. (CA 208, emphasis in the original) 174 Although being allowed to formally choose, Sonmi is not granted two equally attractive options and is thus refused a truly voluntary, that is, non-coercive choice. Sonmi can really only ever follow the path laid down for her by the choices of others. There is, to say it in the words of the archivist, “not much of a choice” at all. Within the boundaries of “repay[ing] [her] Investment” (ibid.), Sonmi is formally free to choose, yet she is only allowed to choose how she is going to repay the investment, not if, and thus remains firmly situated within a neoliberal world order. Do you regret the course of your life? How can I? ‘Regret’ implies a freely chosen, but erroneous action; free will plays no part in my story. (ibid. 365, emphasis in the original) Of course, Sonmi - like Charmaine, Stan and Jocelyn in The Heart Goes Last - enters a discourse as old as humanity itself by referring to the concept ‘free will.’ Again, this concept here is understood as the “the power to make choices” (M. Griffith 2). Other than Frobisher, who declares the concept of “free will” to be one of the most influential deceptions ever (cf. CA 61), representing a deter‐ ministic point of view and thereby denying the existence of a ‘free will’ at all, Sonmi is less absolutist in her reasoning. She only concedes that there is no such thing as free will (meaning, voluntary choices), at least, in her world. Despite her ‘ascension’ (a process reminiscent of the Kantian understanding of Enlight‐ enment), which has turned her into the most enlightened creature alive, well exceeding her makers in both intelligence and relational thinking, Sonmi re‐ mains caught within the standards established by previous generations. Her rebellion - necessarily - becomes reduced to a show trial, cementing the status quo. Cloud Atlas’ elaboration on the concept of path dependence emerges most poignantly from the last words of Robert Frobisher’s part. Finishing his letter with “Sunt lacrimae rerum” ( CA 490, emphasis in the original), Frobisher dedi‐ cates his ‘dying breath’ after having shot himself to stressing the interconnect‐ edness of past and present. The phrase he uses to sign his letter originally fea‐ 233 2. Networks and Path Dependence 175 By summarising Cloud Atlas’ ‘lesson’ as “[g]reed will destroy the world,” A. S. Byatt does not do justice to Mitchell’s complex interrogation of networks and path depend‐ ence. Byatt’s conclusion is too simplistic, identifying individual “greed” as the root of the problem. However, the novel is in fact not concerned with individual acts of sin or crimes - it is rather interested in the systemic nature of power, delineating how free individual choices aggregate and morph into a system of involuntariness, which erad‐ icates alternative forms of living. tures in Virgil’s Aeneid (“sunt lacrimae rerum et mentem mortalia tangunt”) and proves to be very difficult to translate: some decipher it as “there are tears for what happens,” “sorrow is implicit in the affairs of men,” or “the universe has sympathy for us” (cf. Wharton 260 f.). Yet, the context in which this line appears yet again stresses the fundamental interdependency of human life: “[a]s Aeneas confronts what must be extremely traumatic images, […] he draws what can be read as a specious conclusion, namely that the history of the Trojans has im‐ pacted others in the world, and that to recognize the sorrow in the temple friezes is to recognise sorrow as universal condition” (Mezey 29; cf. Wharton). Beyond the immediate realm of the novel, the characters, their lives, and decisions in‐ fluence each other through the centuries. 3. A “Cannibals’ Banqueting Hall” - Consumption and Its (Narratological) Limits Cloud Atlas is interested in investigating forms of oppression and exploitation which evade the traditional understanding of juridico-political power. It dem‐ onstrates how the cumulative choices of individuals can erect a systemic form of impersonal coercion and violence which will eventually turn against those who had hoped to gain a personal advantage from accepting a certain (neolib‐ eral) standard in the first place, yet which will ultimately contribute to a less favourable situation for everybody. To do so, the novel asks its readers to diverge from the perspective offered by its characters, which have no troubles identi‐ fying traditional modes of political power such as despotism, tyranny, and to‐ talitarianism, yet struggle to identify modes of power such as capitalism, which cannot be clothed into the concept of methodological individualism (cf. Mae and the Circlers). 175 Ewing, for instance, correctly identifies Booerhave as being “like all bullies & tyrants” ( CA 25), yet struggles (till late) to defy the slave trade. Sonmi blames the “Juche and the Corpocratic Pyramid” for the injustices com‐ mitted by corpocracy (ibid. 353), yet fails to address the socio-economic system of neoliberalism supported by cumulative individual choices, which allows for 234 VI. Predatory Capitalism Throughout History: David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas (2004) 176 As Veronica explains to Cavendish, “[w]e - by whom I mean anyone over sixty - commit two offences just by existing. One is Lack of Velocity. We drive too slowly, walk too slowly, talk too slowly. The world will do business with dictators, perverts and drug barons of all stripes, but being slowed down, it cannot abide” (CA 376 f., emphasis in the original). Unable to keep up with the ever-increasing acceleration of a capitalist modernity, elderly people are stigmatised and ‘deported’ to wards, where they can do no harm. the commodification of life and nature; Cavendish speaks of “tyranny” (ibid. 379) and “Gestapo” (ibid. 400), referring to the management of the ward - the latter being an explicit reference to totalitarian power - but struggles to accept that he is ‘condemned’ to social exclusion by a society which has no place for the elderly, for it is dominated by the idea of rapid accumulation and capitalist acceleration according to Hartmut Rosa (cf. Beschleunigung und Entfrem‐ dung). 176 It is not critique of a totalitarian, political power, Cloud Atlas is after. Tellingly, the novel stages one of its narratives (“Letters from Zedelghem”) after World War I (multiple times, Robert writes about his idolised brother Adrian, who has fallen in Belgium, cf. CA 459) and shortly before the breakout of World War II . Scattering hints which signal to the reader that the Nationalist party has already begun to seize power in Germany, installing a totalitarian regime that will cost the lives of millions worldwide, the novel nevertheless refuses to address one of the greatest collective traumas in global history in more detail. While the text comments on the global consequences of the war (“the next year will be so big, nowhere with a decent restaurant will be left untouched” ibid. 462), details are conspicuously absent. As Wallhead and Kohlke explain, “[i]n the novel, the Holocaust no longer serves as the central paradigm of extreme human suffering and barbarous inhumanity. It is demoted from its role as the essential lens or definitive frame through which to focalise and explicate both earlier and later man-made cataclysms” (232). Instead, the novel highlights other forms of op‐ pression and violence, which exist outside the commonly referred realm of po‐ litical power: [T]he “whole story” of this novel made of halves and parts might be viewed as shad‐ owing the “total” history of capitalism and empire from the mid-nineteenth cen‐ tury […] to the site of the “future past” where capitalism winds up on the dung heap of history replete with violence yet scintillating with sporadic instances of temporary connection, survival, and sacrifice. (O’Donnell 90) Capitalism, as Eva Illouz writes, fundamentally depends on networks of inter‐ dependencies (cf. 40) and therefore Cloud Atlas’ first task and main occupation 235 3. Consumption and Its (Narratological) Limits 177 The editors of Time Magazine seemed to have learnt Cloud Atlas’ ‘lesson.’ They complain that “watching people make the same mistakes over and over again is excruciating” (Time Staff) in their review. 178 Note, this “(sic)” is part of the original text - Frobisher inserts it into his letter although there seems to be no apparent need to do so. is to trace these networked interdependencies beyond the limits of time and space in order to formulate a critique. On the one hand, the readers are granted this omniscient view, enabling them to critically scrutinise the time span from the 19 th to the 22 nd century. Erecting a peculiar form of discrepant awareness, the novel privileges its readers by granting them unique access to its critique and by providing them with the opportunity to search for common denomina‐ tors of all six narratives. The characters, on the other hand, do not enjoy this luxury. They are limited in their perspective and consequently in their ability to grasp historical contexts and the conception of causal relations spanning the globe (cf. Stan and Charmaine in The Heart Goes Last). Moreover, they are subject to both the cognitive and the physical limitations of their time, and - this is the salient point - each of them is equally limited in his or her perspective, even though they might have had the chance to study and learn from previous gen‐ erations and individuals via texts and oral narratives. As Jennifer Rickel asserts, “each narrative articulation of injustice fails to prevent its reincarnation in an‐ other context because these readers continue to imagine that the corruption about which they read is an exception” (174). Consequently, Cloud Atlas can be read as a novel which presents the same story six times in a row: the inability of characters to cognitively asses their current situation correctly and their failure to adequately frame and reflect on systemic injustices, which they mis‐ judge to be exceptions in the form of rapacious and exploitative individuals, thereby teaching the readers how to assess these intrinsic problems correctly. 177 Robert Frobisher is a case in point. Reading Ewing’s journal, he immediately jumps to the correct conclusion: “Ewing puts me in mind of Melville’s bumbler Cpt. Delano in Benito Cereno, blind to all conspirators - he hasn’t spotted his trusty Doctor Henry Goose (sic) 178 is a vampire, fuelling his hypochondria in order to poison him, slowly, for his money” ( CA 64). In speaking disparagingly of Ewing’s failure to see through “trusty” Goose’s humbug, Frobisher prides himself on his own vigilance, implying that he would not fall prey to exploitation as easily as Ewing did. He, by contrast, is not “blind to all conspirators.” The novel, though, proves Frobisher a vain snob who might be too clever for his own good. In fact, Frobisher is ignorant of the fact that he himself is equally subject to parasitic exploitation, only that Frobisher’s “vampire” comes in the form of Ayrs and his wife Jocasta. While the former lives off Frobisher’s artistic talent 236 VI. Predatory Capitalism Throughout History: David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas (2004) 179 The imprisonment Frobisher feels is later replicated in Cavendish’s story. Having been threatened with violence, Cavendish is equally left without save havens to escape to: “I traced Magellan’s voyage across my globe and longed for a century when a fresh beginning was no further than the next clipper out of Deptford. […] I spun my globe. I spun my globe” (CA 158). Imagining a pre-globalized world (a romantic illusion of course, for Magellan’s voyage at the beginning of the 16 th century marks a time, in which cross-national trade and commerce had already been established, initiating a development, which we today call ‘globalization’), Cavendish runs equally out of op‐ tions in a thoroughly neoliberal and globalised world that has accepted a common standard. 180 The theme of consumption features prominently in the other works of Mitchell as well. Again, his first novel Ghostwritten offers a template: “[e]verything is about wanting. Everything. Things happen because of people wanting” (213; see also Dimovitz 73). and youthful esprit, enabling him to publish one last piece of great artistry cele‐ brated all over Europe, the latter takes possession of his body, seducing him regularly for her own sexual gratification. Still under the illusion of being one step ahead (he steals valuable collectibles from the library and considers himself to be the seducer of Jocasta instead of the other way around), Frobisher fails to realise his conversion into prey until it is too late. As Ayrs summarises Frobish‐ er’s exploitative situation: “Jocasta had my blessing when she seduced you, you stuck-up piffler. I required you to finish ‘Todtenvogel’” (ibid. 475). Ayrs’ state‐ ment nicely combines the double exploitation Frobisher suffers from in one sentence: his physical exploitation prefigures his intellectual depletion. Seeing his hopes dashed, Frobisher decides to leave Zedelghem and thus destroys his own reputation: “[l]eave Zedelghem whenever you wish. But be warned. Leave without my consent and all musical society west of the Urals, east of Lisbon, north of Naples and south of Helsinki will know a scoundrel named Robert Frobisher” (ibid. 474). Having failed to read his own life with the same accuracy as Ewing’s journal, Frobisher has literally run out of places to go to. Central Europe cannot provide shelter anymore. Frobisher, it turns out, is not as smart as he though he was. 179 While Cloud Atlas might surprise its readers with unexpected twists (for in‐ stance, when Isaac Sachs is blown to pieces or when Sonmi’s revolution turns out to be a staged and scripted farce), it is rather repetitive on an analytical level: essentially, the six narratives similarly portray unsuspecting individuals, which have yet to realise that they are subject to physical, psychological, financial, and / or emotional abuse. They are all consumed by a decidedly capitalist matrix structuring human life. To highlight this similarity, Cloud Atlas weaves a recur‐ rent leitmotif into the fabric of the text which comments on the physical and metaphysical reality of consumption: cannibalism and parasitism. 180 As Heather Hicks states, “[c]annibalism is both a metaphor and a material reality in virtually 237 3. Consumption and Its (Narratological) Limits 181 See William Arens’ much-discussed The Man-Eating Myth (1980), in which Arens pro‐ poses that rather than an actual practice, cannibalism is a product of the Western dis‐ course fascinated by colonial Otherness. According to him, the anthropological study of cannibalism is tainted by preconceived Western stereotypes. He questions “whether cannibalism had ever taken place” (Ng 113), investigating how anthropologists might have been influenced by “colonial attitudes towards indigenous people” (ibid.). See also Gananath Obeyesekere’s Cannibal Talk: The Man-Eating Myth and Human Sacrifice in the South Seas (2005), in which the author proposes that cannibalism exists only within discourse, resulting from absurd misunderstandings between European colonisers and indigenous peoples. all of the texts” (“Time”; cf. also Bronstein 123). Indeed, the “presence or sign of the cannibal unifies the six sections, linking disparate histories of capitalist vi‐ olence into an epical whole” (Knepper 109), which is presented to the reader. From the start, as Wendy Knepper states, Cloud Atlas almost “overdetermines the motif of cannibalism […], which signals the need for an attentive and even wary close reading of histories of accumulation and incorporation” (102). Cap‐ italism and cannibalism are connected on a conceptual level, the former pro‐ viding the critical lens through which to read the latter - as exemplified by the very first scene of the novel. Collecting the inedible teeth of cannibal victims, Henry Goose states that “[t]eeth, sir, are the enamelled grails of the quest in hand” ( CA 3). Hoping to monetise the remnants of victims of cannibalism, i.e. to “transmute[… them into] gold,” by selling them to London nobility, Goose frames capitalism within the context of cannibalism: “[d]o you know the price a quarter pound will earn, sir” (ibid.)? 181 Completing the cannibals’ task, Goose “outlines his grisly plans to extract profit from the trade, traffic, and reincor‐ poration of the human teeth,” (Knepper 104) thus recasting “the violence born of capitalist accumulation” (ibid.). Simultaneously, Goose cloaks his gruesome business and its ‘resources’ into a decidedly quotidian simile: comparing can‐ nibalistic practices to “expel[ling] cherry stones,” Goose diminishes their brutal implications and justifies his doing as a clever business idea. Cannibalism, thus, is right from the start introduced as a profitable business model. Cloud Atlas can be read as an exploration into the motif of cannibalism, which is systematically used to “highlight the violence associated with capitalist ex‐ pansion” (ibid. 104 f.). Just like many of Margaret Atwood’s texts, Mitchell’s narratives often employ themes centring around the concept of cannibalism, exposing “western culture’s unhealthy and systemic commitment to over-con‐ sumption” (DiMarco 135). In short, wherever capitalist accumulation and neo‐ liberal commodification feature, the novel externalises these invisible forces via the leitmotif of cannibalism, fractured into a system of symbols: teeth and fangs, sharks and blood, and zombies and vampires. Timothy Cavendish, for instance, 238 VI. Predatory Capitalism Throughout History: David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas (2004) 182 The novel enjoys its metaphor so much that it occasionally employs it to create humour as well: when Cavendish admits that his wife has left him for a dentist, i.e. a professional with expertise in the field of healthy and strong teeth, (cf. CA 154), this side note creates both comic relief, and stays true to the symbolical power of consumption. Functioning teeth represent an advantage and guarantee thus survival in a capitalist world that is best read and assessed through the frame of cannibalism and parasitism. conceptualises his fellow residents of Aurora House as “the Undead,” whose relatives hope to gain financially from their elderly mothers and fathers. Un‐ willing to remain at the mercy of Aurora House he plots an escape plan, which only succeeds because Cavendish and his co-conspirators manage to trick one son into hurrying to his mother’s deathbed, hoping she might reveal the hiding place of her jewellery and fortune: “[w]hen Mrs Hotchkiss got wind of his plan to pack her off to Aurora House, she crammed every last family gem into a shoebox and buried it. Now she can’t remember where, or she can remember but isn’t saying” ( CA 378). As Knepper writes, “these zombified entities are […] subject to forms of economic parasitism as relatives seek to control their finan‐ cial assets, feeding off of their life’s work and profit for their own gain” (111). Even the “undead” are subject to a cannibalistic logic aimed at the extraction of money and wealth. Economic and financial exploitation arises out of power imbalances between two parties, stemming from the unfair allocation of financial resources in a thoroughly commodified world. Tellingly, the elderly patients cannot fight back. In a Hobbesian world defined by a socially perverted version of Darwin’s bio‐ logical law of the fittest, physical strength is unevenly distributed. Cavendish, too, cannot defend himself against “sabre-toothed meerkat creditors” ( CA 154, my emphasis) and “loan sharks” (ibid. 158, my emphasis), who enjoy the ad‐ vantage of teeth and physical strength, since Cavendish’s own teeth are “de‐ caying” (ibid. 391). 182 The symbol of the ageing predator, unable to defend its place in the pecking order, is supplemented by the choice of words, which es‐ tablishes (economically) weak members of society as “meat.” Especially the slaves Ewing meets on his journey are subject to a linguistic process of dehu‐ manisation. Encountering them, Ewing exclaims, “[s]uch inbred, bovine torpor! ” (ibid. 6) and is advised not to “step betwixt the beast & his meat” (ibid. 7), i.e. not to interrupt Autua’s punishment. Having been degraded to the status of cattle by a capitalist discourse aimed at maximising profit, the indigenous people morph symbolically into a resource to be exploited. The reader encounters this discourse again in Sonmi’s thoroughly commo‐ dified world. Sonmi’s society treats its clones equally as meat to be consumed: 239 3. Consumption and Its (Narratological) Limits like cattle, veteran clones are kept in “holding pen[s]” (ibid. 358) before they are butchered and processed into food for those clones still in service: The genomics industry demands huge quantities of liquefied biomatter for wombtanks but, most of all, for Soap. What more economic way to supply this protein than by recycling fabricants who have reached the end of their working lives? Additionally, leftover ‘reclaimed proteins’ are used to produce Papa Song food products, eaten by consumers in the corp’s dineries all over Nea So Copros. (ibid. 359 f.) In mimicking the crude logic behind the system, “what more economic way to supply this protein than by recycling fabricants who have reached the end of their working lives,” Sonmi channels the readers’ attention to the nexus between capitalism and cannibalism. Veteran clones are dehumanised as “proteins,” aka meat, and are fed back to Papa Song consumers and clones alike in the form of soap and fast food. As Oliver Lindner argues, in Sonmi’s narrative, “cannibalism has clearly reached an apex. It no longer marks dangerous colonial Otherness or a process of individual consumption, but is rooted at the core of the economic cycle of production, distribution and consumption” (374). Following the imper‐ ative to maximise profits, the corporation has implemented a cruel logic pro‐ ducing a circle of consumption: it is a world in which clone eats clone. To summarise, Cloud Atlas employs the trope of cannibalism mainly in its ‘modern’ sense of the word, void of assumptions of colonial otherness. Ulti‐ mately, the motif offers a frame to discuss the “unbridled appetites of late-cap‐ italism with its incessant repackaging and reselling which effectively commodifies everything for consumption” (Ferguson). Moreover, by associating capi‐ talism with cannibalism, Cloud Atlas transfers the stigma associated with the process, i.e. the consuming and devouring of fellow human beings, onto the former: cannibalism as “one of the greatest taboos” (Ng 109), which “signals the utmost lawlessness of society” (O. Lindner 373) becomes the frame through which capitalism as a form of life has to be assessed and evaluated. While the capitalism as cannibalism metaphor is gaining ground within pop‐ ular discourse as an abstract frame to access and describe capitalism’s (auto-)de‐ structive forces, it challenged within the academic discourse though. In “Con‐ sumerism, or the Cultural Logic of Late Cannibalism” (1998), Crystal Bartelovich declares ‘cannibalism’ to be a useless concept to describe the mechanisms of capitalism with. Drawing on Marx’ words in Capital, which compare the accu‐ mulation of surplus value to the consumption of human flesh, Bartelovich as‐ serts that “Marx would not equate capitalism with cannibalism” (224), for cap‐ italist accumulation or extraction of surplus value “requires a constant extraction and redeployment in production of surplus-value” (ibid., emphasis in 240 VI. Predatory Capitalism Throughout History: David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas (2004) 183 See McBrien, who conceptualises capitalism as parasite. He argues that “[i]t is both saprophytic and parasitic: it feeds on live and dead nature the same; it seeks to render them indistinguishable. From the standpoint of the Necrocene, capital appears as a species, an opportunistic detritus feeder producing mass extinction in the present” (117, emphasis in the original). the original). She goes on to claim that the “Heißhunger of capitalism” (ibid. 225, emphasis in the original) was necessarily tamed, for its self-destructive tendencies ultimately threaten “not only the reproduction of the labour pool, but of capital itself ” (ibid.). Parasitism, so the logical conclusion, might be a more fitting metaphor for capitalist accumulation. Seemingly in association with the observations made by Bartelovich, Cloud Atlas offers both metaphors, canni‐ balism and parasitism, in order to voice criticism towards the logic behind cap‐ italist accumulation and neoliberal commodification processes. It captures both associations and combines them into a moral and - more importantly - func‐ tional critique of capitalism. By “cross-indexing the cannibal motif, Mitchell’s textual network prompts readers to critique the economically motivated un‐ freedoms that lead to social death in a globalized world” (Knepper 111). The novel exemplifies precisely that the logic of capitalism - the heißhunger Barte‐ lovich speaks of - is a precondition and, paradoxically, the demise of capitalism. Capitalism, the novel suggests, is immanently auto-cannibalistic and thus un‐ sustainable. Destroying its own means of existence (natural and human re‐ sources), capitalism is uroboric in nature, devouring itself like the ancient symbol of the snake consuming its own tail to be found in Egyptian or Greek mythology (“Ouroboros”) (cf. Ng 118). 183 Cloud Atlas seems to agree with its character Isaac Sachs that “[p]ower, time, gravity, love. The forces that really kick ass are all invisible” ( CA 412, emphasis in the original). Its prime motive is thus to map the invisible mechanisms of net‐ work power through the centuries, offering its readers a digestible map of cause and consequence. In forcing its readers to wade through six essentially identical story lines (in terms of oppression and exploitation), the novel of course, pursues its own agenda: warning its readers not to read individual rapacious behaviour as an exception and providing them with the opportunity to contextualise these stories as phenotypes of a neoliberal economic system, which has successfully colonised both imagination and common sense of the population. Cloud Atlas provides its readership with the unique chance to avoid the mistakes made by the characters: while the characters fail to ‘learn their lesson,’ i.e. to comprehend the power of network standards brought about by path dependence (cf. Shoop and Ryan 104; cf. also Hicks, “Time”), readers are given the chance to do so six times. As Rickel asserts, “the characters in Cloud Atlas who model reading prac‐ 241 3. Consumption and Its (Narratological) Limits 184 Cloud Atlas employs metafictional techniques in order to justify its own agenda. Timothy Cavendish becomes a fictional mouthpiece for all those actual critics, which might mock the novel’s lack in innovation: “[t]he Ghost of Sir Felix Flinch whines, ‘But it’s been done a hundred times before! ’” Cavendish replies, “as if there could be anything not done a hundred thousand times between Aristophanes and Andrew Void-Webber [sic! ].” Stealing its critics’ thunder, Cloud Atlas self-consciously defends its approach: “[a]s if Art is the What, not the How! ” (all CA 373, emphases in the original) 185 The title though is an interesting choice for it opens a main motif of Cloud Atlas con‐ nected to network power and path dependence: halves and parts, featured in Meronym’s name (“part of something”) and Luisa Rey’s title-giving “Half-Lives.” It stresses once more the connection between reader, characters, and reading practices, asserting that the characters’ lives are interwoven, their options limited by the standards created by earlier generations. tices reveal the devastation that can occur when readers fail to make a connec‐ tion between the warnings embedded in what they read and the lives they live” (161). Making use of the prerogative of literature, the ability to force the readers’ attention onto preselected snippets of human life, Cloud Atlas asks its readers not to accept the paradigms of capitalism as natural, but rather to contextualise them as the cumulative effect of individual choices. 184 The prevention and demonization of cannibalistic practices become the nov‐ el’s main focus. After having criticised the motif of cannibalism within the in‐ tradiegetic reality, showing how the auto-cannibalistic tendencies of free-market capitalism destroy the very foundations of human existence, the novel goes one step further: aware of the reading habits of modern day consumer readers, Cloud Atlas disturbs and prevents a commodified, ‘cannibalistic’ reading practice. Readers are refused the chance to consume and commodify the narra‐ tives of Cloud Atlas by the novel’s very structure itself, which prohibits instant gratification. The interrupted chapters - the “half lives” 185 of each protagonist, to borrow the term from Luisa Rey’s narrative, - prevent readers from instant closure and delay the moment of consumption. As Frobisher states, “one mustn’t gobble one’s birthday chocolates all at once” ( CA 73). Equally, the novel makes its readers wait their turn before they are allowed to finish off the narrative, by stacking story onto story: “[b]ecause five of the six stories are bifurcated, the reader is directed to work through each of the intervening narratives before reaching the conclusion of each interrupted story” (Rickel 167). Before readers get to know the end of Adam Ewing’s story and learn whether he survived or not, they have to read their way through five more (‘unrelated’) narratives, going to the considerable length of reading approximately 300 extra pages before being allowed to ‘digest’ the story. By artificially prolonging the act of reading stories and thus the ‘life’ of each protagonist, the novel ‘protects’ its readers from com‐ mitting the same mistakes as its characters (cf. Hopf 122; also Bronstein 124): 242 VI. Predatory Capitalism Throughout History: David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas (2004) 186 Interestingly, the symbol of the hydra has been used in an antithetical way to Mitchell’s approach. In The Many-Headed Hydra (2010), Linebaugh and Rediker argue that the Hydra has often been used to describe labour protests: philosophers like Francis Bacon “found in the many-headed hydra an antithetical symbol of disorder and resistance, a powerful threat to the building of state, empire, and capitalism” (2). Accordingly, the 19 th century saw the symbol used to describe “the difficulty of imposing order on in‐ they are forced to consume consciously and outside the common practice of ‘gulping down.’ Moreover, the novel protects itself from becoming yet another commodified piece of work, by prolonging and postponing the moment of clo‐ sure (if there is such a thing in the universe of Cloud Atlas at all). Ultimately, Cloud Atlas clearly devises its readers against complying with the characters, actively keeping them from adopting common reading practices by setting nar‐ rative limits to processes of consumption. Thereby, Cloud Atlas advocates a more sustainable approach to both narratives and life itself and champions the power of narratives and fictional texts. 4. “Hydra” versus “A Multitude of Drops” - ‘Immanent Criticism’ as Compass for Reform Capitalism - as should have become clear by now, is the prime target of critique within Cloud Atlas. To bring that point across and to comment on (neoliberal) capitalism’s omnipresence and seemingly invincibility, the novel introduces the symbol of the hydra, the many-headed serpent from ancient Greek tales “who threatens to poison the sky and the earth” (Knepper 119). It appears as “ HYDRA nuclear reactor at Swannekke Island” in the Luisa Rey narrative ( CA 100), the “ HYDRA NURSERY CORP ” in Sonmi’s interview, where clones are produced and raised (ibid. 339), and the “Hoggins Hydra,” aka the shark loans that threaten Timothy Cavendish (ibid. 402). Thus, capitalism features as a many-headed hydra, a snake-like monster, which is almost impossible to defy, since for each head chopped off, two new heads sprout immediately. As Wendy Knepper ar‐ gues, the “accounts of the HYDRA of neoliberalism and the hydra of slave traf‐ ficking [highlight] the epical arc of unfettered capitalist accumulation as a toxic presence in a globalizing world” (120). Only a demigod like Hercules, a super‐ natural human being, is ultimately able to kill the monster “by cutting off a central head and cauterizing the wound” (Linebaugh and Rediker 3). To over‐ come capitalism, the novel seems to suggest, requires Herculean strength, for it evades its demise due do its regeneration abilities - the social, historical for‐ mations we encounter during the course of the six narratives. 186 243 4. Immanent Criticism’ as Compass for Reform creasingly global systems of labour. They variously designated dispossessed com‐ moners, transported felons, indentured servants, religious radicals, pirates, urban la‐ borers, soldiers, sailors, and African slaves as the numerous, ever-changing heads of the monster” (ibid. 3 f.). By employing this symbol nevertheless, Mitchell remains truthful to the discourse itself, yet re-directs the focus of attention onto capitalism. The latter, according to the novel, is a form of life irreconcilable with ideas about sustaina‐ bility and the good life. By constantly referring to the hydra-myth with its connotations of fight, doom, monstrosity, and invincibility, Cloud Atlas inevitably co-introduces the possibility of resistance: the novel posits the question what to do about an auto-destructive form of life which refuses to die even if attacked with super‐ human strength. The answer given to readers seems utterly unsatisfactory at first, since Cloud Atlas dedicates a considerable amount of attention to the im‐ possibility of finding (true) alternatives which merit the name within the critical frame of external criticism. Cloud Atlas shows external criticism to be decidedly ineffective in abolishing capitalism. The novel presents a combination of six narratives in which various alternative lifestyles attempt to delegitimise the free market as a model for social order, yet all of which fail. Mitchell’s text demon‐ strates alternatives to be fundamentally incapable of deterring free-market cap‐ italism from consolidating its grip on human history. While each story provides a variety of reasons why capitalism should be abolished (among them the com‐ modification of human life and the destruction of the environment), on their journey though time, readers only witness an implementation of the status quo. Indeed, despite the many attempts of battling capitalism and replacing it with alternative forms of life, capitalism (or one of its specific social formations) thrives in all six narratives (cf. McCulloch 146). Capitalism’s success story rests on the phenomenon that capitalism has managed to systematically eradicate alternative forms of life, such as the one cultivated by the peaceful tribe of the Moriori. Defying racist pseudo-theories about the West as the birthplace of civ‐ ilisation, this peaceful tribe is initially introduced as the epitome of progress, a eutopia far away from Europe: Two thousand savages […] enshrine Thou Shalt Not Kill in word & in deed & frame an oral ‘Magna Carta’ to create a harmony unknown elsewhere for the sixty centuries since Adam tasted the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. War was as alien a concept to the Moriori as the telescope is to the Pygmy. Peace, not a hiatus betwixt wars but millennia of imperishable peace, rules these far-flung islands. Who can deny Old Rē‐ kohu lay closer to More’s Utopia than our States of Progress governed by war-hungry princelings in Versailles & Vienna, Washington & Westminster? (CA 12, emphasis in the original) 244 VI. Predatory Capitalism Throughout History: David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas (2004) 187 While the concept of the “noble savage” is in itself rather problematic due to its align‐ ment to a colonial and imperial discourse cultivated by the West, in this context it is used to stress the superiority of the Moriori approach towards life. This short section explicitly references eutopian ideas, among them More’s tractate itself, the English Magna Carta as well as the Christian Bible and the Jewish Torah. Moral imperatives that remain theoretical, textual deliberations in the West become reality on this island. The Moriori have successfully en‐ shrined “Thou Shalt Not Kill in word & in deed” as an impressed Adam Ewing notes in his diary: marking “& in deed,” by the use of italics, the text visually highlights the exceptionality of this socio-political system. Europe’s “States of Progress governed by war-hungry princelings in Versailles & Vienna, Wash‐ ington & Westminster,” a disparaging remark about the ruling monarchs in Eu‐ rope, seem to produce eutopia only in theory. In contrast, Old Rēkohu (fittingly an island itself) lies “closer to More’s Utopia” than any community before. D’Arnoq’s speech exposes Western philosophical ideas as hollow phrases: pro‐ gress and so-called civilization as practiced by the colonial powers cannot guar‐ antee eutopia. In the words of Caroline Edwards, It is not colonial modernization that embodies [e]utopian principles here, but the peaceful coexistence with nature practised by the Moriori. This deconstruction of expansionist logic of capitalism thus reveals Mitchell’s suggestion that an alternative mode of living has been squandered in our contemporary world; a pacifist, [e]utopian way of life that acts as a foil to our current predicament of excessive consumption, extraction of surplus value through polluting industrial production, and the unequal distribution of power between nations. (“Transactions” 184) It is the tribe of the Moriori which has come closest to the ideals of the Magna Carta and the Bible, cherishing peace not as an intermediate period between wars, but as the norm. They have created “a harmony unknown elsewhere for the sixty centuries since Adam tasted the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge” and are therefore to be admired as the creators of paradise on earth, the embodiment of the concept of the noble savage as described by Rousseau “framed in flesh and blood,” as D’Arnoq explains. 187 This eutopian paradise, however, is fragile and runs the risk of being de‐ stroyed by forces less benevolent. The blows leading to its final destruction come in the form of British colonial and capitalist conquest: the HSM Chatham brought “settlers […], wrecked mariners & ‘convicts at odds with the New South Wales Colonial Office over the terms of their incarceration’” ( CA 12 f.) to the island, all eager to establish business relations. They, in turn, sold crops to “needy sealers, the second blow to the Moriori’s independence, who disappointed the 245 4. Immanent Criticism’ as Compass for Reform 188 Treating nature, animals, and other humans as available resources ready for exploita‐ tion is a decidedly capitalist mode of behaviour, which Jason W. Moore has captured under the term of ‘Cheap Nature’: capitalism has a “history in which islands of com‐ modity production and exchange operate within oceans of Cheap - or potentially Cheap - Natures. Vigorous accumulation depends on the existence - and the active production - of human and extra-human natures whose costs of production are kept ‘off the books’” (606). Instrumentalising both the islands and its human and non-human inhabitants as ‘Cheap Nature’ (‘to cheapen’ in the double sense of the word, i.e. reducing in price and treating them as unworthy of respect; ibid. 600), the settlers show absolute disregard for the natives’ form of life and questions of sustainability in the face of rapid accumulation of profit. Natives’ hopes of prosperity by turning the surf pink with seals’ blood” for eco‐ nomic profit: “Mr D’Arnoq illustrated the profits by this arithmetic - a single pelt fetched 15 shillings in Canton & those pioneer sealers gathered over two thousand pelt per boat” (ibid. 13, emphasis in the original). As symbolised by the butchered seals, the Moriori’s eutopia literally falls prey to Western capitalist expansion, which commodifies both land and animals. Moreover, clearing the land with bush fires to make the soil fit for agriculture, the newly arrived settlers demonstrate a genuine disinterest for a sustainable economic growth, but focus on the rapid extraction of surplus value. This approach, however, destroys the livelihood of the Moriori. The settlers become like the rats and cats D’Arnoq mentions as the third blow: brought in on ships by whalers, they consume and destroy the “burrow-nesting birds whose eggs the Moriori so valued for suste‐ nance” (ibid.). Rapid consumption and the extraction of maximum surplus value (“two thousand pelts per boat”) quickly and efficiently destroy “sixty centuries” of peace: the mild, sustainable, eutopian form of life cultivated by the Moriori is destroyed by Western imperialism and capitalist expansion. 188 Adam Ewing will encounter this mechanism again: going ashore on another Mission in the Pacific, he witnesses a similar narrative of a Polynesian Eden being destroyed by a Western consumer culture (cf. Dimovitz 72). Fearing the local church might be on fire, Ewing gatecrashes a rather peculiar sermon de‐ livered in the ‘Nazareth Smoking School’: “[s]o it came to pass, see, St Peter, aye, ’im ’oo Mistah Jesus called Sweeter Peter Piper, he cameth from Rome an’ he taughteth them hooky-nosed Jews in Palestine what was what with the Old Baccy, an’ this is what I’m teachin’ you now, see” ( CA 501). The peculiar exegesis of the Bible creates an ideological background for the expansion of capitalism and Empire: “your typical Polynesian spurns industry because he’s got no reason to value money” (ibid.). Encouraging the locals to consume tobacco and turning them into nicotine addicts by weaving the imperative to smoke into the teach‐ ings of the Bible (the Old Testament becomes “Old Baccy,” cf. Dimovitz 72), the 246 VI. Predatory Capitalism Throughout History: David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas (2004) colonisers create both a new market and thereby the need to sell one’s labour power: “we give him an incentive to earn money, so he can buy his baccy […] from the Mission trading-post” ( CA 501). Capitalism binds the natives twice: although they had previously never come in contact with a market-based economy, after a few years, they are fully subsumed into the logic of the market, being forced to sell their labour in order to consume the tobacco produced by their imperial masters (cf. ibid. 502). As Mr Wagstaff, Ewing’s host, explains: “You’re thinking, aren’t you, that we’ve made slaves out of free people” (ibid. 510)? Simultaneously addressing both Ewing and the reader, who must have reached the same conclusion as the lawyer, the remark contextualises slavery within a capitalist critique, framing the former as a direct consequence of market-expansionist deliberations and not - as Mr Wagstaff asserts - as a social consequence of racial and biological superiority. Cloud Atlas regularly shows the ineffectiveness of external criticism by fea‐ turing alternative forms of life which do not count as real alternatives: either because they betray their own ideals or because the life style of offered by them is defined by hardship and deprivation and thus disqualifies itself as an attractive way of life for the masses, a beacon of hope of how to restructure society. In sum, ‘successful’ rebels, i.e. rebels which can put forward a real alternative to free market capitalism, are either conspicuously absent or are depicted as hyp‐ ocrites. In the Luisa Rey narrative, for instance, readers encounter demonstra‐ tors reminiscent of the ‘68 flower people movement who protest against the nuclear power station: The Swannekke Island protestors’ camp lies on the mainland between a sandy beach and a marshy lagoon stranded by the sea. Behind the lagoon, acres of citrus orchards rise inland to arid hills. Tatty tents, rainbow-sprayed camper-vans, and trailer-homes look like unwanted gifts the Pacific dumped here. A strung banner declares: PLANET AGAINST SEABORD. On the far side of the bridge sits Swannekke A, quivering like Utopia in a noon mirage. White toddlers tanned brown as leather paddle in the lazy shallows; a bearded apostle washes clothes in a tub; a couple of snaky teenagers kiss in the dune grass. (CA 124) Identifying themselves as part of a green protest movement, as becomes obvious from the protest banners (“ PLANET AGAINST SEABOARD ”) and the painted rainbows sprayed on the vans, the demonstrators clearly picture themselves as representatives of an alternative way of life that is defined by its closeness to nature. Disassociating themselves from the bourgeois, middle-class consumer life style, these characters cultivate a carpe diem mentality (“snake teenagers” snogging) and a decidedly anti-establishment life style (cf. the unsupervised 247 4. Immanent Criticism’ as Compass for Reform “white toddlers brown as leather paddle” and the supposedly self-appointed “bearded apostle,” who “washes clothes in a tub”). However, the text itself de‐ stabilises the group’s claim to act as spokespeople for the environment as an adversary to Big Capital: “[t]atty tents, rainbow-sprayed camper-vans, and trailer-homes look like unwanted gifts the Pacific dumped here.” The ocean itself seems to reject the social engagement of the protestors like “unwanted gifts,” suggesting that their protest might actually be more of a lifestyle than genuine commitment. This interpretation is supported by the choice of words which sarcastically frame the scene: the “bearded apostle” fulfils the cliché to the book and is thus turned into a satire rather than a genuine character to be taken seriously. Moreover, the “snaky teenagers” are more occupied with themselves than the green protest movement. Consequently, the novel negates the rebel‐ lious potential of the protest group, framing the majority of them as unreliable and disinterested - and thus equally out of touch with the environment than the atomic power station. Ironically, even, it is the reactor that is “quivering like Utopia in a noon mirage,” and not the protestors. By the time the readers get to Sonmi’s story, alternative forms of life that could possibly serve as resources for a formulation of external criticism of cap‐ italism have nearly vanished altogether in the fake “capitalist, free-market [e]utopianism” (Edwards, “Transactions” 183) of Nea So Copros. Small enclaves of dropouts, or “recidivists,” as the Archivists calls them ( CA 346), constitute the only form of life outside of capitalism. The majority of them, though, has turned towards an alternative life style due to an amalgam of political and economic reasons and is thus still defined by capitalist norms: “Uyghur dissidents; dust‐ bowled farmers from Ho Chi Minh delta; once-respectable cornubdwellers who had fallen foul of Corp politics; unemployable deviants; those undollared by mental illness” (ibid.). While the Archivist is unable to even imagine a com‐ munity able to “survive without franchises and gallerias” (ibid. 347), Sonmi as‐ cribes to this community a special ontological status almost unheard of in the future: “consumers cannot xist without 3D and AdV, but humans used to and still can” (ibid.). By emphasising their humanity, Sonmi establishes them as fun‐ damentally different from mainstream society, enforcing their commitment to alternative forms of life (other may than the protestors Luisa Rey encounters). However, Sonmi’s also points out that their alternative lifestyle is “no bucolic Utopia. Yes, winters are severe; rainy seasons are relentless; crops are prey to disease; the caves are susceptible to vermin; and few colonists live as long as upstrata consumers. Yes, the colonists bicker and grieve as people will” (ibid.). The multi-faceted hardships these people endure are only compensated by a feeling of community that is diametrically opposed to the hyper-capitalist state 248 VI. Predatory Capitalism Throughout History: David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas (2004) (ibid.). Whether this form of life really constitutes an eutopian ideal remains questionable. The colonists’ life full of illness, privations and poverty does not seem to be an alluring alternative. Calling this community a “microtopia,” a small “critical utopia” as defined by Tom Moylan, Caroline Edwards argues, these settlers are depicted “as a struggling group of squabbling individuals” (Utopia 140). Tellingly, Sonmi and her lover do not stay with the outcasts. Their excur‐ sion into the mountains constitutes only a brief chapter in their story, thus mit‐ igating the effect and the potential the lifestyle might exercise on changing the status quo. External criticism, then, the form of critique that aims at substituting the object of criticism by championing an alternative, fails to empower any mean‐ ingful form of resistance. In fact, Cloud Atlas actively destabilises the persua‐ siveness of the external criticism approach by accusing those eager to employ external criticism of being ideologically blinded and thus unfit to generate eu‐ topia. Mitchell thus follows ideas already discussed in Ghostwritten, which oc‐ cupies itself (among other things) with the deconstruction of eutopian projects: One illustration of the dangers of so-called grand or totalizing [e]utopian projects is articulated through Mitchell’s depiction of the cultish millenarianism underpinning a terrorist network in Tokyo - with its allegorical overcoding of present-day Islamic fundamentalism - in which the [e]utopia of a ‘New Earth’ will cleanse the sinful, westernized, capitalist world through suicide bombs. (Edwards, “Transactions” 180) A similar mechanism is at work in Cloud Atlas as well. Here, Mitchell exposes yet another totalitarian ideology as another failed attempt to install a better system. Weren’t you curious about Union’s blueprint for the briter tomorrow? How could you know the new order would not give birth to a worse tyranny? Think of the Bolshevik, the Saudi Arabian, the Pentecostal Revolutions of North America. If great change becomes necessary, surely a program of incremental reforms, of cautious steps, the wisest way to proceed? Your study base is curiously broad for an eighthstratum archivist. Have you encoun‐ tered this dictum in your early twentieth-century reading? ‘An abyss cannot be crossed in two steps’? (CA 343 f., emphasis in the original) Sonmi ignores the Archivist’s legitimate objection, which connects the concerns about eutopian projects being too close to totalitarianism as brought forth by Mannheim, Adorno, Arendt, and others - without, of course, quoting them di‐ rectly. Yet the Archivist has a point when comparing Union’s methods to pre‐ vious movements which set out with a clearly defined eutopian aim only to 249 4. Immanent Criticism’ as Compass for Reform 189 This topos is extensively discussed in Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. Winston is so convinced that external criticism, i.e. the introduction of an entirely new system which is to replace the old one, is the right way to go, that he even agrees to questionable terrorist practices: “‘You are prepared to commit murder? ’ ‘Yes.’ ‘To commit acts of sabotage which may cause the death of hundreds of innocent people? ’ ‘Yes.’ ‘To betray deteriorate into dystopian nightmares. His mentioning of “the Saudi Arabian” and “the Pentecostal Revolutions of North America,” events for which the reader cannot ultimately find an extraliterary reference point, suggests that since the Bolsheviks, various groups have tried to create heaven on earth by substituting one dystopian system with another. Their ‘blueprint,’ that is, their ready-made alternative system aimed at replacing the old one, constitutes a form of external criticism which has proven to be inadequate to actually change human destiny for the better. The text clearly does not consider external criticism to be a viable, successful option. Moreover, Sonmi’s casual gesture, brushing over the genocidal implications of her group’s approach, “an abyss cannot be crossed in two steps,” unmasks her own logic to be dangerously close to historical figures such as Stalin or Mao Zedong, which were willing to sacrifice the lives of millions to achieve the greater good - whatever that might be. Curiously, she does not give an answer to the question of whether she considered the danger inherent to her eutopian approach. Sonmi averts the question by distracting the Archivist’s attention until he concedes: “[w]e’re circling a contentious core, Sonmi. Let’s return to your journey” ( CA 344). Echoing the dystopian narrative paradigm, which usu‐ ally culminates in a dialogue between the dissident and one representative of the status quo, Cloud Atlas here seems to follow established paths. However, the novel remains ambiguous about Sonmi’s status as a saviour. In fact, the reader is compelled to agree with the Archivist, who proposes a “program of incre‐ mental reforms, of cautious steps, [as] the wisest way to proceed” (ibid.), since unionism, the (fake) revolutionary movement, follows the same logic as the corpocracy, and thus constitutes an inadequate substitute: “[e]very consumer, xec and Boardman in Nea So Copros must be persuaded that fabricants are purebloods; if persuasion does not work, ascended fabricants must fight with Union to achieve this end, using whatever force is necessary” (ibid. 362, em‐ phasis in the original). By willing to murder consumers, or as Sonmi phrases it, to ‘persuade them,’ “the Union movement is at risk of giving in to its ideological distortion into corporatism’s exact mirror image” (Schoene 107). Their methods, bombing, gas explosions, etc., are “in ways essentially identical to its adver‐ sary’s” (ibid.) and thus disqualify as truly revolutionary, in the sense of changing the world for the better. 189 250 VI. Predatory Capitalism Throughout History: David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas (2004) your country to foreign powers? ’ ‘Yes.’ ‘You are prepared to cheat, to forge, to blackmail, to corrupt the minds of children, to distribute habit-forming drugs, to encourage pros‐ titution, to disseminate venereal diseases—to do anything which is likely to cause de‐ moralization and weaken the power of the Party? ’ ‘Yes.’” (199) Cloud Atlas refuses to hand out blueprints for a better tomorrow, having warned its readers of approaches that supplant one dystopian system with an‐ other. This is the reason why the text withholds Sonmi’s much discussed Dec‐ larations. Her twelve catechisms, which should bring about eutopia, are remi‐ niscent of the Biblical Twelve Commandments and therefore equally loaded with the expectations of those suffering from the status quo. Although they are talked about extensively, they are never quoted in detail. As Katharine Hayles observes, Mitchell mostly withholds from his readers the text of Sonmi’s Declarations, leaving us to construct for ourselves their content by considering what could best counter the corpocracy’s ideology. We are given instead Sonmi’s Testimony, a dialogic narrative that vividly and compellingly challenges us to imagine what a better future might be and speculate on how we can help bring it about. (“RFID” 60) The novel, it seems, does not make the same mistakes as its characters, meaning, it does not try to ‘persuade’ anyone to accept an alternative as formulated by external criticism. On the contrary, having shown its readers the fundamental inconsistencies of free-market capitalism (relying on free individuals yet ulti‐ mately eroding the opportunity to choose between two equally desirably op‐ tions, i.e. eradicating the notion of ‘voluntariness’), the text tasks its readers to speculate what might challenge the hegemony of the free market most (cf. Dunlop 220). Their starting point for social change should not be the teachings of a saviour-figure, but the readers’ own beliefs and perceptions of reality, which have been shaped by various accounts of different historical figures: having been introduced to Ewing’s journal and other texts, the readership of Cloud Atlas should now be well versed in thinking dialectically and the spanning of huge spatial and temporal parameters. Thereby the novel positions itself as diamet‐ rically opposed to the neoliberal logic, which has always been defined by its short-term preferences, typically favouring short-term profits over long-term and sustainable investments (cf. Harvey, Neoliberalism 174; also 166; cf. also Rosa). Having been given the chance to see the bigger picture, the readers are trusted to imagine a better solution than the text could have extrapolated itself. The very onset of the novel is thus already a formulation of critique, for it attacks existing neoliberal structures - although it does not present a ready-made al‐ ternative. 251 4. Immanent Criticism’ as Compass for Reform By firmly holding onto the concept of immanent criticism, the novel equally holds onto the eutopian possibility for change. Despite the many ills depicted within the six various narratives, the novel cannot be read as an escapist fantasy, but rather as a continued quest for some form of eutopian alternative. This al‐ ternative, however, cannot be brought about by simply substituting one malev‐ olent system by another, as should have become clear by the Sonmi narrative. Instead the text shows that “[e]utopian possibility lies not in any totalizing po‐ litical ideology, but in those processual, scaled-down instances of social collab‐ oration networked together across space and time” (Edwards, “Transactions” 197). Although Cloud Atlas “foregrounds the inescapability of cycles of history that wax and wane, from progressive social movements to regressive tribalism, occasionally characters embark on radical [e]utopian journeys that emphasize the necessity of battling the forces of greed” (Loughry 143). Mitchell’s text thus does not advocate radical systemic upheavals, but a cautious trial-and-error-ap‐ proach, which will ultimately cause less damage, but might take excruciatingly long - too long, it seems, for the novel itself climaxes in a post-apocalyptic world. Seemingly in line with Fredric Jameson’s assertion that it is easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism (cf. Archaeologies 199), the novel shows the dire consequences of humanity failing to alter its trajectory. In ac‐ cordance to how David Harvey describes the consequences of neoliberalism in his A Brief History of Neoliberalism, Cloud Atlas demonstrates that “[i]f we are entering the danger zone of so transforming the global environment, particu‐ larly its climate, as to make the earth unfit for human habitation, then further embrace of the neoliberal ethic and of neoliberalizing practices will surely prove nothing short of deadly” (173). However, the novel does not end with Zachry’s pre-technological, almost pre-historic world. The narrative structure collapses back onto itself (from ‘A’ as in Adam, to ‘Z’ as in Zachry and back to Adam), ending with Adam, who has the last words of the entire novel: If we believe that humanity may transcend tooth & claw, if we believe divers races & creeds can share this world as peaceably as the orphans share their candlenut tree, if we believe leaders must be just, violence muzzled, power accountable & the riches of the Earth & its Oceans shared equitably, such a world will come to pass. I am not deceived. It is the hardest of worlds to make real. Tortuous advances won over gen‐ erations can be lost by a single stroke of a myopic president’s pen or a vainglorious general’s sword. […] I hear my father-in-law’s response: […] ‘He who would do battle with the many-headed hydra of human nature must pay a world of pain & his family must pay 252 VI. Predatory Capitalism Throughout History: David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas (2004) with it along with him! & only as you gasp your dying breath shall you understand, your life amounted to no more than one drop in a limitless ocean! ’ Yet what is an ocean but a multitude of drops? (CA 528 f., emphases in the original) Uniting all major symbols and metaphors in his final speech, the “many-headed hydra” of capitalism, “tooth & claw,” and the idea of path dependence as “ad‐ vances won over generations,” Ewing once more advocates social reform as progress. Having identified societal ills, inherent problems, and thereby fol‐ lowing the logic proposed by immanent criticism, Ewing becomes aware of the fact that this trial-and-error-approach requires a life-long commitment, which, disappointingly, might not make any difference after all. Ewing is aware that he might trade off both his personal happiness and his family’s fortune for an im‐ pact no bigger than that of “one drop in a limitless ocean.” This sentence once more highlights the impotence of individuals caught within structures of net‐ work power. Refusing to accept a certain standard any longer - slavery in Ewing’s case - will almost certainly lead to isolation and “a world of pain.” Yet Ewing is determined to proceed anyways, comparing network power, which is built by many individual, voluntary decisions until there is only one option left, to the ocean, which is equally composed of individual units (cf. Edwards, Utopia 140). He voices his unbroken optimism by formulating one question, addressing both the voice in his mind, which has taken the form and shape of his conser‐ vative father-in-law, and the reader: “[y]et what is an ocean but a multitude of drops? ” Ewing thus questions the cohesiveness and strength of a certain standard, deconstructing it as a cumulation of individual choices. His words seem to suggest that if we withdraw our consent, network standards, even those which seem like natural laws (‘the white man’s burden’), become subject to re-negotiation. Dystopia, so the implication, might be forced to give way to eutopia once enough people have been won over to change the standard col‐ lectively. As Mezey argues, “[i]n Mitchell’s invocation of the now famous common phrase ‘think globally, act locally,’ Adam Ewing’s words speak to how daily choices aggregate as a single life and how individual lives constitute the larger collectives of culture and history” (12). Ultimately, Cloud Atlas is one of Mitchell’s novels which “can be seen to posit the continuation of some form of [e]utopian alternative to our globalized, neoliberal present. Crucially, these [e]utopian impulses remain provisional rather than absolute, fluxional rather than static and heterogeneously multi-voiced rather than authoritarian” (Ed‐ wards, “Transactions” 179). The text has shown that big drafts of alternative societies are doomed to failure, instead favouring grassroot movements and so‐ cial commitment on a global scale united by an, admittedly, almost naïve opti‐ mism in the face of structural problems. Thereby Mitchell is among those au‐ 253 4. Immanent Criticism’ as Compass for Reform 190 For a close reading analysis of further meta-fictional comments such as Cavendish’s rant, “Why have you given your life to books, TC? […] The memoirs are bad enough, but all that ruddy fiction! Hero goes on a journey, stranger comes to town, somebody wants something, they get it or they don’t, will is pitted against will. ‘Admire me, for I am a metaphor’” (CA 171), see also Heather Hicks’ “‘This Time Round’: David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas and the Apocalyptic Problem of Historicism” (2010). 191 With this comment, Mitchell humorously anticipates the critics’ response to his own book and creates thus another meta-fictional layer of commentary. As Jason H. Mezey recounts, “most negative reviews acknowledge Mitchell’s literary talent, [yet] they fre‐ thors who are “moving beyond the crippling passivity of domestic individualism towards a reformulated vision of community, solidarity and political alterna‐ tives” (ibid. 180), positioning himself within an ongoing discussion about the legitimacy, inevitability, and ultimately, re-definition of capitalism. Just like the novel refrains from spelling out Sonmi’s Catechism, the readers are denied a first-hand account showing Ewing joining the abolitionist cause. The novel re‐ fuses to hand out recipes for social progress, but instead encourages its readers to use their own imagination, having given them a glimpse of what must be done and where to start: the freedom-voluntariness paradox of neoliberal cap‐ italism. This abstinence from external criticism, complemented by the performative power of employing immanent criticism, constitutes a necessary manoeuvre in a world, which does not offer any moral high ground anymore. On an extralit‐ erary level, in fact, the novel is aware of the fact that is equally part of a capitalist present and thus subject to profit calculation and maximisation. As Jennifer Rickel argues, Cloud Atlas was specifically “marketed as a way to engage as a concerned global citizen” (161). By purchasing the novel, so the campaign claim, “readers may come to understand dehumanized Others, identify with them by drawing upon a universal human ideal that purports to represent all people and rescue them from their victimhood by […]reading the novel that testifies to their humanity” (ibid.). Just like Atwood’s The Heart Goes Last, Cloud Atlas itself thus becomes a commodified product, caught within the paradoxical stance of con‐ demning the expansionist movement of capitalism of which itself is a part. The text is aware of this schizophrenic approach towards critique and self-reflex‐ ively comments on it. The metafictional comments on the big business of liter‐ ature, the status of best-seller novels, as well as the commodification of litera‐ ture, surface in the Timothy Cavendish story: 190 the novel invites us to read the fourth part as a meta-comment on the publishing industry, directly confronting “the big business of literature” (ibid. 169). Cavendish offers a thoroughly com‐ modified approach to literature, always on the hunt for a new bestseller that could bail him out and settle his financial difficulties. 191 Cherishing literature 254 VI. Predatory Capitalism Throughout History: David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas (2004) quently go on to characterize Cloud Atlas as too clever for its own good” (14). See also Sam Jordison for a summary on the “two schools of thought” surrounding the novel, summarized by Robert Frobisher so aptly as “[r]evolutionary or gimmicky” (CA 463). not for its intrinsic and moral value but pursuing the profit behind it, Cavendish personifies the approach not to take. As Rickel argues, “[b]y depicting [Caven‐ dish’s] commodification of Rey’s narrative, Cloud Atlas censures a literary in‐ dustry that treats people as products to be sold” (170), advocating to see the people behind the narratives. Cloud Atlas is deeply sceptical towards external criticism - an attitude made clear on a content level and by the meta-referential comments to be found in the Timothy Cavendish narrative: “what’s a reviewer? […] One who read quickly, arrogantly, but never wisely…” ( CA 151). Yet, Cloud Atlas is also a text that fundamentally believes in the power of narratives (cf. K. Brown 78). The novel itself constitutes an archive (cf. Boulter 132 f.), collecting individual stories into a repository from which future readers might ‘learn,’ “claiming the impor‐ tance of individual stories and subjective perceptions, [while] also assert[ing] the necessity of connectivity and continuity” (Machinal 138). By having the structure collapse back onto itself, thereby suggesting that history is malleable and not deterministic, for cumulative individual choices constitute its path, the novel “suggests that we may be able to avoid the fate of Zach’ry [sic! ] and his world” ( J. Alyson Parker 216). Fictional storytelling is able to raise awareness of one’s own responsibility in creating a network standard. Thereby, Mitchell in‐ vites readers to re-conceptualise the notion of power, arguing for “individual agency and collective identity even within what he sees as the impersonal and recursive unfolding of history itself ” (Mezey 12). As Shoop and Ryan assert, [w]hile history is revealed as driven by biological, ecological, and geological processes that function beneath or beyond any kind of deliberative human control, we are invited to take comfort in the fact that as individuals […] our “virtuous acts” might precipitate positive outcomes of which we are unaware. (94) Staging the fight between history and individual agencies in six narratives, Cloud Atlas does not give definitive answers to the big questions concerning humanity, nor does it offer a recipe for abolishing capitalism. Yet, as Edwards argues, it shows how minor eutopian enclaves might be brought about, dem‐ onstrating how individuals can “build towards a concrete [e]utopian future if [their eutopian communities] can be successfully networked with other similar instances of small-scale resistance” (“Transactions” 194). Network power in the form of path dependence, which is identified as a systemic problem, might al‐ ready incorporate the solution as well. 255 4. Immanent Criticism’ as Compass for Reform 192 In his review of Never Let Me Go, John J. Freeman quotes Ishiguro who claims not “think in terms of genre at all” when writing fiction (196). 193 See Gonnermann “The Concept of Post-Pessimism in 21 st Century Dystopian Fiction.” VII. Clones and Free-Market Capitalism: Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go (2005) When Sir Kazuo Ishiguro (born 1954) was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2017, this pick was applauded as a “a safe choice” (Garner). Indeed, the Eng‐ lish-Japanese writer raised in Guildford, Surrey, had been a part of the British literary establishment for a considerable time, a “blue-chip literary stock for nearly four decades” (ibid.) in terms of literary quality and economic success. Praised for his “novels of great emotional force [that] uncover the abyss beneath our illusory sense of connection with the world,” as the press release of the Nobel Prize Committee stated (cf. Fri), Ishiguro has indeed established himself as a writer of international fame and relevance. His successful novels (both critically and commercially) are characterized by a uniquely unagitated, calm tone even in the face of unspeakable atrocities. Novels such as A Pale View of Hills (1982) or The Remains of the Day (1989) pursue concepts of identity and memory, ques‐ tions of individual complicity, and most importantly, the theme of self-percep‐ tion and delusion. Taking genre boundaries not “too seriously” anyways (Gaiman and Ishi‐ guro), 192 but rather treating them as patterns invented by the publishing in‐ dustry, Ishiguro feels at home with different genres: When We Were Orphans (2000), for instance, is a novel usually classified as a detective novel, although it concerns itself more with the recovery of the childhood memories of its pro‐ tagonist, who happens to be a detective; The Buried Giant (2016) is categorised as a fantasy fable set in Roman Britain, which cultivates an almost Tolkienian approach towards England’s mythical past immortalised by tales such as Sir Gawain and the Green Night; yet it focuses on the twilight years of an elderly couple rather than the glorious adventures of a young knight. Contrary to other writers of comparable standing, Ishiguro is not afraid of so-called ‘low brow’ genres - as can be seen by his 2005-detour into the genre of dystopian fiction. Never Let Me Go (2005), 193 “his only novel with a science fiction theme” so far (Goh 59; cf. Yardley), is a decidedly bleak take on contemporary Britain. Set in an alternative England in the late 1990s, Ishiguro’s unique blend of dystopian 194 The setting and time have confused commentators, who insist that science fiction nec‐ essarily needs to be set in the future: “[t]he prefatory announcement tells us that the novel cannot quite be science fiction. Nor, by those bare, empathic details of place and time, can it be its more literary offshoot: dystopian fiction. […] It does not imagine a future world at all, nor does it bother about the grounds for the unsettling reality it posits” (Mullan, “First Reading” 104). Yet, John Mullan ignores the fact that contempo‐ rary dystopian fiction has reduced the ‘extrapolation time’ considerably. Novels like The Circle or The Heart Goes Last project the dystopian society only a couple of years into the future. One could go one step further and claim that The Circle completely refrains from using extrapolation at all. Moreover, Ishiguro’s novel succeeds in evoking a sense of “immediacy” (Boller 219) or “kind of timelessness” (Currie 93) that reduces the distances between the intraand extradiegetic world. Without the extrapolation into the future, Never Let Me Go designs an alternative society that forces the reader to acknowledge the similarities between the two worlds in terms of capitalist production filtered through the metaphor of cloning and can of course be classified as dystopian. 195 All references to Never Let Me Go will be cited parenthetically as NLMG. novel, bildungsroman, and boarding school drama follows the lives of Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy from their early childhoods in Hailsham, a country-side boarding school. 194 All three are clones - an important detail that is never ex‐ plicitly mentioned in the text but still dominates the course and tone of the narrative. As Kathy formulates it, “[w]e’d been ‘told and not told’” ( NLMG 81). 195 Toker and Chertoff argue convincingly that “neither the children nor the reader can tell exactly when they received the first unambiguous indication as to the purpose of Hailsham” (167), namely the upbringing of clones brought into this world for economic reasons only. Christian Schmitt-Kilb refers to this narra‐ tional technique as “poetics of deferral” (463), commenting on the paradox re‐ sulting from Kathy’s privileged position as an autodiegetic narrator and the unavailability of crucial information. Yet, contrary to what the diligent reader of dystopian fiction might expect, Ishiguro’s clone children do not rebel against their fate, i.e. the inevitable donation of vital organs: while Duru Güngör argues, that the “obvious horrors […] fail to arouse any shock effect in the novel” (111), The New York Times columnist Sarah Kerr simply calls this narrative twist “brutal” and “shocking” (“Never Let Me Go”). Yet, to the clones, “there is no alternative to this course of action” (Christinidis 169). They live their lives, start to donate organs, and eventually die an unspectacular, quiet death. By omitting the rebellion-narrative and thus violating what is perceived as the conventional dystopian paradigm, Never Let Me Go - listed on the Time list “All-Time 100 novels of the 20 th century” (quoted in Bickley 115) - has sparked a vivid discussion amongst its readers, ranging from frustration to outright anger, as to the purpose of this narrative twist: “they never once tried to escape or tried to actually live a normal life once out ‘in the world’” and “I found the 258 VII. Clones and Free-Market Capitalism: Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go (2005) book overwhelmingly powerful, but I am bothered by the issue of passivity” are two examples of reactions recorded by The Guardian journalist John Mullan. Never Let Me Go, though, diverts purposefully from the conventional dystopian paradigm, i.e. “the story of the rebel against some future tyranny” (Mullan “Pos‐ itive”; cf. also Dzhumaylo 91). Ishiguro’s novel has to be read against the back‐ drop of a neoliberal world view, always keeping the concepts of ‘network power’ and immanent criticism in mind. It constitutes a valuable addition to the canon of contemporary dystopian fiction for it criticises 21 st -century power structures without tapping into the pitfall of constructing an (potentially) equally oppres‐ sive, alternative system. I develop my argument of Ishiguro’s use of immanent criticism by, firstly, making explicit the underlying neoliberal assumptions that structure his alternative England. While other novels such as Atwood’s The Heart Goes Last or M. T. Anderson’s Feed are blatantly obvious in their depiction of rampant neoliberal capitalism, the economic context of Never Let Me Go has to be re-constructed by minor clues scattered through Kathy’s memories. Fol‐ lowed by an exploration of the theme of network power and in-group-thinking, two mechanisms that prevent the clones from rebelling in the first place, I am going to trace the use of immanent criticism in Ishiguro’s work, always referring back to the concept of external criticism, which is explicitly marked as non-op‐ tion in the novel. Far from surrendering extradiegetic hope though, the novel aids its readers in identifying the genuine problems of late-capitalist societies in the form of network power and stimulates the search for alternatives pro‐ pelled by the depiction of a society considerably worse than the current one. 1. Our “Most Marketable Stuff” - The Commodification of Life, Art, and Sex Never Let Me Go concerns itself with questions orbiting around artificial life, cloning, health, and medical issues; yet technical and medical details are con‐ spicuously absent from the text. Many scholars have therefore rightly argued that the clones are to be read “metaphorically rather than literally” (Christinidis 169): some critics have analysed the clones in the context of mortality (cf. Lewis, 2011), racism (cf. Gill, 2014), as well as postcolonialism and posthumanism (cf. Goh, 2011), as a failure of the welfare state (cf. Robbins, Mobility, 2007), or as an enquiry into human rights (cf. T. Levy, 2011). From these papers then seems to emerge a critical consensus, stating that although the protagonists are clones, 259 1. The Commodification of Life, Art, and Sex 196 See Alessandra Boller’s Rethinking ‘the Human’ in Dystopian Times (2018) for a discus‐ sion about the official status of the clones and the (bio-)ethical implications thereof. 197 See Gonnermann, “The Concept of Post-Pessimism in 21 st Century Dystopian Fiction.” 198 Clones feature frequently as potent metaphorical vessels to criticise the excesses of free-market capitalism: Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Windup Girl, for instance, a 2010-dys‐ topia investigating environmentalism, climate change, and neoliberal capitalism, fea‐ tures the character of Emiko, an engineered human. As a ‘windup’-girl she is subject to constant psychological and sexual abuse (cf. O’Donnell 12): “whatever they want to do with her, money is money, and nothing is new under the sun” (Windup 49). Com‐ parable, if yet considerably less complex clone-narratives that comment critically on the free-market can be found in Michael Bay’s movie The Island (2005) or the hit series Orphan Black created by writer Graeme Manson et al. (2013-2017). the reader must not confuse them for anything less than human. 196 Therefore, Never Let Me Go targets right at the heart of the question of what it means to be / remain human within free-market capitalism. 197 While clones regularly re-surface as potent vehicles and metaphors for criti‐ cising commodification processes in particular and free-market capitalism in general (see David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas), only rarely have scholars read Ishi‐ guro’s clones in the context of free-market capitalism (notable exceptions in‐ clude Christinidis and Fluet). Being a “manufactured and instrumentalized form of life” ( Jerng 377), clones are “born” for economic purposes only. To be more precise, clones do not derive their sense of self from the conditio humana but are produced / born according to consumer demands of either cheap labour, serving as a spare parts deposit, or a substitute for a deceased ‘proper’ human being (cf. Metcalf). As Debbora Battaglia argues, clones can be reduced to “a derelationalized unit of production in the service of commercial and / or political agendas” (503). Therefore, clones blur the distinction between human and non-human, challenging ontological boundaries and channelling questions about labour, class, commodification processes, and the capitalist exploitation of human beings. Referring to this discourse, Never Let Me Go constructs its clone children as deeply immersed into the neoliberal paradigms of a capitalist world. 198 The entire novel has to be read as a “metaphor for the inequalities and predations of na‐ tional and global economic systems” (Black 796), showing how the clones’ in‐ dividuality and identity is almost exclusively based and thus preconditioned on and by assumptions about value (in the capitalist sense), Protestant work ethic, and commodification processes. Situating his dystopian novel within a decid‐ edly free-market capitalist environment, Ishiguro has created a narrative which purposefully diverts from criticising a totalitarian state, delving into capitalist critique by demonstrating how deeply the idea of Fisher’s capitalist realism is 260 VII. Clones and Free-Market Capitalism: Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go (2005) ingrained in the reality of the clones. Indeed, the importance of being in work and thus of contributing economically to the capitalist society is foregrounded in the very first paragraph of the novel: “[m]y name is Kathy H. I’m thirty-one years old, and I’ve been a carer now for over eleven years” ( NLMG 3). Intro‐ ducing herself by referring to her occupation, Kathy goes on to elaborate on her work performance and the professional achievements connected to that. In the attempt to impress her readers, she recounts, They want me to go on for another eight months, until the end of this year. That’ll make it almost exactly twelve years. Now I know my being a carer so long isn’t nec‐ essarily because they think I’m fantastic at what I do. […] So I’m not trying to boast. But then I do know that they have been pleased with my work, and by and large, I have too. […] Okay maybe I am boasting now. (ibid., emphasis in the original) Mapping out her professional success measured by the extraordinary long time she has been working as a carer (“twelve years”), Kathy establishes herself as a devoted member of a seemingly meritocratic economic order that is based on the medical exploitation of countless clones, raised for the purpose of organ donation only. Readers can tell that she is proud of her achievements, although Kathy initially denies it: “I’m not trying to boast.” Yet, demonstrating how one’s status in society depends on economic performance (“they have been pleased with my work”), Kathy stands exemplarily as both a product and a ‘proponent’ of a hyper-capitalist society that ascribes dignity, status, and even (as will be‐ come obvious later) human rights based on work performances (cf. Charmaine in Atwood’s The Heart Goes Last). Clones have become a valuable economic resource, which is to be deployed according to the imperative of profit maxi‐ misation: as long as Kathy fulfils her duties as a carer so meticulously and suc‐ cessfully, she contributes more efficiently to the economy than she would if she were to become a donor. Hence, she has been asked to “go on for another eight months,” despite the fact that she already is one of the longest serving carers. Kathy’s status in society (which translates directly into her physical integrity for she has yet not to start donating) is ascribed via the capitalist meritocratic system - a discourse that ignores the thematic complex of inalienable human rights. Kathy’s excellent work performance though will not save her from eventually becoming a donor herself. Sooner or later, she will stop caring and start donating her organs like the other clones, too. Yet, Kathy does not go into detail about her own fate, i.e. the process of her inevitably donating her organs, but boasts about how well she performs in the system. Telling the reader about her up‐ coming resignation as a carer, she makes it sound as if she were quitting a job: 261 1. The Commodification of Life, Art, and Sex 199 Never Let Me Go never elaborates on the scientific procedures necessary for the organ donating programme. The novel is “not concerned with speculation about the forms which this technology will take” (Carroll 61), even avoiding giving detailed information as to the possibility of donating vital organs. While this omission has triggered criticism (cf. Harrison “Clone”), Gabriele Griffin has convincingly argued that although the novel “does not focus on presenting detailed accounts of scientific interventions or proce‐ dures […] the questions it raises are intimately connected with that practice, not as process but as effect” (649). Never Let Me Go is not interested in scientific procedures, but in the ethical and moral implications aligned to such processes. “I’ll miss being a carer, [but] it feels just about right to be finishing at last come the end of the year” ( NLMG 4). As Bruce Robbins writes, “Kathy’s thoughts are preoccupied not with her imminent end, but with her professional success” (Mobility 200). Important to her are the privileges she receives for her perform‐ ance: “my bedsit, my car, above all, the way I get to pick and choose who I look after” ( NLMG 3). Her talk of material and immaterial status symbols character‐ ises her both as a reliable employee and as an ‘proponent’ of the organ donation programme, dutifully fulfilling her role by the book: by being a carer first and a donor later, the clones “undertake both productive and reproductive labour in that their organs constitute their extractable surplus value” (Griffin 652). Their entire life cycle is structured around a commodification process aimed at max‐ imising their surplus value - at least this is how it should be according to Kathy, who exhibits an extraordinary work ethic (cf. Christinidis 170): “I can think of one carer at least who went on for all of fourteen years despite being a complete waste of space” ( NLMG 3). Although the readers cannot contextualise the im‐ plications of that statement so early in the novel, Kathy is accusing a fellow clone of unnecessarily postponing his / her ‘retirement’ from being a carer, i.e. his / her entry into the organ donation process. Through Kathy’s comments, then, the readers are introduced to a world, in which economic deliberations dominate the discourse. Kathy’s rhetoric might shock readers, yet is certainly no exception within the clone community, whose members all voice similar opinions and convictions. Even Tommy, originally characterised by his rebellious, non-conformist, and choleric temper in school, eventually gives in to this rhetoric, interpreting his early “redeployment” from carer to donor as “the outcome of his own short‐ comings” (Christinidis 170): “I wasn’t much good as a carer. Never learnt to drive even. I think that’s why the notice for my first came so early. […] I’m a pretty good donor, but I was a lousy carer” ( NLMG 223). Tommy stresses his achieve‐ ments as a donor, evaluating his performance as “pretty good” - an outrageous euphemism for the readers, who know that Tommy’s ‘performance’ consists of having at least one vital organ removed without dying immediately. 199 Stating 262 VII. Clones and Free-Market Capitalism: Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go (2005) that “I’m a pretty good donor, but I was a lousy carer,” Tommy reveals that he too has accepted the paradigm which treats the clones as resources to be de‐ ployed wherever they promise to generate most profit. Since Tommy is not qualified enough to be a carer (“never learnt to drive even”), he is re-located within the ‘chain of production’ of human organs: he has become a “pretty good donor.” Thereby Tommy also succumbs mentally and ideologically to a materi‐ alist social system in which humans derive their value from market calculations. Having noticed the clones’ statements about themselves and their future, many scholars have commented on the peculiar “quiet, civilised, rather formal” style of Kathy’s and her friends (Kermode, “Outrageous”), describing it, for in‐ stance, as “deadpan minimalism […] closer to silence than speech” (Nunokawa 303). Indeed, neither the clones nor the narrator Kathy “never get[…] over‐ wrought or distraught” (Sim 80) about their situation. Within this context, the euphemisms on both a syntax and world level scattered through the text are surely noticeable for readers. Two of Kathy’s memories are particularly re‐ vealing in this respect, the first one referring to her work as a carer: “[m]y donors have always tended to do much better than expected. Their recovery times have been impressive, and hardly any of them have been classified as ‘agitated,’ even before fourth donation” ( NLMG 3). Yet again, Kathy sugar-coats reality behind euphemisms, describing the existential fear of death as experienced before the fatal fourth donation as “agitation.” Never Let Me Go introduces concepts such as ‘carer,’ ‘donor,’ ‘student,’ and ‘completion’ to linguistically mitigate the grue‐ some reality: instead of speaking of ‘organ harvesting,’ the students and thus the readers are acquainted to using friendlier terms, such as ‘donation; ’ instead of ‘murder’ they talk about ‘completion.’ Readers searching the text for words like ‘died’ will also look in vain. Another noteworthy example illustrating Never Let Me Go’s particular nar‐ rative style - a style that according to Güngor is defined by “preterition” (cf. 111) - is to be found in the following lines: “I wasn’t in the best of moods because my own donor had just completed the night before. No one was blaming me for that—it had been a particularly untidy operation—but I wasn’t feeling great all the same” ( NLMG 99, my emphasis). The use of the word “untidy” is particularly revealing: while Kathy is talking about a clone having died due to medical com‐ plications, a presumably bloody and cruel procedure, the words turn it into a impious and harmless incident, maybe an inconvenience for her. Hence, Kathy is busy to reject any responsibility for the death: “no one was blaming me.” Time and time again, Never Let Me Go asks its readers to look beyond linguistic struc‐ tures like these and to decipher the true meaning and implications behind lin‐ guistic phrases like “untidy.” Kathy’s euphemistic choice of words hints at her 263 1. The Commodification of Life, Art, and Sex work routine, clouding the personal implications for the clones, i.e. their deaths. The entire topic seems conspicuously absent from her mind. Kathy insists on her social status so tenaciously since Never Let Me Go introduces a world in which one’s economic status and one’s work performance / profession parallel and precondition the social status and ‘worth’ of a human being. Comparable to the situation of the characters in Atwood’s The Heart Goes Last, the clones’ position in society depends on their economic performance, i.e. organising the donation system or contributing to it as donors (cf. Griffin 652). Clones - ideologically branded as not equal to humans and therefore a target of dehumanising discourses - are encouraged to believe that their ‘originals,’ the humans they are copied from, occupy a relatively low position on the social ladder. This process of dehumanisation is a pre-condition for their treatment as commodities. Once they have been declared non-humans, the clones become a resource in a health system built on a steady supply of spare organs. Subcon‐ sciously, Kathy has adopted that “materialist logic of Ishiguro’s dystopic society” (Whitehead 80) and looks for her original in porn magazines, the idea being that no ‘respectable’ citizen would serve as a clone-model (cf. NLMG 179). Ruth makes this discourse even more explicit, referring to her original as “trash,” thereby assigning to the entire clone community the lowest economic status possible. Having lost her temper, she frustratedly states that [w]e’re modelled from trash. Junkies, prostitutes, winos, tramps. Convicts, maybe, just so long as they aren’t psychos. That’s what we come from. We all know it, so why don’t we say it? […] If you want to look for possibles, if you want to do it properly, then you look in the gutter. You look in rubbish bins. Look down the toilet, that’s where you’ll find where we all came from. (ibid. 164, emphasis in the original) Compared to rubbish and excrements, the ‘possibles’ and therefore the clones constitute the ‘sediment’ of a society structured according to capitalist norms. Furthermore, if Ruth’s theory is indeed correct, it sheds light on how society not only treats its clones but also its ‘human’ members in extension. Using the weakest and less prestigious members of societies as templates, such as drug addicts and convicts, this society makes sure that even its least ‘valuable’ mem‐ bers serve a valuable economic function, i.e. support the health system with new clones - just like those in Cloud Atlas’ untermenschen slums. Human and clone-life in Never Let Me Go is turned into a resource and thus becomes subject to a materialistic, economic world view that assigns a price-tag to anything. The ideological foundation for the acceptance of a free-market economy as cultivated and lived by Kathy and her friends in their adult life is laid in their childhood. Although originally conceptualised as qualitatively different from 264 VII. Clones and Free-Market Capitalism: Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go (2005) the capitalist outside-world, Hailsham and its guardians (the teachers at Hail‐ sham and an intertextual nod to Plato’s eutopia Politeia) inadvertently reproduce the mechanisms of neoliberal commodification processes and thus acclimatise the students to a society structured according to capitalist ideals. It is in fact the guardians who open previously untapped areas of human life for market colo‐ nisation, such as the production of art and the act of sexual intercourse. A de‐ constructivist reading reveals how the guardians inadvertently pave the way for the triumphal march of neoliberal market imperatives that elevate the free market to a template for all social interactions: while programmes like the art gallery, for instance, are originally designed to prove the clones’ humanity, they are deeply indebted to market structures and shows how the teachers promote rather than advert commodification processes. Willi Erzgräber states that it is a traditional feature of utopian fiction to ponder art’s subversive potential (cf. “Brave New World” 204). Moreover, para‐ phrasing Herbert Marcuse, Tom Moylan writes that “[a]rt [is] allied with revo‐ lution” both extradiegetically and intradiegetically (“Locus of Hope” 162; cf. also Meyer 75), thereby stressing the important narrative role of art for initiating a revolution. Accordingly, in Orwell’s or Huxley’s works, art usually serves as a template for potential rebellion, initiating the anagnorisis of the rebellious pro‐ tagonist. In Ishiguro’s novel, however, art is denied its epiphanic quality. It does not spring from a fundamental human desire to create and experience real emo‐ tions. On the contrary, the guardians at Hailsham functionalise it as a means to an end: they collect the best artworks created by students for their gallery and exhibitions in ‘the real world’ outside of Hailsham in the attempt to prove that clones have souls, too, helplessly pursuing the wish to “protect the clones against reductive treatment by those in the outside world” (Matthews and Groes 6). However, their laudable intention backfires: for one, the general public wilfully ignores the theoretical possibility that the clones might, in fact, have souls, since “they are irrelevant in the face of their fixed and commodified bodily identities” (Goh 64). Moreover and even worse, the guardians’ plan “play[s] into the hands of market logic and dehumanisation” (Glaubitz 326), accelerating the process of said developments. Art surrenders its meaning for it comes to substitute money for the clone children, who adopt the notion of art as a currency. Four times a year […] we had a kind of big exhibition-cum-sale of all the things we’d been creating in the three months since the last Exchange. […] For each thing you put in, you were paid in Exchange Tokens - the guardians decided how many your par‐ ticular masterpiece merited - and then on the day of the Exchange you went along with your tokens and ‘bought’ the stuff you liked. (NLMG 15 f.) 265 1. The Commodification of Life, Art, and Sex In the world of Never Let Me Go, there is no room for l’art pour l’art. Students adopt a habitus, in which the quality of art is measured according to its economic success, i.e. only worth something if you receive tokens in return: “for each thing you put in, you were paid.” They thus start to produce art in order to “get paid in Exchange tokens,” with which they in turn “‘bought’ the stuff [they] liked.” Caricaturing the contemporary art market to a certain extent, Kathy’s evalua‐ tion is thus more grounded in reality than what Ruth remembers about the Exchanges: “[i]t’s all part of what made Hailsham so special […]. The way we were encouraged to value each other’s work” (ibid. 16). The opposite is the case: fuelling a capitalist market built on surrogate money, art needs to generate in‐ come (cf. Gonnermann 29 f.). Since the programme sensitises the students for pricing processes, teaching them “a keen eye for pricing up anything we pro‐ duced,” the children soon demand to receive financial compensation in return: “by the time we were ten, this whole notion that it was a great honour to have something taken by Madame collided with a feeling that we were losing our most marketable stuff. […] It began with a number of students […] muttering that we should get tokens to compensate when Madame took something away” ( NLMG 38 f.). Intrinsic motivation to produce art (“great honour to have some‐ thing taken by Madam”) is slowly eroded, being replaced by the extrinsic mo‐ tivation of receiving financial compensation “when Madame took something away.” Fearing for their “most marketable stuff,” the children have accepted the notion of art as a currency and demand reimbursement. Ultimately, the ‘income’ from the Exchanges defines the social position of the students and “translates directly into a social hierarchy of recognition” (Gonnermann 29) based on cap‐ italist performance, i.e. the wealth generated by selling artwork. The resulting social ‘pecking order’ in Hailsham is thus a micro-version of the capitalist macro-structure they will eventually encounter outside of Hailsham after grad‐ uation. Students are ranked socially according to their economic contributions. This ideology justifies the social exclusion and bullying of Tommy, who “didn’t have a thing for the Spring Exchange” ( NLMG 15). Inadvertently, the guardians have thus created a system that perverts their original good-willed intentions: instead of educating the clones and the outside world about the human nature of the children, they have created an “unhappy presaging of the exchange economy” (Summers-Bremner 155), meaning that their methods and ideas pave the way for the very same system that will exploit the clones both mentally and physically. To bring across that point, the novel establishes the selling of artworks as conceptually close to organ donation. When asked about the nature of the gallery, for instance, the children imagine that “[i]t’s got something to do with what Miss Lucy said to you. About us, about 266 VII. Clones and Free-Market Capitalism: Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go (2005) how one day we’ll start giving donations” ( NLMG 31). Having had the impres‐ sion that “it’s all linked in” (ibid.), Kathy and her peers associate the organ donation process with the production of art, thereby illustrating the close concep‐ tual connection between the two processes which culminates in the diminution of clone agency and the triumphalism of free-market profit maximisation: since both organs and artworks are forcefully removed from the clones’ body against their will in order to generate profit, their extraction highlights the clones status as commodities, commenting on their non-existent right of self-determination (cf. Black 785). Moreover, the Exchanges and the Gallery naturalise the organ donation system, introducing the children to the logic of commodification. In the words of Nicola Glaubitz, the programme “acclimatises students to the idea of giving away their vital parts” (326). Being accustomed to trade away their “most marketable stuff ” - a purposefully vague expression that can ultimately refer to their artwork and organs - the clones ultimately identify the free-market as natural state of things. The gallery and the currency-system connected to it result in “Kathy and the other clones [being] emotionally detached from their own bodies” (Gill 853 f.). Consequently, when the novel invites the reader to equal the clones’ artwork to their organs, the text highlights and foreshadows the fatal consequences of neoliberal capitalism for the individual, building on the premise that life and the individual production of art are fully subsumed under free market capitalist logic. Having been raised in the climate of capitalist realism, the clones remain unable to even linguistically phrase the process adequately - adequately for a contemporary reader that is - and develop their own language. Their jokes are particularly revealing since they shed an interesting light on how accustomed the clones have grown to market imperatives. As students, they conceptualise their organs as carriable items and - accordingly - their bodies as mere laundry sacks or carrier bags, which can be zipped and unzipped: [T]he idea of things ‘unzipping’ carried over from Tommy’s elbow to become a run‐ ning joke among us about the donations. The idea was that when the time came, you’d be able to just unzip a bit of yourself, a kidney or something would side out, and you’d hand it over (NLMG 86). The body is discursively re-imagined as a spare parts deposit for organs, which lacks organic quality but has been re-semanticised as inorganic matter. The ref‐ erence to zippers conjures the image of rucksacks or sports bags, which are decidedly more unproblematic to open than the human body. It becomes clear that the children lack the understanding for the complex organic mechanisms of the body, imagining organ donation as a playful, painless, and quick process 267 1. The Commodification of Life, Art, and Sex equivalent to ‘handing over’ things out of a bag. Within the metaphoric field of zippers, organs lose their biological necessity and become spare parts waiting to be taken out by the clones themselves: “you’d be able to just unzip a bit of yourself.” Fittingly, when Tommy and Kathy apply for a deferral, Tommy brings his animal drawings - his “most marketable stuff ” - in a sports bag, thus con‐ necting art, organs, and the metaphor of unzipping: “[h]e raised his bag, then began to unzip it” (ibid. 249). Olga Dzhumaylo has written convincingly about the tragic irony in how Tommy “faces the heartbreaking truth that the only sort of donation he is supposed to make will be ‘to unzip’ his organs” (93). Ultimately, both Kathy and Tommy have to realise that the Gallery was no good in estab‐ lishing their ‘humanness’ - on the contrary, it helped to naturalise the free-market and its dehumanising logic. Yet not only art and the production thereof are closely connected to the organ donation process, and ultimately, the free market. Ishiguro constructs a complex web of allusions and metaphors that also includes the physical act of sexual intercourse, thus opening up yet another intimate part of human life for the neoliberal market logic. On multiple occasions, Kathy connects the triangle of donation, creativity, and sex on a conceptual level. “In a way, sex had got like ‘being creative’ had been a few years earlier. It felt like if you hadn’t done it yet, you ought to, and quickly” ( NLMG 95 f.). Sex, like art, is thus reduced to its functional necessity and not pursued for its own sake. Just as Tommy starts to produce art “[j]ust in case” (ibid. 176), Kathy and he have sex ‘just in case.’ Both processes are ideologically connected, making it impossible to refer to the one without simultaneously thinking about the other: For a start, Tommy and I finally started having sex. […] He was still recovering, after all, and maybe it wasn’t the first thing on his mind. […] And my other thought, I suppose, was that if our plans went along the lines Ruth had wanted, and we did find ourselves going for a deferral, it might prove a real drawback if we’d never had sex. (ibid. 234) While in classical dystopian fiction, sex is usually sanctioned or highly con‐ trolled by the state since it is metaphorically equivaled to rebellion (cf. Wilm 192; also Petzold 334), Never Let Me Go surprises its readers by depicting a society which does not regulate intercourse at all. Sex and its performance thus consti‐ tute an additional ideological piece in the puzzle of preparing the clones for their fate. Just as the clones are encouraged to give away their “most marketable stuff ” for the galleries, they are equally accustomed to giving away their body: When someone wanted sex with you, that too was much more straightforward. A boy would come up and ask if you wanted to spend the night in his room ‘for a change,’ 268 VII. Clones and Free-Market Capitalism: Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go (2005) something like that, it was no big deal. Sometimes it was because he was interested in becoming a couple with you; other times it was just for a one-nighter. The atmosphere, like I say, was much more grown up. But when I look back, the sex at the Cottages seems a bit functional. (NLMG 125, my emphases) Although the guardians warn them that sex was a “really big deal between people” (ibid. 96), for the clones it is a bodily function, a “change” and precisely not a “big deal” as Kathy informs the reader. The clones speculate that it was the guardians’ “duty to make us have sex because otherwise we wouldn’t be good donors later on. According to [Hannah], things like your kidneys and pancreas didn’t work properly unless you kept having sex” (ibid. 94). While the conclusion might strike the reader as childishly naïve, the proposition seems surprisingly apt: the encouragement to see their body as emotionally detached from them and therefore readily marketable, is deeply ingrained within the clones’ thinking - non-surprisingly, this is the reason why Kathy searches for her original in porn magazines. Just like the imperative to be creative and pro‐ duce art is both an ideological precondition for donating organs, so is the impulse to have intercourse. As the clones are encouraged to give away their most pre‐ cious artwork, they come to think of a sex as a casual exchange, ignoring the thematic complex of morality, pleasure, intimacy and procreation that is usually connected to the physical act of sex. Sex and the donation programme are, moreover, related on a discursive level as well: it is something that is “told and not told” ( NLMG 81). Both topics are surrounded by a linguistic haze in Kathy’s memories, never explicitly addressed but always awkwardly hinted at. As Kathy recalls, at Hailsham there was a “lot of snogging and touching up, maybe; and couples hinting they were having proper sex” (ibid. 95, emphasis in the original) but none of the clones are ex‐ plicitly talking about it. The discourse around sex, which reconceptualises the clone body as “functional,” i.e. produced for a specific purpose, encourages the clones to let others freely decide over their own bodies. Renouncing their bodily agency, the clones demonstrate that their concept of bodily autonomy is thus virtually non-existent. Yet, this is not a gender issued: both male and female clones allow others to exercise control over their body. Whenever “someone wanted sex,” the mere invitation seems to suffice. When Kathy refers to the atmosphere as “much more grown up,” she conflates active consent and passive acceptance, showcasing how physical intimacy is a reconceptualised as a ques‐ tion of supply-and-demand. As Desai argues, “Kathy H. and the other students notice how talk of sex is always linked to talk of donations, and since they are conditioned to be quite casual about sex, they find a way of being casual about 269 1. The Commodification of Life, Art, and Sex donations too” (“Shadow”). Indeed, the clones feel encouraged to have sexual encounters, just as they are ‘encouraged’ to donate their organs later. Prepared to exchange all “their most marketable stuff ” (in an actual and met‐ aphorical sense) on free-market platforms dominated by supply and demand mechanisms, the students have internalised the system with all its implications by the age of ten. Tragic in this context is the ‘exchange rate’: The Sales were important to us because that was how we got hold of things from outside. […] Looking back now, it’s funny to think we got so worked up, because usually the Sales were a big disappointment. There’d be nothing remotely special and we’d spend our tokens just renewing stuff that was wearing out or broken with more of the same. (NLMG 41) While Kathy and the others are keen on receiving tokens for their most precious artwork in return, the items on sale are generally “a big disappointment.” The clones spend their dearly earned tokens on “renewing stuff ” or merely accu‐ mulating “more of the same.” Thereby they already comment on the bad “ex‐ change rate”: they give away their “most marketable stuff,” without receiving an adequate compensation in turn. Hence, the novel shows how the children develop a consumer mentality that cherishes the accumulation of “stuff,” i.e. commodities with no intrinsic value. Delivered in “big cardboard boxes [by] two men in overalls” (ibid.), the objects for sale seem to be second-hand donations from charity, “outsiders[’] unwanted items and paraphernalia” (K. McDonald 78). Speaking in favour of this reading is also the fact that “Walkmans had started appearing at Hailsham since the previous year’s Sales” ( NLMG 100). Considering the time, in which the novel is set, the late 1990s, Walkmans had already been surpassed by other technology (cf. Franzen), suggesting that the music players in the Sales had indeed been donations for charity. Consequently, the clones have traded their most important means of self-expression for second-hand, outdated commodities, often “nothing remotely special” (ibid. 41) but rather a “disappointment” (ibid.) as Kathy succinctly puts it. The pattern thus repeats itself: in exchange for their most valuable possessions, the clones receive nothing of value in return. As Shameem Black argues, “[a]s with the Exchanges, the Sales mask a donation economy within the guise of egalitarian circulation” (796). However, “[w]hat seems reciprocal is always only one way” (ibid.), and thus highlights the neoliberal economic exploitation the clones are subject to. 270 VII. Clones and Free-Market Capitalism: Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go (2005) 2. “Tommy Had Brought All His Problems on Himself“ - Individuals Within Networks Linking “the commodification of human beings to a culture where the demands of corporate profit-making penetrate all aspects of social life” (Sim 87), Never Let Me Go shows that the clones are subject to exploitation on both a physical and a psychological level. Kathy and her friends stand exemplarily for one social group which suffers the most from the free-market imperatives, although the novel hints at the fact that the entire society, and especially the lower classes, might experience similar self-perpetuating, if arguably less life-threatening dis‐ crimination (see Ruth’s speculations on the clones’ ‘possibles’). Yet, while readers witness the emotional and physical traumata the clones endure (sepa‐ ration, mutilation, organ removal, etc.), Never Let Me Go does not provide intraand extradiegetic relief in the form of the prototypical dystopian subplot of anti-hegemonic resistance (cf. Mullan, “Positive”), thus violating consciously one of the genre’s hallmarks, which makes it a fascinating read. As Margaret Cohen writes, differences among individual examples of [a] genre become important when a text transgresses its dominant (in the structuralist sense) generic horizon. In violating the codes that are its point of departure, it engages in what Bourdieu calls position-taking, as its author solicits the reader against rather than with an established practice imbued with symbolic prestige and / or market appeal. (18) Refusing its readers an experience in line with “established practice[s]” of reading dystopian fiction, i.e. witnessing the anagnorisis and process of disagreement with the hegemonic systemic as lived through by a sympathetic pro‐ tagonist, Never Let Me Go precludes the option of an escapist reading. It forces its readers to ponder about the reasons and effects of flaunting the genre con‐ ventions, ultimately teaching them to abandon established patterns of sense-making. By having its characters seemingly “accept” the status quo, the novel constitutes an exercise in reading the nature of power, which shifts its focus away from a mono-centric, totalitarian conception towards a more com‐ plicated and nuanced, less obvious form of power, i.e. network power, which leaves its members unable to fight the standard. Indeed, many critics have tried to offer explanations for the clones’ ‘frustra‐ ting’ behaviour (cf. Mullan, “Positive”). Reading complicity as “a central concern of Ishiguro’s” (Stacy, Narrative 5), Ivan Stacy has claimed that the clones are subject to a normalisation process of atrocities, having produced an “unwilling‐ ness to see, to attest to the evidence available to them” (“Complicity” 227). 271 2. Individuals Within Networks Framing the clones’ actions within the context of the Marxist notion of false consciousness, his extensive use of the concept of ‘compliance,’ however, evokes notions of individual failure to witness and ideologically-blinded acceptance. Yet, the novel’s ‘compliance’ is not so much a result of the failure to witness the atrocities committed in the name of profit-maximisation, but the outcome of neoliberal network structures, which have successfully colonised human life it‐ self. As has been described multiple times now, within a particular network, free, albeit involuntary choices become the sole option and make non-rebellion seem as a form of acceptance. The absence of any “explicit challenge to hegemonic power” (ibid. 228), the absence of rebellion, then, is less a problem of compliance than of the impossibility of rebellion within the hegemonic structures of net‐ work power, in which powerful standards limit the options of individuals. Fit‐ tingly, the novel constructs its main characters as clones, thus already stressing the importance of interconnectedness, i.e. networks, since - metaphorically speaking - clones embody the notion of dependence and connectedness by their very nature. Other than replicants or robots, clones “require an other, articulate continuity and connection by virtue of the fact that they are made from an orig‐ inal” (Griffin 656). They need to be evaluated in terms of their metaphorical power of signifying social relations. As Griffin argues, “they embody […] rela‐ tionality” (657). It is thus pointless to accuse Ishiguro of scientific inaccuracies when it comes to the scientific and medical details of cloning. Ishiguro’s novel is not about cloning but scrutinises individuals’ lives and options within net‐ works. Instead of explicitly staging rebellion, Ishiguro comments on the dangers of conflating freedom and voluntariness (a common mistake amongst defenders of neoliberalism), favouring a reading that re-contextualises the absence of al‐ ternatives as equally coercive as totalitarian oppression. In contrast to Eggers’ The Circle, which enables its readers to witness the emergence of a dominant standard, Never Let Me Go introduces a world in the firm grip of an already established one: the imperative to be creative. Since as Georgia Christinidis writes, “no alternative can ultimately be put forward” (161) in the world of the novel, Tommy is key to understanding how power works in Ishiguro’s world. As Margaret Atwood summarises his development in her re‐ view of Never Let Me Go, “Tommy reacts with occasional rage to the uncon‐ scionable things being done to him, but then apologizes for his loss of control” (“Brave”). In fact, Tommy’s tantrums and emotional outbursts are the closest thing to a systemic revolution the novel offers, as he is “the only one to protest actively against their identity as organ-donors” (Cooper 115; cf. also Glaubitz 327). Yet, he is defined not only by his temper but most importantly by his in‐ ability to comply with the dominant standard, resulting in his social and emo‐ 272 VII. Clones and Free-Market Capitalism: Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go (2005) tional isolation. While his fellow students adjust their behaviour or are lucky enough to fit into the system anyways, Tommy struggles with his otherness expressed by the absence of artistic talent: “though everyone knew Tommy was a better [football]player than any of that year” ( NLMG 8), his athletic achieve‐ ments are irrelevant within the social hierarchy of Hailsham. This standard is not measured according to athletics, but in the ability to produce marketable art: “how much you were liked and respected, had to do with how good you were at ‘creating’” (ibid. 16). In fact, from the start, Tommy flaunts the network standard and thus excludes himself from the community of Hailsham students. Erroneously branded “a layabout,” who “never even tried to be creative” (ibid. 10), Tommy fails to get access to the network due to his constant flouting of the standard. As Stacy points out, “the clones do watch each other closely with a concern to maintain standards of behavior that they regard as appropriate” (“Complicity” 241). Non-acceptance of a social network standard is evaluated as personal refusal to integrate properly. Consequently, the other students conceptualise Tommy’s failure to adopt creativity-standards as his own free choice. This rhetorical twist, i.e. the re‐ branding of inability as freedom, while disregarding the criterion of voluntari‐ ness, enables the students to identify Tommy as the cause of social unrest: “[t]here was something comical about Tommy […], something that made you think, well, yes, if he’s going to be that daft, he deserves what’s coming” ( NLMG 8 f., emphasis in the original). The students claim that Tommy has “deserved what’s coming” and start “swapping reasons why Tommy deserved everything he got” (ibid. 10). Cultivating an seemingly meritocratic approach towards cre‐ ativity, translated into the concept of “deserving” (and thereby implying that Tommy gets his just deserts), the students strengthen the network standard of creativity and thus use it as a justification for his social exclusion - a process all children partake in, even Kathy, who, likes to downplay her own role garnishing her narrative with “firm declarations of innocence” (Cooper 113). Although sur‐ prising the reader with an emotional mature insight, namely empathising with Tommy and recalling his childhood as a social outcast “with a kind of chill” ( NLMG 19), even she seems unable to alter her own behaviour towards him: “I thought sooner or later someone would start saying it had gone too far, but it just kept on, and no one said anything” (ibid. 15). Kathy is equally lost in com‐ prehending the fundamental injustice in how the others treat Tommy. Unwill‐ ingly, the guardians have raised Kathy and the others to ‘comply’ with a certain standard by encouraging to be creative and to cherish this talent. Accepting that standard, though, is a precondition for becoming “an enabler of the systematic murder of clones” (Cooper 108) later in her life as has already been argued. As 273 2. Individuals Within Networks Stacy writes, the “protagonists are not only unable or unwilling to oppose these oppressive systems, but are also complicit with them to a degree” (“Complicity” 225), i.e. they uphold the network standards since despite Tommy’s suffering though, the characters seem unable to alter the network standard. The absence of coercive forms of power legitimises Tommy’s discrimination since the neo‐ liberal individual is identified as the sole centre of responsibility: “Tommy had brought all his problems on himself ” ( NLMG 18). Conflating lack of talent with wilfully ignoring standards (i.e. voluntariness), the other students feel entitled to discriminate against Tommy, who - being unable to deconstruct this logic - equally succumbs to the logic of the methodological individualism in his search for authority and centre of responsibility, blaming himself for his inadequacies. Having been the object of cruel mockery due to his ‘flaunting’ of the dominant standard, Tommy eventually adopts this logic. Never Let Me Go can be read as a narrative of ‘integration’ in the sense of assimilation, illustrating the influence of a dominating standard on an individual and the inevitable process of adaption. Throughout the novel the clones and particularly Tommy “must either choose to use the dominant standard, or else choose not to conform, suffering social isolation and the loss of access to ev‐ eryone pursuing the activity in question,” as David Grewal describes the options within a network (112). The reader witnesses Tommy succumbing eventually, even taking up art (cf. NLMG 176). Years later, when applying for a deferral, he indeed regrets not having complied with the standard when he was a child, even blaming himself for not doing so: “I know now I should have done, but I was mixed up. […] I know that’s my fault” (ibid. 249). Just like all the other personal choices made by the clones, this particular decision seems formally free. The absence of any form of social coercion, is poignant: nobody forces Tommy to start drawing. However, his decision is not a voluntary one. Bereft of other options to gain social acceptance, Tommy alters his behaviour, welcoming the neoliberal paradigm of individual responsibility, and perpetuates thus a form of systemic oppression which will eventually claim his life. He takes up drawing his mechanistic animals, hoping to gain access to the network. At the end of the novel, Tommy has accepted the general neoliberal narrative of individual re‐ sponsibility cultivated by the others. Tommy’s biography reads like the gradual acceptance of the neoliberal para‐ digm that the individual is the centre of responsibility. One scene illustrates this development symbolically: being the only one who was not selected as a member of the football team because of his low social status and despite his talent as a football player, Tommy cries out in rage. Kathy recalls how he helplessly “burst into thunderous bellowing” and “began to scream and shout” ( NLMG 9) for 274 VII. Clones and Free-Market Capitalism: Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go (2005) having been excluded by the others. After a couple of moments, in which he tried to direct his anger at the other students, Tommy’s behaviour begins to change though: Tommy was no longer trying to direct his comments in any particular direction. He was just raving, flinging his limbs about, at the sky, at the wind, at the nearest fence post. […] what had struck me was that each time he stamped the foot back down again, flecks of mud flew up around his [favourite, precious shirt]. (ibid. 9 f.) This scene is highly symbolical and provides a template for reading the entire novel. Due to the unavailability of some higher authority other than the indi‐ vidual, justified personal anger or frustration necessarily fizzles out, throwing the individuals back onto themselves: unable to direct his rage at his fellow students, Tommy helplessly searches for alternative targets, trying the sky, the wind, and “the nearest fence post” as possible addressees for his frustration - all unsuitable candidates. Unable to identify a centre of moral authority due to the cultivation of the neoliberal narrative of individual responsibility, he almost pathologically projects responsibility back onto himself. With no Machiavellian, totalitarian puppet master in the background like Orwell’s O’Brien, power be‐ comes pervasive, making it impossible to decipher its centre. Tommy has liter‐ ally no other option left than blaming himself. Again, as Kathy maintains, “[i]t’s not nice. But if he wants it to stop, he’s got to change his own attitude” (ibid. 15), thereby making it seem as if there was no coercion but free choice only. Symbolically, Tommy has ruined his favourite shirt by stamping his foot up and down multiple times. Tellingly, this scene resurfaces towards the end of the novel, when Kathy and Tommy - now both grown up - prepare for his final donation: again, this out‐ burst has a symbolic quality, since it is explicitly contextualised as a direct result of individual and social frustration, stemming from the impossibility to alter the structures of neoliberal network power. Again, mud stains signal the non-vol‐ untary nature of ‘compliance’ within Ishiguro’s alternative England: I could make out in the mid-distance, near where the field began to fall away, Tommy’s figure, raging, shouting, flinging his fists and kicking out. I tried to run to him, but the mud sucked my feet down. The mud was impeding him too, because one time, when he kicked out, he slipped and fell out of view into the blackness. But his jumbled swear-words continued uninterrupted, and I was able to reach him just as he was getting to his feet again. I caught a glimpse of his face in the moonlight, caked in mud and distorted with fury, then I reached for his flailing arms and held on tight. (ibid. 269) 275 2. Individuals Within Networks Explicitly referring to the childhood scene via the reference to mud, stains, and frustration, this scene establishes Tommy as a personification of systemic help‐ lessness, i.e. a placeholder for all those who may or may have not understood the coercive nature of network system and fail to counteract these tendencies. Yet again, Tommy is depicted as “raging, shouting, flinging his fists and kicking out” ready to fight for his life. But although the scene conjures an atmosphere reminiscent of a box fight, the allusion is misleading. Despite being prepared to do so, Tommy is not allowed to use his fists and to “kick out” in self-defence: there simply is no opponent to fight due to the systemic nature of oppression. The standard of creativity has surfaced and is supported by millions of individual decisions and thus lacks a centre of responsibility and authority. To repeat Mark Fisher’s words, in capitalist realism, “[a]nger can only be a matter of venting; it is aggression in a vacuum, directed at someone who is a fellow victim of the system […]. Just as the anger has no proper object, it will have no effect” (64). Again, Tommy ruins his clothes out of frustration, thus inviting the readers to read the mud as both result and manifestation of a force that literally obscures the search for centres of responsibility outside the individual: the “mud sucked my feet down [and] the mud was impeding him, too.” Both Kathy and Tommy, pars pro toto for the entire clone community, are “caked in mud and distorted with fury” yet fail to identify a higher authority. While no one demands to uphold the standard by using direct, hierarchical force, characters are ‘punished’ by being excluded from the group - a process similar to the one described in Eggers’ The Circle. Hence, the explanation for the clones’ meticulous clinging to the dominant standard lies within the analytical field of group-formation, identity construction, and fear of exclusion, which is deeply engrained in the clones. Indeed, Never Let Me Go can be described as a narrative dominated by the characters’ need for social ties and the fear of losing the same. As Margaret Atwood writes, the novel advocates a reading in terms of “treatment of out-groups, and the way out-groups form in-groups, even among themselves” (“Brave”). The clones of Hailsham are constantly preoccu‐ pied with the formation of inand out-groups, thereby establishing hierarchies within the lowest economic caste. Even the ghost stories they tell themselves are a case in point: There were all kinds of horrible stories about the woods. […] [One] rumour had it that a girl’s ghost wandered through those trees. She’d been a Hailsham student until one day she’d climbed over a fence just to see what it was like outside. […] She kept hanging around outside the fences, pleading to be let back in, but no one let her. Eventually, she’d gone off somewhere out there, something had happened and she’d died. But her 276 VII. Clones and Free-Market Capitalism: Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go (2005) ghost was always wandering about the woods, gazing over Hailsham, pining to be let back in. (NLMG 50) Contrary to the conventions of horror stories, the Hailsham story does not go into much detail about the girl’s death, stating only that “something had hap‐ pened and she’d died” (ibid.). Instead of indulging in the gory details of her death - typical for horror stories and thrillers -, the story focuses on the exclu‐ sion from Hailsham: “she’d been a Hailsham student until one day she’d climbed over a fence just to see what it was like outside.” The rumour reinforces the importance of belonging to Hailsham, warning about the dangers of leaving the in-group. The girl in the ghost-story can thus be analysed as a cipher for the social pressure put on the students. Exclusion from the Hailsham group is the most severe punishment the clones can think of. Kathy recalls an instance from her childhood in which Ruth had expelled Moira B. from their clique. When after having had a disagreement with Ruth herself, Kathy, too, finds herself on the brink of social expulsion, Moira approaches her with the offer of forming a new group - a suggestion Kathy harshly rejects: “[w]hy was I so hostile to Moira B. that day when she was, really, a natural ally? What it was, I suppose, is that Moira was suggesting she and I cross some line together, and I wasn’t prepared for that yet” (ibid. 55). Leaving the privileged group is seen as a grave, irrevocable decision nobody wants to risk. Group-membership and the ‘right’ affiliation to one particular group is thus a central concern of the clones as a social chaste. Tellingly, the ‘community’ of clones is not united by their universal suffering but rather has re-produced a micro-system of social status comparable to the outside world - with Hailsham at the top, which seems to radiate a form of exclusivity desired by all clones Kathy meets in her career as a carer. He’d just come through his third donation […]. He could hardly breathe, but he looked towards me and said: ‘Hailsham. I bet that was a beautiful place.’ […] He’d ask me about the big things and the little things [but] [w]hat he wanted was not just to hear about Hailsham, but to remember Hailsham, just like it had been his own childhood. (ibid. 5, emphasis in the original) Hailsham is thus constructed as an ideal, eutopian place - especially by those who were not fortunate enough to have grown up there. Its status as a comfort in the moment of impending death signals its exceptional symbolic power in the clone community. Although Kathy and the others have never consciously eval‐ uated their upbringing, it is moments like these in which she “considers herself lucky to have grown up in a superior establishment like Hailsham rather than on the standard organ farm” (Atwood, “Brave”). As Duru Güngör argues, “it becomes clear that the students of Hailsham are ironically privileged, that they 277 2. Individuals Within Networks draw the envy of the clones raised in all the other institutions, since Hailsham has been a unique project designed to offer the clones at least a happy childhood, if not a different end” (111). Indeed, Kathy’s narrative is peopled with clones from other institutions that seem to envy the Hailsham students, implying that their own childhoods had not been as pleasant. Chrissie, for instance admits: “I know how lucky I am, getting to be at the Cottages. But you Hailsham lot, you’re really lucky” ( NLMG 150, emphasis in the original). Hailsham students, it seems, can pride themselves on a special status within the clone community. Indeed, the school represents a paradise for the clones, a “golden” (ibid. 76) eutopia within a dystopian society. Only through the negative experiences of other students does Kathy comprehend “how lucky [they]’d been” (ibid. 6). The novel never goes into detail about the other places. However, it can be assumed that Hailsham and its liberal, humanist ideals of education indeed occupy an extraordinary position within the system. As Miss Emily recounts, we became a very small but very vocal movement, and we challenged the entire way the donations programme was being run. Most importantly, we demonstrated to the world that if students were reared in humane, cultivated environments, it was possible for them to grow to be as sensitive and intelligent as any ordinary human being. (ibid. 256, my emphasis) Describing Hailsham as a challenge to the “way the donations programme was being run,” Miss Emily provides the necessary frame to evaluate the school as a “humane cultivated environment” distinct from the other institutions. Ex neg‐ ativo, the novel encourages its readers to assume that the other places were nothing like it, but - in line with what the readers suspect from the shared memories of non-Hailsham alumni - less cultivated and humane. The conno‐ tation of “reared” though, evoking allusions to animal husbandry, blurs the eu‐ topian picture of Hailsham as a safe heaven. This semantic detail hinting at the fact that the clones were brought into this world as commodities remains un‐ noticed by Kathy and Tommy, who are more interested in stabilising their com‐ munity ties to Hailsham and find confirmation of their supposedly ‘special status.’ The extraordinary status of Hailsham rubs off to its alumni, who come to consider themselves as “very special” (ibid. 43), maybe even elite. The tight bonds woven by Hailsham thus become a central yardstick for Kathy, who is keen on maintaining her school friendships once they have left for the cottages - the liminal place between school and donation systems, the clones move to after their ‘graduation.’ There, Kathy’s attempts to recreate the in-group of her child‐ hood, maybe even the secret society they cultivated (cf. ibid. 7; 33; 37; 49), are 278 VII. Clones and Free-Market Capitalism: Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go (2005) 200 The metaphor of choice to express the clones’ strong sense of community is described by Kathy: “I thought about Hailsham closing, and how it was like someone coming along with a pair of shears and snipping the balloon strings just where they entwined above the man’s fist. Once that happened, there’d be no real sense in which those bal‐ loons belonged with each other any more” (NLMG 209). Describing herself and the others as balloons attached to a string and held by someone, Kathy fears that they might drift apart once their common denominator (Hailsham) lets go of them (hence, the title of the novel, Never Let Me Go; cf. Güngör 114). thus marked by a strong sense of exclusivity. 200 Non-Hailsham alumni like Rodney and his friends do not even qualify for membership: “I remember thinking then how different they actually were, Chrissie and Rodney, from the rest of us” (ibid. 163). As Stacy argues, Kathy’s strong “desire to belong to a group is shown resulting in the exclusion of others and also in the creation of stories that defer addressing the real origins and implications of that exclusion” (“Complicity” 243). Even after having started to work as a carer, Kathy prefers to work with her “own kind”: “[s]o when you get a chance to choose, of course, you choose your own kind. That’s natural” ( NLMG 4). Utterances like these showcase Kathy’s fixation on in-group-thinking and her fear of being excluded from her chaste. Time and time again, Kathy is portrayed as powerless to change her mental schema. Defining her in-group as consisting of Hailsham-alumni “linked by the place [they’d] come from” (ibid. 208), she is gravely offended when people decide to join other micro-networks within the clone community: “[i]t wasn’t just that people like Hannah were always talking about following Alice’s example and starting their training; others, like Laura, had found boy‐ friends who weren’t Hailsham and you could almost forget they’d ever had much to do with us” (ibid. 186 f.). Denying Hailsham-alumni their ‘special status’ due to their mingling with other non-privileged clones, Kathy’s shows her main purpose in life to be belonging to the right group, preferably the elitist Hailsham circle (cf. ibid. 122). Thereby, instead of attacking the social system, the clones reinforce their alignment by fostering a clannish atmosphere of social cohesion, insisting on their elevated social status. They create a clique-system of margin‐ alisation that privileges their social position, thus discouraging the violation of standards and thus the potential for rebellion. As Lisa Fluet states, “Ishiguro’s protagonists talk about something like class almost recklessly” (268). Instead of rebelling, the clones institutionalise social mechanisms that demonise the vio‐ lation of network standards, which are punishable by social exclusion - the gravest punishment conceivable. In alignment with what David Grewal says about network power, Kathy is not bound materially to the others. Her immaterial connection consists of a set of shared standards and norms. She even insists on them years later: 279 2. Individuals Within Networks [W]hat I couldn’t help noticing was how, more and more, Tommy tended to identify himself with the other donors at the centre. If, for instance, the two of us were remi‐ niscing about old Hailsham people, he’d sooner or later move[s] the conversation round to one of his current donor friends who’d maybe said or done something similar to what we were recalling. (NLMG 271) Towards the end of the novel, Kathy cannot help feeling offended by Tommy’s new social circle. For her, Ruth and Tommy commit treason by switching micro-networks. Readers can tell that she is annoyed when stating that “more and more, Tommy tended to identify himself with the other donors at the centre.” Instead of indulging in memories of Hailsham, Tommy “sooner or later move the conversation round to one of his current donor friends” - a development unwelcome by Kathy who sees her hopes for keeping her in-group dashed. The title “Never Let Me Go,” which also features as a song title on a second-hand cassette Kathy found at the Sales and which contributes the soundtrack to her life, can therefore be read as plea to never to cut social ties, to literally hold on to each other. As Kathy puts it, “[b]ecause somewhere underneath, a path of us stayed like that: fearful of the world around us, and - no matter how much we despised ourselves for it - unable to quite let each other go” (ibid. 118). This appellative gesture though is not limited to the level of characters. By constantly addressing her audience directly, Kathy attempts to lure her readers into the same network and its standards. She assumes her audience to be carers as well (cf. ibid. 13), thus subconsciously inviting them to become part of the same social in-group. This makes Never Let Me Go a most ‘dangerous’ narrative, “in which empathy with the narrator and acceptance of their emplotment of events may lead to blindness towards the atrocities obscured by the narrative” (Stacy, Nar‐ rative 39). Although casting Kathy as sympathetic character, the novel itself clearly advises against siding with the narrator, who is caught within her own network standards, unable to perceive alternative ways of organising society and community, since she fails to notice that the narrative of Hailsham’s special status is nothing more than ideological window dressing. Therefore, the novel demands a reader with a functioning moral compass, prepared to disagree with its narrator on questions about the good life and the value of human beings. Irrelevant of which social group the clones identify themselves with, the clones belong to a group of citizens, which lack human rights due to their status as commodities. The mere thinking in groups is thus extremely harmful, pre‐ venting them from even conceiving of the alternative to change the status quo. Thereby the clones become indeed - to a certain extent - ‘accomplices’ in sta‐ bilising the system, as Ivan Stacy has argued (cf. “Complicity” 225). Violating 280 VII. Clones and Free-Market Capitalism: Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go (2005) 201 One instance also does complicate rebellion considerably: the clones do barely know any rules that they could rebel against. Almost nothing is forbidden in Ishiguro’s dys‐ topian England - again an anomaly within the dystopian canon. The students are al‐ the network standard is sanctioned with expulsion, thus strengthening the system and demonising rebellious thoughts. 3. The Logic Behind Rebellion - The Confusion of Voluntariness and Freedom According to Pfister and Lindner, readers struggle most with a given science fiction novel, if the text does not offer any help as how to decipher its intralit‐ erary reality (cf. 25). Never Let Me Go poses a challenge like that: “[t]here is no inkling as to how all this [society] came about, except that cloning began after ‘the war’ and the system is widely applauded as helping the majority to avoid many serious diseases” (Claeys, History 484). It thus “provides a unique challenge to interpretation” (Wong 115) since readers are abandoned in their search for meaning within the narrative, yet are invited to draw parallels between Ishi‐ guro’s alternative England and our world as of today. Therein lies the transfor‐ mative potential of the novel: offering its readers a slightly distorted picture of their own socio-cultural reality and prompting them to re-evaluate their own role in society. As Margaret Atwood writes, in “Ishiguro’s world, as in our own, most people do what they’re told” (“Brave”). Yet, the clones’ demise is not initiated by blind obedience. Their hamartia, so to speak, is their inability to assess voluntariness as a vital precondition for freedom; they constantly confuse the former with the latter. However, the possibility to make formally free albeit involuntary deci‐ sions is revealed to be as disadvantageous for individual growth as totalitarian power structures might be - a lesson the readers are expected to learn from witnessing the fate of the clones. Kathy, for instance, is one of “Ishiguro’s nar‐ rators [who] never quite reach the moment of anagnorisis” (Stacy, Narrative 38); she never breaks through the ontological confusion surrounding freedom and voluntariness. While the neoliberal subjects in Ishiguro’s novel seem to believe in the market-ideology of freedom, the novel simultaneously demon‐ strates that each character is defined by network power and how few options the clones can really exercise. Contrary to the claims brought forth by the pro‐ ponents of contemporary neoliberalism, the economic system does not propel freedom, but rather decreases voluntariness, which is - as has been shown by the writings of Serena Olsaretti - not necessarily synonymous to the former. 201 281 3. The Confusion of Voluntariness and Freedom lowed to consume porn, move around the country, exercise religion and free speech, participate in the consumer market, or watch TV. In fact, this latter example is partic‐ ularly illuminating: “[t]elevision at Hailsham had been pretty restricted, and at the Cottages too - though there was nothing to stop us from watching all day - no one was very keen on it” (NLMG 118). As already mentioned, sex, too, is unregulated. Usually, dystopian regimes are highly punitive when it comes to bio-political measures to reg‐ ulate procreation. However, in Ishiguro’s world, the students are basically left to them‐ selves (cf. ibid. 93 f.). The violation of rules, i.e. not watching television, though is never sanctioned. Smoking, however, is an entirely different matter. As Kathy remembers, “the guardians were really strict about smoking” (ibid. 67) and about living healthily in general: “we had to have some form of medical almost every week” (ibid. 13). Repeatedly and on every occasion the clones are reminded that “keeping yourselves well, keeping your‐ selves very healthy inside” (ibid. 68) is very crucial. Raised for medical purposes to donate their organs, the clones of course must refrain from damaging their precious surplus goods at any costs. This is why the school would make “sure to give [them] some sort of lecture each time any reference to cigarettes came along” (ibid. 67), such as a character in a book smoking or an add showing cigarettes. Their education works: even when they are living in the Cottages or when they travel the country, the clones never perceive of the idea to rebel by smoking a cigarette (cf. Christinidis and her essay for an elaboration on the liminal space occupied by the cottages). The entire topic is conspicuously absent from the novel, even though Kathy’s favourite cassette displays the singer with a cigarette. Just as Kathy never thinks about cigarettes and smoking, the thought of rebellion does never occur to her either. Kathy is a case in point for she considers herself a free individual, although her actions are non-voluntary: readers encounter her in “long hours of quiet […] driving across these empty fields” and “the open country” ( NLMG 57; 64). Like other carers, Kathy has had to learn how to operate a vehicle, which gives her the freedom to move about the country. The car is indeed a powerful symbol: the West has semanticised it as standing for physical mobility, independence, and thus the possibility to bridge large distances at will as exemplified by a long-standing tradition of road movies and travel journeys, especially within an Anglo-American context (cf. Gonnermann 31). She thus remains under the il‐ lusion that her choices are formally free, i.e. that she has chosen this life. Yet, the car also highlights the mechanisms of network power: all carers, as the reader learns from Tommy, are supposed to know how to drive (cf. NLMG 223). The car is thus not a symbol of free movement, but an entry barrier, i.e. a standard and a necessity to function within the system which restricts voluntary deci‐ sion-making. Tellingly, Tommy was not allowed to go on as a carer because he did not pass his driving test. Moreover, the vehicle highlights the omnipresence of the network standard, since it illustrates nicely how standards are not bound spatially but bridge time and place (see Eggers’ The Circle and Mercer’s futile attempt to escape by car). 282 VII. Clones and Free-Market Capitalism: Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go (2005) Contrary to classical dystopian fiction, which connects power to state territory and thus tends to associate nature as “offering a place of freedom” (Lehnen 18) and anti-hegemonic resistance (cf. John the Savage’s birth place in the Reser‐ vation or the place beyond the Green Wall, D-503’s last resort), Never Let Me Go re-semanticises nature and the characters’ movement radius: mere physical mobility qualifies for perceived freedom, yet lacks the necessary attribute of voluntariness. Kathy does not drive around the country because she wants to but because her profession requires her to do so - and since network power is based on shared (im)material standards, these standards are not bound spatially but travel with the respective network-member. A car, then, is no means of escape but a mere car, a vehicle to guarantee a good work performance. Never Let Me Go abounds in imagery that highlights the immaterial character of network power. Besides the car, Hailsham itself is introduced as a symbol for power structures that transcend space and time: Driving around the country now, I still see things that will remind me of Hailsham. I might pass the corner of a misty field, or see a part of a large house in the distance as I come down the side of a valley, even a particular arrangement of popular trees up on a hillside, and I’ll think: ‘Maybe that’s it! I’ve found it! ’ (NLMG 6) The school as an architectural manifestation of network power and the group-formation processes associated with the network resurfaces subcon‐ sciously in Kathy’s mind. Any landscape, be it a “corner of a misty field” or a “particular arrangement of popular trees,” might trigger the memory of Hail‐ sham, which - in analogy to Kathy’s car - has to be read as a symbolic repre‐ sentation of the perseverance of network power: “I still see things that will re‐ mind me of Hailsham.” Although having graduated years ago, Kathy is literally unfree to move on; her existence is conditioned by the Hailsham-filter through which she perceives her world: fields, large houses, or a particular arrangement of trees trigger the association and demonstrate the readers that standard holders such as Kathy cannot break free from their membership just by ab‐ sconding - even less when the standard has reached global consensus. Being a network member by the free albeit involuntary choices she makes, Kathy is not able to run from her situation even if she wanted - a circumstance negligently overlooked by Cynthia Wong in her review of Never Let Me Go. She writes that “if Kathy had known that she and her friends at Hailsham existed for the exclusive purpose of sustaining a system of providing medical organs for the world outside, might they have sought a different way to live out their brief existence” (84)? Equally mistaken is the following remark by news‐ paper-critique Harper Barnes: “[i]f you were scheduled to have your organs 283 3. The Confusion of Voluntariness and Freedom 202 See also the chapter on David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas. plucked out any day now, but in the meantime were permitted to wander around the British countryside pretty much as you chose, wouldn’t you decide at some point, ‘This is a really bad deal, and I’m moving to France’” (quoted in Black 791)? It is questions like these that reduce Ishiguro’s novel to a “simple allegory” (Boller 2), belittling its subversive potential. Kathy and the other clones cannot escape “to France” because the network standards of neoliberal capitalism have longed crossed the channel and presumably constitute a global consensus. To put it crudely, there is literally nowhere else to go. Neoliberal capitalism, which has provided the possibility of bringing the clones into the world in the first place by allowing human bodies to be traded and evaluated as commodities, has successfully conquered the globe and provides thus a universal standard. This standard in turn, is confirmed on a daily basis by the millions of choices made by individuals, who fear social exclusion - Tommy’s fate is a case in point. As Liani Lochner maintains, Kathy “would always think of herself as a clone in relation to the humans in the ‘outside world’” (109). Since network power is not bound spatially and not defined by dominion over a certain territory, Harper Barnes thus succumbs to the same fallacy as Kathy, when she equates the ab‐ sence of violence to voluntariness. The mere ability to move around the country does not suffice for evaluating Kathy as a free individual as the novel stresses time and time again. Since it transcends the category of space - not only in Ishiguro’s novel but in general -, network power is conceptualised as a form of power that connects to time. As has been shown, joining a network and staying a member is not a question of location but rather of timing, that is, if and when the standard has become a universal standard: “once we see the rise of a single dominant net‐ work […] the voluntariness of individual choice-making is increasingly evis‐ cerated until all that remains is the individual’s ability to actively take up the one viable option that she faces” (Grewal 112, my emphases). Choices previously made pull the individual along, creating an instance of path dependence that always locates the precedent for network coercion in the past. 202 This notion permeates the atmosphere of Never Let Me Go, which resonates with the idea that the clones cannot alter their future due to decisions made in the past. The narrative is permeated by the notion of too-lateness. As Mark Currie argues, the novel introduces a unique tense structure, which he refers to as “proleptic past perfect” and which he defines as a “tense that refers to an event that is previous to another event in the past” (94). Never Let Me Go “constantly projects back‐ wards to remember what Kathy did and did not know about the future, and if it 284 VII. Clones and Free-Market Capitalism: Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go (2005) is difficult to remember what one did know, it is much more difficult to re‐ member what one did not” (ibid. 98; cf. also Güngör 112). Indeed, Kathy con‐ stantly struggles to remember when she did learn about things: assertions like “[i]t’s hard not to remember just how much we knew by then” ( NLMG 69) or “I’m sure I was pretty typical in not being able to remember how or when I’d first heard about it” (ibid. 31) are characteristic for her narrative voice. Her nar‐ rative is thus not a linear recollection of an emancipation process but a tiresome struggle to order the past, a “steady erosion of hope,” as M. J. Harrison (“Clone”) stresses. The novel’s temporal structures semanticise the present as inadequate for change, since it is dependent on choices previously made. Therefore, Kathy constantly regrets to not have acted at the time: “it’s too late for that. Way too late. […] It’s stupid even thinking about it” ( NLMG 228 f.). Kathy struggles with the realisation that any attempt to alter fate comes too late. She tells the reader that “that feeling came again, even though I tried to keep it out: that we were doing all of this too late; that there’d once been a time for it, but we’d let that go by, and there was something ridiculous, reprehensible even, about the way we were now thinking and planning” (ibid. 237). Retrospectively, Kathy specu‐ lates that there might have been a time in which something like a resistance to their prospective fate could have been possible. However, since clones are unable to identify that time and can only talk about it in hindsight, the novel seems to suggest that path dependence forecloses the option to identify the right moment in time, instead creating the illusion of the existence of such a moment: the novel’s peculiar narrative style locates the moment for resistance in the past, always suggesting that previous decisions prevent and obliterate the potential for change within the socio-cultural environment in the present. The fact that Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go associates power in relation to time rather than space is in line with the writings of the sociologist Zygmunt Bauman, who, too, localises contemporary economic power in the dimension of time (cf. Liquid 2). Following the statement made by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in The Communist Manifesto (1848), “[a]ll that is solid melts into air” (223), Bauman contextualises modernity as a “fluid” that has done away with old certainties: “for [fluids] it is the flow of time that counts, more than the space they happen to occupy” (Liquid 2). Elaborating on the different economic structures of the last and contemporary century, Bauman makes an effort to differentiate between the “heavy capitalism” of the beginning of the 20 th century and the “light capi‐ talism” of the beginning of the 21 st by using metaphors of transport: The passengers on the ‘Heavy Capitalism’ ship trusted […] that the selected members of the crew who were accorded the right to climb into the captain’s deck would nav‐ 285 3. The Confusion of Voluntariness and Freedom igate the ship to its destination. […] If they grumbled (or sometimes even mutinied), it was against the captain for not taking the ship to harbour fast enough […]. The passengers of the ‘Light Capitalism’ aircraft […] discover to their horror that the pilot’s cabin is empty and that there is no way to extract from the mysterious black box labelled ‘automatic pilot’ any information about where the plane is flying, where it is going to land, who is to choose the airport, and whether there are any rules which would allow the passengers to contribute to the safety of the arrival. (ibid. 59) This section not only shows the difference in conception of power (after all the passengers of the ship exert almost democratic rights of making their voices heard); it also comments on the presence / absence of centres of authority and responsibility within the respective systems. Bauman uses the allegory of a ship and its crew ruled over by a captain as an example in which mutiny and rebellion is possible, since the crew is able to clearly identify a centre of responsibility: “the selected members of the crew who were accorded the right to climb into the captain’s deck would navigate the ship to its destination.” The automatic pilot of the aircraft, however, is a symbol for network power. Nobody is in direct charge, nobody is giving orders: “there is no way to extract from the mysterious black box labelled ‘automatic pilot’ any information about where the plane is flying, where it is going to land, who is to choose the airport.” The search for a centre of responsibility, a Machiavellian puppet master, is frustrated by the im‐ possibility of identifying the locus of agency and leadership. The assembled individuals are left on their own. It is telling that the same symbols, boat and airplane, can be found in Never Let Me Go. Ishiguro’s novel ends with a field trip, when Kathy, Tommy, and Ruth decide to go and see a stranded boat: The pale sky looked vast and you could see it reflected every so often in the patches of water breaking up the land. […] beyond the dead trunks, maybe sixty yards away, was the boat, sitting beached in the marshes under the weak sun. […] I could see how its painting was cracking, and how the timber frames of the little cabin were crumbling away. (NLMG 219 f.) The boat, Bauman’s symbol for potential rebellion and 20 th century ‘Heavy Cap‐ italism,’ lies broken at their feat, abandoned and no longer functionable as is illustrated by the “cracked” painting and the fact that it has run ashore. Fur‐ thermore, aspects of decay and passivity permeate the scene: “dead trunks,” a “pale sky,” and a “weak sun” frame the broken symbol of active rebellion. Out of the blue, Tommy then links Hailsham, the failed but prestigious experiment for rearing clones, to the boat, stating that “[m]aybe this is what Hailsham looks like now” (ibid. 220). Although Ruth does not comprehend the analogy, Tommy’s 286 VII. Clones and Free-Market Capitalism: Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go (2005) comparison is valid: the safe boat Hailsham which has at least tried to guide its passengers through the ‘liquid’ economic order, has closed down, exposing fu‐ ture clone generations to the unmitigated effects of a neoliberal world order. Hailsham and its social structures “helped keep [them] afloat” (ibid. 113) even after they had left the institution. Once the school had closed down though, it can no longer criticise the ongoing societal commodification process. Tellingly, the time of systemic revolutions has passed. Bauman’s ‘Light Capitalism’ aircraft makes an appearance in this scene as well: Kathy informs the reader that “[a]t first [she] thought [Ruth] was still staring at the boat, but then [she] saw her gaze was one the vapour trail of a plane in the far distance, climbing slowly into the sky” (ibid. 221). Standing in as a symbol for the centreless nature of network power, the plane - in contrast to the boat - is still functional and intact as it climbs “solely into the sky.” Directly connected to the broken boat via the associations to the sky (“It had once been painted a sky blue, but now looked almost white under the sky,” ibid. 220) as well as Kathy’s and Ruth’s gaze, which wander from the shore up to the sky, the plane can be read as an update of the social order: Bauman’s ‘Heavy Capitalism’ has made room for ‘Light Capitalism.’ Tellingly, while the ship features as a material reality within the clones’ lives, the much more elusive concept of neoliberal network power in the form of the airplane escapes their physical and cognitive access. It remains “in the far distance” and therefore unable to be grasped both physically and cognitively (ibid. 221). As has already been mentioned, Bauman traces the socio-cultural changes from the 19 th to the 21 st century, identifying the melting of solids and the erosion of certainties as the defining factor of the contemporary, post-modern economic paradigm. He writes that because of their lightness and ability to “pass around some obstacles” (Liquid 2), fluids become a “fitting metaphor[…] when we wish to grasp the nature of the present” (ibid.), which is defined by the “determining role of economy” (ibid. 4). In fact, besides the boat and the airplane metaphor, which feature in the novel, the omnipresence of fluids to describe the neoliberal economic system of the 21 st century that has liquified old certainties such as centres of responsibility, can be traced in Never Let Me Go as well. In fact, the novel abounds in water imagery - another similarity to Eggers’ The Circle - and shows the clones’ impotence in resisting the economic forces that shape their socio-cultural reality. The novel thus develops Bauman’s metaphor further, using it to demonstrate the characters’ fundamental helplessness and situated‐ ness within the dystopian system, when, for instance, introducing the broken boat at the shore. Robbed of its ability to navigate the oceans, the boat can no longer be used to glide through dangerous waters, “the timber frames of the 287 3. The Confusion of Voluntariness and Freedom little cabin […] crumbling away” ( NLMG 220). As Bruce Robbins writes, the boat is “a mere symbol rather than an actual means of escape” (“Banality” 294). It thus leaves its passengers unprotected and literally stranded, a physical space defined by its lack of alternatives. In fact, water and liquids are constructed as potentially hostile towards the clones, dissolving certainties and threatening the characters both physically and psychologically. Water features multiple times in the story, always denoting the powerlessness of the protagonists. In fact, nearly every character is connected to the theme. When Ruth tells the others about her dream of Hailsham she relies on the same imagery of natural force: “there I was, in Room 14, and I was looking out of the window and everything outside was flooded. Just like a giant lake. And I could see rubbish floating by under my window, empty drinks cartons, everything” ( NLMG 221). Connecting two of the main symbols of the novel, water for the commodifying economic system and rubbish for the clones (“If you want to look for possibles, if you want to do this properly, then you look in the gutter. You look in rubbish bins”). Ruth establishes a direct link between the economic system and the fate of the clones. Moreover, in her dream as well as in reality, the clones seem unable to alter their fate, but “float” along wherever the system sends them to. As Kathy informs the readers, she always felt like “powerful tides” were tugging them apart (ibid. 194). Fittingly, Ruth and her friends find themselves in a gallery full of sea-themed paintings when their hopes for a ‘normal,’ i.e. non-commodified, life are shat‐ tered: [H]ere and there, you’d see a bit of fishing net, or a rotted piece from a boat stuck up high near the cornicing. The paintings too—mostly oils in deep blues and greens—had sea themes. […] And as we kept listening [to Ruth’s possible and a silver-haired lady], stealing the odd glance in their direction, bit by bit, something started to change. […] And the more we heard her and looked at her, the less she seemed like Ruth. (ibid. 160 f.) Ruth, who had hoped to predict her own future based on the life story of her possible, has her morale destroyed upon realising that the secretary she had identified as her possible does not resemble her at all. Fittingly, the place where Ruth’s old certainties are dissolved is semantisized by water imagery: linguis‐ tically framed by pictures inspired by “sea themes [painted] in deep blues and greens” and sea paraphernalia such as a “fishing net[s]” or “a rotted piece from a boat” (ibid. 160), this is the moment the contemporary neoliberal order reclaims Ruth as a commodified subject caged in by the effects of path dependence, i.e. the accumulated decisions of herself and others made in the past. 288 VII. Clones and Free-Market Capitalism: Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go (2005) Similarly, Tommy phrases his dissolved hopes for the future in water images. After having started a relationship with Kathy, Tommy intuits his looming death by stating: I keep thinking about this river somewhere, with the water moving really fast. And these two people in the water, trying to hold onto each other, holding on as hard as they can, but in the end it’s just too much. The current’s too strong. They’ve got to let go, drift apart. That’s how I think it is with us. It’s a shame, Kath, because we’ve loved each other all our lives. But in the end, we can’t stay together forever! (ibid. 277) The river in Tommy’s analogy is yet a symbol for powerful economic forces beyond human / clone control that separate the two lovers against their will. Since the “current’s too strong,” they cannot leave the water but find themselves fully immersed in it. Both lose their fight to an adversary which has no centre or point of attack. Network power is conceptualized as a primeval, natural force against which individuals struggle in vain: both the stream and the accumulated decisions of standard holders will carry them away. Concomitantly, rebellion against these decisions turned natural force is impossible. Fittingly, water imagery frames the tragic climax of the novel. When Kathy and Tommy go to Madame to apply for a deferral they find her in a neighbour‐ hood “with names like ‘Wavecrest’ and ‘Sea View’ (ibid. 239): “[t]he water itself wasn’t visible, but you could tell it was there, just from the big sky and the seagull noises” (ibid. 242). Again, the water imagery foreshadows the clones’ devastating disappointment, which crystallises in the realisation that contrary to their hopes they will neither be granted a deferral nor encounter a centre of responsibility able to exercise power. Never Let Me Go is void of a clearly dis‐ cernible power centre pulling the strings. As Anita Desai argues, “no organiza‐ tion has revealed itself to which [any] appeal could be made: it has remained invisible. There is no imposed schedule, no police van to arrive in the night and seize the donors and take them away. The most invincible tyrant is the one that is invisible” (“Shadow”). The lack of a central figure of authority, which could be compared to Orwell’s O’Brien / Big Brother, Zamyatin’s Benefactor / S-4711 or Huxley’s Controller is striking and finds its expression in the absence of any narrative authority. When Kathy and Tommy are looking for options to extend their lives beyond the time span that is usually granted to clones ready for donation, all they can rely on are rumours about a so-called “deferral” - the option to be allowed more time together when a couple can prove it is truly in love: “they’d heard of this Hailsham couple, the guy had only a few weeks left before he became a carer. And they went to see someone and got everything put back 289 3. The Confusion of Voluntariness and Freedom three years” (cf. NLMG 151). The use of the indefinite pronouns is exemplarily here: ‘someone,’ rumour has it, must be the person in charge. As Ivan Stacy correctly notes, “authoritative narratives are absent in their storyworlds […]. Instead, knowledge tends to be circulated through narratives which take on the traits of folklore” (“Complicity” 228). Not surprisingly, these rumours are turn out to be unsubstantiated. Moreover, Ishiguro crafts this scene as a clever caricature of what readers usually expect towards the end of a dystopian text, the conventional encounter between protagonist and antagonist. Orwell’s Winston or Huxley’s Savage are “granted charged and revelatory interviews with authority figures” (Toker and Chertoff 174; cf. also Baccolini, “Womb”), a showdown between two equally exclusive ideologies rivalling about the future of society. Never Let Me Go “presents its readers with an anti-climactic encounter of four individuals, one as powerless as the other” (Gonnermann 32). As Ivan Stacy argues, Never Let Me Go includes “structures of power whose source is less certain” (“Complicity” 248). Miss Emily is revealed to be an enfeebled, harmless elderly woman: from Kathy’s observation that she was waiting for “moving men to transport a valuable piece of furniture for sale” (Toker and Chertoff 175) readers conclude that Miss Emily is no longer master of her own belongings but is subject to financial problems, which force her to sell property (cf. Gonnermann 32). Moreover, the scene illustrates the frailty and weakness of the two former teachers: reliant on the help of a nurse (cf. NLMG 264) and crutches, they are portrayed as marked by illness and decay. They thus lack even physical agency and cannot be con‐ sidered in charge of their own bodies any more (in fact, readers might suspect that the two elderly ladies themselves could soon be in need of organ donation). Their physical powerlessness is only matched by their lack of authority: neither Miss Emily nor Madame can change the fate of their former pupils (cf. Gonner‐ mann). In general, the guardians “demonstrate that they are caught within the same conceptual limitations as those whom they seek to oppose” and thus as the clones (Whitehead 66), “resulting in an equilibrium of power between clones and supposed authorities” (Gonnermann 33). As it turns out, the school has been caught in the webs of power that go well beyond the influence of Miss Emily or Madame: “[t]he world didn’t want to be reminded how the donation pro‐ gramme really worked. They didn’t want to think about you students, or about the conditions you were brought up in. In other words, my dears, they wanted you back in the shadows” ( NLMG 259). Once more the novel strengthens the interpretation of Hailsham as a safe heaven. Indeed, the children have “not been victimized by the school - […], the school actually did everything possible to 290 VII. Clones and Free-Market Capitalism: Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go (2005) 203 See also Gonnermann, “The Concept of Post-Pessimism in 21 st Century Dystopian Fic‐ tion.” minimize the damage that society at large has done to its human spare-parts factories” (Toker and Chertoff 176). Hailsham’s atmosphere is neither “a politi‐ cally malevolent culture of snooping of the same nature as those in classic dys‐ topian fictions” (Stacy, “Complicity” 240) nor does it resonate “with twen‐ tieth-century legacies of modern totalitarian repression” (Black 789). Roy O. Kamada errs, too, when reading Hailsham as a totalitarian system (cf. 169). Ishiguro’s tale is precisely not dominated by a party or political movement striving for the ‘total state’ (cf. Jacoby, End 41). Other than Nineteen Eighty-Four, The Handmaid’s Tale, or Fahrenheit 451, “the narrative situation in Never Let Me Go is not that of the victims’ testimony standing in opposition to a dominant power” (Stacy, “Complicity” 245) advocating an alternative way of organising society. 203 It is the exhausted recollection of ‘consenting’ protagonists without an acceptable alternative. Without the typical “Them-Bad, Us-Good preaching” (Atwood, “Brave”), the clones have nowhere to turn - literally and metaphori‐ cally - and are therefore not compelled to leave the neoliberal box that struc‐ tures their thinking, habits, and actions and determines their fate. 4. “That Frightened People” - The Failure of ‘External Criticism’ Never Let Me Go focuses its criticism of commodification processes in a global‐ ised, neoliberal world on its depiction of the cloned protagonists. The novel’s negation of the typical dystopian rebellion-narrative, however, proves to be a challenge for contemporary readers who accuse the novel of unrealistic char‐ acterisation. They are disappointed by a text which brings forth charges against the socio-cultural reality of 21 st -century neoliberal capitalism, yet which refrains from offering an alternative, a solution, a way out. Accustomed to dystopian novels that apply the technique of external criticism, i.e. put forth a plan B , readers usually complain about a discomfort in reading, which “stems from the way in which the protagonists’ failure to acknowledge the atrocities contributes to the perpetuation of the dystopian systems” (Stacy, “Complicity” 225). As Se‐ bastian Groes and Barry Lewis write, the readers “have more knowledge and insight than the often self-deluding narrators, which makes us frustratingly powerless” (3). Never Let Me Go does not offer comfort in the form of external criticism. It rather explicitly frames the fleshing out of alternatives as non-option 291 4. The Failure of ‘External Criticism’ and sides with the approach of immanent criticism, which discovers and de‐ scribes the immanent paradoxes brought forth by a particular form of life. Rather than producing ready-made alternatives, the novel’s critical contribution rests on the performative depiction of immanent paradoxes, describing neoliberalism’s insistence on individual freedom, while producing systemic coercion in the form of involuntary choices due to the non-availability of equally desirable alternatives under a dominant standard. The absence of a clear moral compass and the constant frustration that ac‐ companies the reading process constitute a hallmark of this extraordinary novel, which breaks with well-established genre conventions, precisely to shock the reader into critical thinking. Yet this kind of narrative is emotionally and cog‐ nitively demanding, expecting its readers to scrutinise the neoliberal world and to develop a critical stance towards the dominant neoliberal discourse of indi‐ vidual responsibility. Tellingly, filmand TV -makers have struggled with the novel, whose focus on network structures of power and the concomitant fare-well to the principles of methodological individualism have caused trouble for the adaptation process. For instance, Mark Romanek’s 2010 movie version deviates considerably from Ishiguro’s original version, doing “away with the larger scale issue of cloning in relation to the question of what it means to be human” (Boller 272). Rather it introduces an oppressive surveillance system that offers a straightforward answer to the question of why the clones do not rebel: increasing the totalitarian atmosphere of the novel, the movie introduces wrist‐ bands every clone is made to wear, which track the movement of the clone children and thus turn Ishiguro’s narrative of network power into simple op‐ pressor-victim-story. In the words of Alessandra Boller, “the film refrains from elevating the story to a more complex and encompassing level” (279). By over‐ emphasising the surveillance techniques and focusing on the love triangle be‐ tween Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy, the movie solely offers its audience the cal‐ endar-motto-wisdom “live life to its fullest” after 103 minutes of screen time. This in turn has baffled The Guardian critic David Cox, who is puzzled by the fact that if the movie is designed as a celebration of love as director Mark Ro‐ manek has claimed, “why don’t the protagonists assert its power by rebelling against those intent on thwarting it? ” Instead of encouraging the audience to question their own socio-cultural reality, the movie provides an escapist reading, leaving the audience’s comfort zone untouched while ignoring the implications of network power that dominate the original novel. The logic of rebellion also poses questions for the Japanese TV adaptation of Never Let Me Go, which has lost all aspects of network power. Even more, the ten episodes comply with the narrative schema of classical dystopian fiction and 292 VII. Clones and Free-Market Capitalism: Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go (2005) focus on the state and authoritarian concepts of power. By introducing the new character Manami ( Japanese for ‘truth,’ cf. Shang 560), the series adds a tradi‐ tional plot of counter-hegemonic rebellion and thereby breaks with Ishiguro’s original: Manami advocates an active rebellion by gathering “other fellow clones who likewise seek to resist their predetermined fate and organize[s] speeches and discussions to call on more clones to fight for their rights to life” (Shang 560). Moreover, the clones study “the organization of nation-states, such as monarchy and republicanism” and encounter the manipulation of media by the state when “[e]ventually, the government cracks down on their revolutionary community” (ibid.). The series ends with the malevolent government turning ‘Sunshine School’ (aka Hailsham) into “a prison-like institution for clones” (ibid. 561). Cleary, the adaptation invests considerable energy in directing audience sympathies. While the school’s new name instantly triggers positive associa‐ tions - warmth, bright, life, joy, happiness -, the prison setting evokes negative emotions, providing a ready-made “reading recipe” for the audience, who find themselves within the sense-making patterns of classical dystopian fiction. It is obvious that, other than the novel, the TV -series relies on a more familiar but also time-worn pattern of narrative, linking back to the schemas introduced by Nineteen Eighty-Four or We. In their adaptation, the producers insist on external criticism rather than immanent criticism, thereby introducing a goodversus-bad scheme that is absent from the original. Their understanding is coined by classical dystopian fiction, which champions an alternative to the status quo, supporting an opposing ideology that is supposed to replace the totalitarian state: Manami challenges the hegemonic system, insisting on the existence of a better alternative. Yet, by introducing totalitarianism to the nar‐ rative, the series does its audience a great disservice. Instead of encouraging the viewers to engage with less obvious forms of oppression which might be of crucial relevance for the 21 st century, they offer them escapism which contents itself with the abstract warnings about the dangers of totalitarianism. They thus extinguish the progressive aspects that make Never Let Me Go protrude from the pool of contemporary dystopian fiction. Undeniably, the novel Never Let Me Go depicts a world incapable of external criticism since it is a world void of alternatives that could spark a revolution. The characters’ mindset is firmly rooted within the limits of capitalist realism. Both guardians and clones seem unable to muster up the necessary willpower and knowledge to fundamentally challenge the system: for instance, Madame’s main goal is to provide shelter within a dehumanising system, rather than at‐ tacking the materialist society from which the system originates. Hailsham was seen as an opportunity of how to “move to a more humane and better way of 293 4. The Failure of ‘External Criticism’ 204 Tellingly, Kathy herself is unable to apply dialectical thinking to her situation. As Ales‐ sandra Boller argues convincingly, the autodiegetic narrator is cognitively bound to conjure dichotomies, thinking in binary oppositions such as “real / artificial, normal / abnormal, or origin / copy” (228). Structuring the world according to absolutist categories, Kathy fails to “understand poststructural complexities” and is thus “unable doing things” ( NLMG 253), yet turned out to be not an alternative but a func‐ tioning cog within the system. The same holds true for the clones: rather than planning a big coup d’état, the clones dream about a ‘deferreal,’ “only a little more time - not a complete abolition of the donation system, merely a deferral for three years” (Christinidis 171). To Chrissie and Rodney, and later Tommy and Kathy, the idea of being “allowed to go on living together […] three years straight” ( NLMG 151), represents a victory over the donation programme. Even the clones’ options - the personal alternatives they allow themselves to dream about - demonstrate their incapability to think beyond a capitalist world order. For instance, “Ruth takes refuge in grandiose lies about herself and in daydreams” (Atwood, “Brave”) about working in an office. Time and time again, Kathy catches her marvelling at a brochure, which showed this beautifully modern open-plan office with three or four people who worked in it having some kind of joke with each other. The place looked sparkling and so did the people. Ruth was staring at this picture and, when she noticed me beside her, said: ‘Now that would be a proper place to work.’ (NLMG 142, emphasis in the original) Ruth’s imaginary alternative is in fact, no alternative at all since it is firmly rooted within the same cognitive parameters that structure her factual existence. Instead of dreaming about an entirely different life, i.e. one that is defined by the absence of a dehumanising system, Ruth arranges herself within free-market capitalism. Her eutopia is thus but a pale reflection of what truly awaits her anyway, only quantitively yet not qualitatively different. This holds true for the other students as well. Some dream of “working in supermarkets” or clothes shops (cf. ibid. 149), as a postman or as a farmer (cf. ibid. 141), occupations and places defined by the selling and consuming of goods. Others even fantasise about a career in Hollywood, and about migrating to the very country that hosts excesses of unbound free-market capitalism, the United States of America (cf. ibid. 79). Thereby, they too reveal their own intellectual, conceptual limits; the clones cannot truly create an alternative to their fate for all their eutopias are informed by a capitalist logic. Depicting the clones’ inability to conjure alter‐ natives, the texts shows neoliberalism’s successful colonisation of the human imagination, thereby commenting on the unavailability of alternatives. 204 294 VII. Clones and Free-Market Capitalism: Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go (2005) to acknowledge more complex dynamics or even deconstruct fixed value systems” (ibid.). Kathy is firmly rooted in her time and place. Ironically, the guardians, i.e. the ‘activist’ group fighting for the clones, fail to acknowledge them as fully human. A case in point is Madame herself. She, too, detests the clones and is horrified by the thought of being touched by them. It wasn’t even as though Madame did anything other than what we predicted she’d do: she just froze and waited for us to pass by. She didn’t shriek, or even let out a gasp […]. And I can still see it now, the shudder she seemed to be suppressing, the real dread that one of us would accidentally brush against her. […] Ruth had been right: Madame was afraid of us. But she was afraid of us in the same way someone might be afraid of spiders. We hadn’t been ready for that. (ibid. 35, emphasis in the original) Equating the clone children to arachnids, Madame is utterly incapable of es‐ caping her own reservations towards them, although she has dedicated her life to lobby for the clones. Unable to shed their ideological reservations towards the clones, Madame constitutes thus a symbol of failed critique within the novel which discusses the limits of criticism. Their approach and the concomitant moral high ground indeed could be deconstructed by applying ‘internal criti‐ cism,’ i.e. prove “an inconsistency either between assertions and facts, between accepted norms and practices, between appearance and reality, or between claim and realization” ( Jaeggi, Critique 180). Even the clone-lobby cannot live up to their own ideals and is thus deconstructed as unable to break the conceptual and cognitive limits of neoliberal capitalism. When Kathy and Tommy approach Madame years later, hoping for a deferral, she displays similar fears quite obviously: “I don’t know if she recognised us at that point; but without doubt, she saw and decided in a second what we were, because you could see her stiffen—as if a pair of large spiders was set to crawl towards her” ( NLMG 243, emphasis in the original). Kathy repeats the same metaphorical image, thereby convincing the readers that Madame’s attitude has not changed - despite her efforts and despite the years, which have gone by since then. Her partner, Miss Emily, admits, too, that all the guardians were afraid of the clones: “I myself had to fight back my dread of you all almost every day I was at Hailsham. There were times I’d look down at you all from my study window and I’d feel such revulsion …” (ibid. 264). Interwoven into and influenced by a societal discourse which sees the clones as less than human, even those fighting for them cannot help the idea that the clones constitute a different form of life unequal to ‘proper’ humans. 295 4. The Failure of ‘External Criticism’ The consequences of the absence of external criticism do not translate into utter hopelessness though, as many critics and readers have claimed. According to them, Never Let Me Go is a deeply pessimistic narrative. This may in fact be true, but the novel is nevertheless not without hope, nor is it without rebellion. The latter is to be found in the narrative itself, as Ivan Stacy has argued, “[b]earing witness, through an act of narrative, is therefore an act of resistance against this destruction of memory” (“Complicity” 226). The novel thus “draw[s] the reader into the account of events, to ask us to bear witness to the dystopian world and the treatment of its victims” (K. McDonald 80). The novel stages re‐ bellion in the form of immanent criticism, seemingly following the Adornoian conviction that “[t]he False, once determinately known and precisely expressed, is already an index of what is right and better” (Critical Models 288). Voicing criticism is thus not a process of offering alternatives, but a critical way of an‐ alysing existing structures. This is indeed what Never Let Me Go offers: a thor‐ ough critique of globalised economy and network power, reducing humans to commodities in a capitalist system. Its task is not to offer alternatives but rather to elaborate on and illuminate contemporary developments which might have been left unnoticed by the readers. As Atwood succinctly puts it, “[t]he reader reaches the end of the book wondering exactly where the walls of his or her own invisible box begin and end” (“Brave”). The novel urges us to explore the “horror that floats just beyond the horizon of our daily routine, [by elaborating on] what makes action against it almost unthinkable” (Robbins, Mobility 203). Thereby Ishiguro’s novel manages to construct a bridge between the intratextual reality of his clone children and the extratextual reality of his human readers. His masterful comment “on what we do and how we do it” (Coleman) challenges the reader to wonder whether the freedom on which his uncloned readers pride themselves is anything more than a similarly managed ignorance of what in all probability awaits them, even if the hope and (one can almost say) the happiness that ignorance some‐ times brings with it may be hard to give up. (Robbins, Mobility 201) The novel asks in how far readers might be caught in similar network power structures. Or as Miss Emily states, “[i]f you’re to have decent lives, you have to know who you are and what lies ahead of you, every one of you” ( NLMG 80). Her sentence might be applicable to both clones and readers. Both groups need to be made aware of existing power structures in their respective worlds, which have remained so far invisible. Analysing Never Let Me Go, readers are encouraged to question existing standards and even though there might not 296 VII. Clones and Free-Market Capitalism: Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go (2005) (yet) be an alternative, to be at least aware of the limitations (cf. Güngör 113). As M. J. Harrison writes in his review for The Guardian, [t]his extraordinary and, in the end, rather frighteningly clever novel isn’t about cloning, or being a clone, at all. It’s about why we don’t explode, why we don’t just wake up one day and go sobbing and crying down the street, kicking everything to pieces out of the raw, infuriating, completely personal sense of our lives never having been what they could have been. (“Clone”) Ishiguro’s novel consciously breaks with conventions, challenging the reader to investigate the reasons for doing so. They are encouraged to transfer the clones’ suffering to their own lives and thus to comprehend the power mechanisms of 21 st -century neoliberal capitalism. 297 4. The Failure of ‘External Criticism’ 205 See also Owen Worth and Dieter Plehwe (2016) on the gestural anti-neoliberal critique, which mushrooms after each crisis, yet which essentially fails to generate reforms: “[b]ack in the 1990s, Social Democratic politicians and many observers proclaimed the end of the neoliberal era when New Labour, New Democrats and New Social Democrats in the UK, USA and Germany, respectively, defeated the heirs of Thatcher and Reagan. A few years later, however, Tony Blair, Bill Clinton and Gerhard Schröder became fa‐ mous mostly due to their efforts to extend neoliberal ideas to the public sector” (Plehwe 61). Fast forward to 2018 and history repeats itself: “[d]eregulation and cross-border liberalization, many now argued, had gone too far. Yet only two years later, govern‐ ments […] have changed course to prescribe austerity regimes, which have reinforced public sector and welfare state retrenchment” (ibid.). 206 See Philipp Schönthaler, who offers a decidedly more pessimistic outlook, arguing that literature holds no influence or power whatsoever (cf. 124). Yet, Schönthaler also con‐ cedes that literature has been used as an ideological tool, for instance, during the Cold War, when Western libertarian ideals fought against Communism; his criticism is thus more of an ‘inventory control,’ rather than denying literature any relevance at all. In attesting contemporary literature a certain degree of powerlessness (cf. 131), he argues along the same lines as Elaine Showalter (“Eternal Triangles,” 2000) and Amitav Ghosh (The Great Derangement, 2016). VIII. Dystopia, ‘Immanent Criticism,’ and its Eutopian Implications We live in capitalism, its power seems inescapable - but then, so did the divine right of kings. (Ursula K. Le Guin, “Speech National Book Awards” 2014) In her essay “The Problem of Utopia: Capitalism, Depression, and Representa‐ tion” (2010), Beverley Best claims that “the most stubborn obstacle to social change in the global North is not an absence of the social-technical know-how to build a society ‘beyond capitalism,’ but the absence of the general desire to do so, even on the part of those whose most basic material needs are not ad‐ dressed by the status quo” (503; cf. also Beckett). 205 If she is correct and the impediment to social change from free-market capitalism to post-capitalism can adequately be expressed as a ‘problem of motivation,’ literature might have a say in this context. 206 As David Scott maintains, “what is at stake is something like a refusal to be seduced and immobilized by the facile normalization of the present” (2). The warning function of literature, especially of dystopias, harbours a transformative potential that, while neither empirically falsifiable nor subjec‐ tively certifiable, affects readers and the cultural sphere alike by challenging them to critically assess the capitalist present for “[w]hen we read, we experi‐ 207 David Harvey argues that in order to successfully challenge capitalism, only a combi‐ nation of theoretical and practical steps will suffice. The critical analysis of the deficits of neoliberalism paves the way for oppositional movements, since both aim at identi‐ fying - ultimately - a viable alternative. In Harvey’s words, the “task is to initiate [a, sic! ] dialogue between those taking each path and thereby to deepen collective under‐ standings” (Neoliberalism 199). 208 This tension between a centreless capitalist realism and the all-too human need for monocausal explanatory patterns, clashes spectacularly, most notable in the forms of conspiracy theories, i.e. simplistic explanatory models, reducing the complexity of the world into good and bad (cf. Barkun 3 f.). The need to identify mysterious malevolent forces, working in the background in order to gain world domination might come from ence a conflation of subject and object because we produce meaning in concert with the text, and we do so by maintaining positions both ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ the narrative” (Hopf 106). The readers’ task in the words of Donna Haraway, is thus “to make trouble, to stir up potent response to devastating events, as well as to settle troubled waters and rebuild quite places” (1). 207 Blending the personal and social into an affective mode of communication (cf. Bose 17), literature challenges readers to “think reflexively about their own lifeworld situations and how to negotiate their way in and through systems that may seem beyond any‐ one’s control on the terrain of everyday life” (McGuigan 435). Literature is unique in its ability to cognitively map the complex socio-polit‐ ical and economic structure of neoliberalism capitalism, thus transforming the free market into a subject for an analysis in the first place. Fredric Jameson introduces this concept of ‘cognitive mapping’ in his essay “Cognitive Mapping” (1988) as well as in Postmodernism, or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism (1991). Drawing on the work of urban theorist Kevin Lynch, Jameson recommends a “spatial analysis of culture” (Lesjak 501), conceptualising abstract notions with the help of space. He defines the function of ‘cognitive mapping’ as “the peda‐ gogical function of art” (ibid.) which enables “a situational representation on the part of the individual subject to that vaster and properly unrepresentable totality which is the ensemble of society’s structures as a whole” ( Jameson, Postmod‐ ernism 51). Describing the individual’s situation within late-capitalism, Jameson adapts Lynch’s ideas on cartography, and uses them to describe the individual’s situation within capitalism. Capitalism, according to Jameson, makes individ‐ uals feel as if they were lost in an “alienated city” (ibid.) for which they have no mental map. Jameson further argues that individuals fail to connect their ev‐ eryday experiences in the grander scheme, thus feeling increasingly alienated in a world they can no longer cognitively process. Eventually, this discrepancy between individual experience and social reality gives rise to conspiracy theories (cf. Jameson, “Mapping” 356), 208 with which individuals try to process reality. 300 VIII. Dystopia, ‘Immanent Criticism,’ and its Eutopian Implications the frustration produced by an ever-increasing complexity, which ultimately lacks cog‐ nitive mapping - to say it in the words of Fredric Jameson: “Conspiracy, one is tempted to say, is the poor person’s cognitive mapping in the postmodern age; it is a degraded figure of the total logic of late capital, a desperate attempt to represent the latter’s system, whose failure is marked by its slippage into sheer theme and content” (“Map‐ ping” 356). Rhodes and Bloom decipher the same mechanism behind the continued cult centring around the figure of the CEO. In their article “CEOs Should Have Been the Fall Guys; Why Are They Still Heroes” (2018), they concede that “[t]he quick rehabilitation of the image of the CEO in the popular imagination was not just a practical matter of wanting to hold into the material benefits afforded by neoliberal capitalism. It was a psychic measure needed to counteract the fear of dehumanisation at the hands of a runway Frankenstein economy” (Rhodes and Bloom, “Fall Guys”). Searching for an almighty individual in control of the markets, people turned towards the CEO myth “to pretend that someone was in control, even if all the facts and evidence were telling us that this wasn’t the case” (ibid.). Both phenomena thus illustrate nicely the human need for narratives of control and centres of responsibility. 209 The cartoonist Tom Gauld captured dystopia’s reduced temporal distance to the here and now, meaning the observation that dystopian futures come closer and closer to extraliterary reference time of the readers. In a tripartite cartoon published on Twitter and The Guardian, we see a young woman, saying goodbye to one of her friends, stating that “I’m going to shut myself away and write a novel set in a horrific dystopia.” The second picture shows her sitting at a desk and working on a typewriter. The headlines says “Five Years Later.” In the last part, she leaves her workspace, manuscript in hand, only to enter the dystopian world she apparently has been writing about: “[d]amn! ” In the background, we see female characters wearing the traditional handmaids’ gown (a reference to Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale), gallows, robots and a gigantic eye representing surveillance (a reference to George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four). Dystopia - so the message - looms just around the corner, with literature not neces‐ sarily being able to keep up with the present (cf. Gauld). Ultimately, the “aesthetic of cognitive mapping” necessarily constitutes a “peda‐ gogical political culture which seeks to endow the individual subject with some new heightened sense of its place in the global system” ( Jameson, Postmodernism 54) - precisely the task of the five contemporary dystopias that form the basis of this book. Indeed, dystopian literature as a whole - and particularly the five contem‐ porary novels discussed in the previous chapters - cognitively map the free market, the individual within, the conflation of freedom and voluntariness within dominant network standards, and the resulting devastating effects on identity construction, communities, as well as on organic and non-organic or‐ ganisms on the planet. Common to all texts is that, rather than projecting their considerably worse societies decades into the future, they ground them in a somewhat exaggerated version of the here-and-now (cf. Schütz; also Gauld); 209 the future as predicted by these narratives is closer to our now than any dysto‐ 301 VIII. Dystopia, ‘Immanent Criticism,’ and its Eutopian Implications 210 See also McFadden and Layh 15. 211 See Wright, Harvey, and Metcalf on the impossibility of pure capitalism and neoliber‐ alism’s dependence on state intervention. pian future has ever been. Indeed, “dystopian nightmares may seem a little too close to home now” (Loughrey). 210 As Katherine Hayles writes, “[i]t is interesting that science fiction writers, traditionally the ones who prognosticate possible futures, are increasingly setting their fictions in the present” (“Computing” 149), thus commenting aptly on the phenomenon of reduced temporal distance between the readers’ social-cultural reality and the literary extrapolation thereof. Set in a world in which “the financialization of everything” has already been achieved (Harvey, Neoliberalism 33), 211 the texts paint the bleakest picture of our society today, often without a glimpse of hope within the intradiegetic world of the text. These novels literally “stay with the trouble” and are “truly present, not as vanishing pivot between awful or edenic pasts and apocalyptic or salvific futures, but as mortal critters entwined in myriad unfinished configurations of places, times, matters, and meanings” (Haraway 1). By refusing to work within the mechanisms of methodological individualism (refracturing systemic prob‐ lems by referring to individual sins), the novels discussed in this analysis dem‐ onstrate the ways in which individuals are caught within network structures that, ironically, both originate within individual decisions and surpass them. This particularly elaborate analysis of contemporary economics has manifold consequences on both the intraand extratextual level. For instance, these novels circumvent the core tradition of dystopian fiction, i.e. do not include the “counter-narrative [of resistance]” (Baccolini, “Womb” 293). Contrary to clas‐ sical dystopian fiction, which makes it comparatively easy for its characters to rebel (cf. Müller), contemporary dystopian fiction uproots that paradigm: if these texts feature rebellion, they side-line it to the margins of the narrative, show‐ casing secondary characters failing in their quest to challenge network power. Protagonists are usually woven into a complex web of individual decisions that reduce the possibility to act voluntarily, leaving them with only the option to ‘comply.’ Readers are challenged to witness the mental (and often physical) pa‐ ralysis of characters confined by a system that presents itself as without alter‐ native. To put it bluntly: new dystopias are hard to stomach. The reason for absent rebels originates from neoliberalism’s decidedly au‐ thorless and centreless structure. The protagonists’ search for centres of re‐ sponsibility is constantly frustrated by the impossibility of attributing individual responsibility within network contexts. In Atwood’s, Anderson’s or Ishiguro’s worlds, there is no reductionist black-and-white painting, finding its culmination 302 VIII. Dystopia, ‘Immanent Criticism,’ and its Eutopian Implications in the showdown between the good protagonist and the antagonistic represen‐ tative of the state; rather, readers are confronted with a reality in constant flux with distributed blame and responsibility - a feature of modernity as described by Zygmunt Bauman: If the time of systemic revolutions has passed, it is because there are no buildings where the control desks of the system are lodged and which could be stormed and captured by the revolutionaries; and also because it is excruciatingly difficult, nay impossible, to imagine what the victors, once inside the buildings (if they found them first), could do to turn the tables and put paid to the misery that prompted them to rebel. (Liquid 5) Bauman’s rather bleak diagnosis of a revolution-less world proves accurate in‐ sofar as it captures the frustrating characteristics of late capitalist societies, i.e. its oppressive yet centreless nature (cf. Dörre 62). As Fisher explains this mech‐ anism, “the centre is missing, but we cannot stop searching for it or posting it” (65). Both readers and characters struggle to “accept that there are no overall controllers, that the closest thing we have to ruling powers now are nebulous, unaccountable interests exercising corporate irresponsibility […] because the centerlessness of global capitalism is radically unthinkable” (ibid. 63). These novels challenge readers to refrain from searching for responsibility and prompt them to think systemically and globally. Thus, due to the network structure of free-market capitalism and the resulting absence of centres of authority, the novels waste no time in the constructing of a safe haven, a readily available alternative. Where classical dystopian fiction such as Nineteen Eighty-Four or Brave New World includes actual physical spaces that function according to an alternative logic (the woods and the reservation among others), more recent dystopias depict a neoliberal world order that has successfully colonised not only the remotest places on earth, but also the mental capacities to think in alternatives. External criticism - a hallmark of dystopian fiction - thus disqualifies itself as the structure of critique available for these novels. Rather, these texts function according to a logic that Rahel Jaeggi has described as immanent criticism. They perform criticism, meaning that criticism has received a performative dimension aimed at the analysis of inherent para‐ doxes, rather than the championing of an alternative. Dystopia within Eutopia: From Cognitive Map to Social Compass Mapping the alterations that occur in the dystopian fiction, one might be tempted to conclude that dystopia has been re-defined as stoic acceptance of the status quo, as a particularly sarcastic inventory control of contemporary politics 303 VIII. Dystopia, ‘Immanent Criticism,’ and its Eutopian Implications 212 These novels seem to be informed by what I have called “post-pessimism” within the intradiegetic world, a “feeling meandering between resignation and stoic acceptance” (Gonnermann 38). Characters seem firmly rooted within a decidedly neoliberal capi‐ talist logic despite the apparent dangers to life and limb and the looming ecological breakdown, unable to break the hegemony of the free market and its colonial grip on that which is thinkable. 213 See also Gonnermann, “The Concept of Post-Pessimism in 21 st Century Dystopian Fic‐ tion,” 37 f. and economics: written within the climate of latent Fukuyamaism, of network power, and ‘capitalist realism,’ these novels seem to prove that the eutopian spark has been quenched for good. 212 Yet it is precisely dystopia’s new relentless bleakness, its disposition to spell out the inevitability of free-market capitalism that turns these dystopian novels into powerful tools of cognitive mapping, en‐ riched with transformative potential with an eutopian agenda. 213 The novels an‐ alysed in this survey belong to an ever-increasing body of utopian works that forms a bastion against the conviction that the capitalist “world we see around us is the best we can muster” (Eagleton), refusing to accept the obstructions that prevent the search for an alternative (cf. Hall and O’Shea). Although these novels refuse to sketch out an alternative, they are nevertheless written in an anti-cap‐ italist spirit, gaining momentum by the growing conviction that capitalism har‐ bours inherent flaws. Even though they do not provide an alternative within the narrative, they are active agents in the wider discourse against capitalism and concede that “[p]olitically, […] there is an urgent need for alternatives” (Levitas, “Matters” 42). Their very existence harbours critical potential (cf. E. Olin Wright 85; also Dörre 36). Yet, they simultaneously acknowledge their own conceptual limits in imagining an alternative; they are informed by the dilemma of con‐ ceptualising an alternative, while cognitively being bound to the paradigms of capitalism - or as Boaventura Sousa Santos articulates it, “how can we fight against the abyssal lines using conceptual and political instruments that don’t reproduce them” (“Abyssal Thinking”)? In line with Fredric Jameson’s argument about the inevitability of postmodernism, these dystopias acknowledge that even our wildest imaginings are all collages of experience, constructs made up of bits and pieces of the here and now. […] On the social level, this means that our imagina‐ tions are hostages to our own mode of production (and perhaps to whatever remnants of past ones it has preserved). It suggests that at best Utopia can serve the negative purpose of making us more aware of our mental and ideological imprisonment. Despite their perceived hopelessness, contemporary dystopias are, in fact, an inherent part of an ongoing eutopian discourse. As Raffaella Baccolini asserts, “dystopia helps to renovate [e]utopia” (“Domestication”); they prove that “the 304 VIII. Dystopia, ‘Immanent Criticism,’ and its Eutopian Implications negative purpose of making us more aware of our mental and ideological im‐ prisonment” is in fact deeply eutopian in nature and that “therefore the best Utopias are those that fail the most comprehensively” ( Jameson, Archaeologies xiii). Novels like Never Let Me Go or The Circle may thus serve a most funda‐ mental eutopian project, highlighting the “continuity between dystopian cri‐ tique and [e]utopian desire” (Han, Triplett, and Anthony, “Introduction” 7). They refuse “to take at face value current judgements of the good, or claims that there is no alternative” (Levitas, “Matters” 42). Despite their hopeless intradiegetic societies, they nevertheless hold firmly onto the belief that eutopia is possible - if we continue to map the deficiencies of the present and start to work towards eutopia from there: “[t]hey are reminders, despite reflecting a dire present, that it’s never too late for us, that we’re not that far gone and can reverse the ma‐ chinery that makes our nightmares real” (McFadden). These texts delineate the borders of our understanding and conceptions of the present time to encourage readers to transgress them. They therefore hand the audience a cognitive tool that Erik Olin Wright has called a “socialist compass” (109): [T]here is no map, and no existing social theory is sufficiently powerful to even begin to construct such a comprehensive representation of possible social destinations, pos‐ sible futures. It may well be that such a theory is impossible in principle - the process of social change is too complex and too deeply affected by contingent concatenations of causal processes to be represented in the form of detailed maps of possible fu‐ tures […] And yet we want to leave the place where we are because of its harm and injustices. What is to be done? […] We leave the well-known world with a compass that shows us the direction we want to go, and an odometer which tells us how far from our point of departure we have travelled, but without a map which lays out the entire route from the point of departure to the final destination. (ibid. 108, my emphasis) Texts like The Circle, Cloud Atlas, or The Heart Goes Last are compasses in the sense that they “show us the direction we want to go.” They refuse to map out the exact route for us, acknowledging the impossibility of depicting a “compre‐ hensive representation of social destinations.” Instead they favour a trial-and-error-principle, leading readers away from what we now experience as inherently flawed (free-market capitalism) towards an unknown eutopian future. In their understanding, eutopia, or the literal good place, is not actually a place at all, but rather a telos of human destiny, a process or movement in a “radically more perfect” direction (cf. Suvin, “Theses” 188 f.). As Lawrence Davis articulated, “walking we ask questions” (“Domestication”). Not by fleshing out what humanity wants - a process that has brought eutopia dangerously close 305 VIII. Dystopia, ‘Immanent Criticism,’ and its Eutopian Implications 214 Ruth Levitas summarises the discourse around eutopias as malevolent and even dan‐ gerous social practice: “[e]utopia is commonly dismissed as an irrelevant fantasy or traduced as a malevolent nightmare leading to totalitarianism. This anti-utopian dis‐ course equates utopia with a blueprint producing violence and terror, and gives rise to a politics of quiescent subordination to the dictates of capitalist markets” (Method xiii; see also Pinder 12). 215 Famously, the Russian anarchist Michail Bakunin (1816-1876) argued for a complete aniconism with regards to the depiction of eutopia. Claiming that eutopian thinking is necessarily dangerous and even criminal, Bakunin wrote in one of his letters that the atrocities of contemporary society have bereft us of the opportunity to dream up para‐ dise to come (cf. Bakunin 361; cf. in Adamczak 46). Instead of conceptualising eutopia as a ‘movement towards,’ Bakunin argues for a thinking that is constituted by Adorno’s conviction, “[t]he false, once determinately known and precisely expressed, is already an index of what is right and better” (Critical Models 288). 216 Levitas goes even one step further, arguing that the ability to inspire hope is utopia’s cardinal function: “[u]topia’s strongest function, its claim to being important rather than a matter of esoteric fascination and charm, is its capacity to inspire the pursuit of to totalitarianism itself, especially after WWII 214 - but by critically assessing the present as fractured by the question of what we do not want, a more positive future might be created. As Robert Tally Jr. writes, “[i]n this postmodern moment of global capitalism, utopia may finds its true vocation, as both a critical practice and anticipatory desire, in the literary cartography of the world system itself” (5, my emphasis). Dystopias thus redefine eutopia’s task for its own agenda, namely the identification and disclosing of societal ills (cf. ibid. 16). The Iconoclastic Dystopia We need to change the ways we perceive, read, and write dystopian fiction - the time is right for a paradigm shift of the kind of which has already happened within eutopian studies: instead of conceptualising eutopia as literally the “good place,” philosophers like Ernst Bloch, Ruth Levitas, Fátima Vieira, or Lucy Sar‐ gisson have contributed to a defining shift in perspective: “the idea of a blueprint has been replaced by the idea of vaguer guidelines, indicating a direction for man to follow, but never a point to be reached” (Vieira 22). 215 Contemporary criticism acknowledges the “eventual limits of any [e]utopian project, ultimately shifting importance from the [e]utopian outcome itself to the desire and the process of achieving [e]utopia” (C. Bradford and Baccolini 37). Eutopia these days is understood as a method, “a future potential to be continually sought after, even after oppression and exploitation have been eliminated from human society” (Booker and Thomas 79). As Ruth Levitas frames it, the genre is marked by a “shift from an emphasis on representation or content to an emphasis on process” (“For Utopia” 25; cf. also 36 ff.). 216 Russell Jacoby captures this devel‐ 306 VIII. Dystopia, ‘Immanent Criticism,’ and its Eutopian Implications a world transformed, to embody hope rather than simply desire” (Levitas, “For Utopia” 28). 217 In Dreams of Peace and Freedom (2006), Jay Winter differentiates between “major uto‐ pians” and “minor utopians” - two concepts that roughly correspond to Jacoby’s ter‐ minology. While the former group “wound up producing mountains of victims on a scale the world had rarely seen” (1) in their attempt to shape the world according to their plans, the latter group is defined by the absence of “blueprint of a future” (ibid. 5) and by a gradual process of social improvement, often championing the introduction of human rights or seemingly revolutionary ideas such as global citizenship. See also Caroline Edwards for a differentiation between “traditional (systemic),” i.e. blueprint perfectionism, and “post-traditional,” i.e. “flexible, pluralized, heterogeneous and dia‐ lectical” eutopian writing (“Transactions” 178). opment by analysing a creative turn away from what he calls ‘blueprint uto‐ pias’: The blueprint utopians map out the future in inches and minutes. From the eating arrangements to the subjects of conversation the blueprinters - by far the largest group of utopians - gave precise instructions. […] Inevitably, history eclipses or ridicules the most daring plans; it makes them appear either too banal or too idiosyncratic. Worse, such plans often betray more a will for domination than for freedom; they prescribe how free men and women should act and live and talk, as though they could not figure this out for themselves. (Imperfect xiv f.) ‘Blueprint eutopias’ have received the lion’s share of both scholarly attention and criticism, with many voices accusing them of “invariably tend[ing] towards repression, if not totalitarianism” (Tally Jr. 17). Anyone familiar with Thomas More’s eponymous novel will recognise this form of criticism instantly: his blueprint for the perfect society even reaches into the spheres of fashion, food, and personal taste, prescribing even bread recipes (cf. Utopia 52). Theodor W. Adorno most eloquently puts the dilemma of blueprint eutopias into words: [T]hose schooled in dialectical theory are reluctant to indulge in positive images of the proper society, of its members, even of those who would accomplish it. Past traces deter them; in retrospect, all social [e]utopias since Plato’s merge in a dismal resem‐ blance to what they are devised against. The leap into the future, clean over the con‐ ditions of the present, lands in the past. (“Bottle” 43) Dialectical eutopian thinking thus refuses to sketch the future in all its impli‐ cations; rather it resorts to another alternative: the ‘iconoclastic eutopia,’ a form of literary writing that “dreamt of a superior society but [which] declined to give its precise measurements” ( Jacoby, Imperfect xv). 217 These forms offer very 307 VIII. Dystopia, ‘Immanent Criticism,’ and its Eutopian Implications little concrete information about the future, refraining from providing society with tales of the future. Drawing on the third of the Ten Commands, “thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image,” hence the term ‘iconoclatic,’ Jacoby champions it as “indispensable” in a time that has exhausted blueprint eutopias. Iconoclastic eutopias are exercises in cognitive mapping informed by the refusal to impose the static structures of an imaginative perfect society. Their sole pur‐ pose is to initiate a process of critical thinking, preferably inspiring readers, viewers, or critics to conceptualise the future as considerably more perfect than the present. In this context, the emergence of a growing number of iconoclastic dystopias seems noteworthy, in accordance with these developments in eutopian writing. Blueprint eutopias define eutopia as direction towards, where iconoclastic dys‐ topias defined dystopia as direction away from. Both, however, are eutopian in nature because their immediate aim is to improve life. It is solely their means that differ in directionality. Moreover, iconoclastic dystopias have the advantage that they do not flesh out alternatives but rather restrict themselves to de‐ manding a change from the status quo by cognitively mapping the exploitative systemic deficiencies of contemporary neoliberal capitalism. These texts cir‐ cumvent the dilemma of substituting one ideology with another. By rendering it unnecessary to spell out alternatives, iconoclastic dystopias need not proph‐ esise the future. As Karl Marx claims, “it is precisely the advantage […] that we do not dogmatically anticipate the world, but only want to find the new world through criticism of the old one” (quoted in Tally Jr. 23). The focus of dystopian fiction must be - now more than ever - on its intrinsic warning function, en‐ riched by a quest for cognitive mapping. These contemporary texts, by form and content, task their readers and society to acknowledge the power structures in neoliberal capitalism and challenge them to think about alternatives, based on what they have identified as deficient. Thus, they answer Robert Tally Jr.’s call “for a renewed, powerful, and flexible vision of [e]utopia, displacing the older nationalist model, including that of [e]utopia as a nation-state, in favour of a postnational conception more suited to the era of globalization” (5). Iconoclastic dystopias combine the depiction of a “considerably less perfect society” with the extradiegetic hope that criticism is possible, but also include tentative sugges‐ tions on where to begin with social reform. 308 VIII. Dystopia, ‘Immanent Criticism,’ and its Eutopian Implications 218 See David Harvey (Neoliberalism) for the connection between neoliberalism and the rise of neoconservatism. Harvesting Network Power There is no question that free-market capitalism is in a period of crisis. 218 Ac‐ cusing corporations of having adopted a perverted idea of business purposes, the maxim of increasing profits no matter what, Martin Wolf concedes that many “books suggest that capitalism is substantially broken. Reluctantly, I have come to a similar conclusion” (“Rethink”). Even the ultra-conservative TV host of Fox News, Tucker Carlson, attacked the free-market economy for its exploitative, elitist structure, and thereby sounded “like Bernie Sanders” (cf. Massing). Sim‐ ilarly, the renowned The Economist dedicated its November 2018 cover page to capitalist reform. It forecasted, “The Next Capitalist Revolution” and featured articles that problematised the monopoly of power of tech companies or the decreasing significance of trade unionism. Stating that “more than the half of young Americans no longer support capitalism,” the article concedes that “a revolution is needed” (“Next Revolution”). Indeed, global inequality and poverty, the growth imperative built into the neoliberal market economy, and the un‐ sustainable way of living, demand immediate action, for they culminate in the admittedly populist rule of thumb that we would require at least four earths to provide every human on the planet with US -standards of consumerism (cf. C. McDonald). Ruth Levitas uses drastic terms to argue that it becomes increasingly “impossible […] to carry on as we are, with social and economic systems that enrich a few but destroy the environment and impoverish most of the world’s population. Our very survival depends on finding another way of living” (Levitas, Method xii). Some scholars advocate lifestyles based on austerity (cf. Böhme) or argue convincingly for a renaissance of state power (cf. Dörre; also E. Olin Wright; and also Hickel) to confront capitalism’s hegemony. Yet all these approaches to reform or even abolish free-market capitalism ignore the power mechanisms that caused the trouble in the first place, that is the complexity of modern life as expressed by ‘network power.’ Network power has been introduced in this study both as the effect and cause of globalisation, tempting individuals to voluntarily accept a certain standard in search for per‐ sonal advantages until said standard becomes compulsory; once a crucial number of people have opted for the standard, the choice of whether or not to join becomes formally free yet involuntary. Inevitably, it seems, this intercon‐ nectedness culminates in negative consequences such as the formation of mo‐ nopolies, exploitation, and ecological disaster. Therefore, the answer to the most 309 VIII. Dystopia, ‘Immanent Criticism,’ and its Eutopian Implications 219 According to Bennett, assemblages are defined as performative groups which consist of not only of humans, but also animals, as well as organic and even inorganic members. She argues that [a]ssemblages are not governed by any central head: no one materiality or type has sufficient competence to determine consistently the trajectory or impact of the group. The effects generated by an assemblage are, rather, emergent properties, emergent in that their ability to make something happen (a newly inflected materialism, a blackout, a hurricane, a war on terror) is distinct from the sum of the vital force of each materiality considered alone (Vibrant Matter 24). Listing the North American blackout of 2003 as an example, which left 50 million people without electricity, Bennett argues that humans contribute only as one factor to an ever-increasing network of actants, distributing agency to human and nonhuman actors alike. pressing questions of reform must take the networks structures of contemporary life into account and harvest their potential for social betterment. As Judith Butler writes, “[i]f we cannot persist without social forms of life, and if the only available ones are those that work against the prospect of our living, we are in a difficult bind, if not an impossible one” (210). Network power, despite its neg‐ ative aspects, must be acknowledged as a positive force that could easily influ‐ ence life for the better. Having highlighted the hitherto unacknowledged, ig‐ nored, or disclaimed dependency and interdependency of humans and the ethical, moral, and political implications born out of this network of organic, and even non-organic members, network power could just offer a way out. To harvest the potential of network power for good, humans need to re-think their individual impacts. In Vibrant Matter (2010), Jane Bennett attacks human exceptionalism, arguing precisely for an acknowledgement of the fundamental interconnectedness of being. While Bennett extends her understanding of ‘agency’ to include even the materiality of things, for instance, she also com‐ ments on the responsibility of the individual. According to Bennett, the “ethical responsibility of an individual human now resides in one’s response to the as‐ semblages in which one finds oneself participating” (37). 219 While nobody can alter network standards on one’s own, Bennett argues that individuals should ponder their contribution by considering the legitimacy of negative network standards wherever and whenever they can: “[d]o I attempt to extricate myself from assemblages whose trajectory is likely to do harm? Do I enter into prox‐ imity of assemblages whose conglomerate effectivity tends toward the enact‐ ment of nobler ends” (ibid. 37 f.)? Small-scale changes to, for instance, deciding not to consume so much, refusing to support companies that profit from child labour, helping others for no personal gain - all of this is impactful. Living up to one’s role, not despite but because of network structures, would be Bennett’s solution. 310 VIII. Dystopia, ‘Immanent Criticism,’ and its Eutopian Implications Network power need not be overcome - such a demand is both foolish and impossible. Instead, the network itself has yet to be altered to fit the imperatives of sustainability and equality. Indeed, this aligns with Grewal’s writings on the three defining characteristics of networks, the “network properties”: compati‐ bility, the “acceptance of parallel or simultaneous standards to gain access to a given network” (173, emphasis in the original); availability, the “ease with which a network accepts new entrants desiring to adopt its standard” (ibid. 176, emphasis in the original); and malleability, that harbours the key for social change, as it “indicates the extent to which a standard underlying a given network is open to (piecemeal) revision” (ibid. 177, emphasis in the original). Grewal’s point cannot be overestimated. The fact that network standards can be changed ipso facto provides a pivotal leverage point for social change: we must alter network power by altering the standard (cf. Beckett). It is imperative to redefine the maxims of the economic system of neoliberalism collectively, including the abolition of the growth policy and the redefinition of value as argued for by Mariana Mazzucato in her analysis The Value of Everything: Making and Taking in the Global Economy (2018); or to put more regulations on the market, as Olin E. Wright claims in Envisioning Real Utopias, to empower the state to balance out rampant consum‐ erism and ecological destruction (cf. 367 f.). Andy Beckett speaks in his article “The New Left Economics: How a Network of Thinkers is Transforming Capi‐ talism” (The Guardian, 2019) of a “democratic economy.” These are, of course, tremendously bold claims that demand nothing less than a cognitive restructuring of the way the world works, and the restraint of human nature itself: Breaking with the growth-driven consumerist dynamic of production and satisfaction is, admittedly, a daunting prospect given the integrated structure of modern existence and the dependencies of national economies on the globalized system. It is an index of our collective alienation, that we can scarcely know how we might begin to achieve it. But a cultural preliminary, I suggest, will be some re-thinking of our current notions of progress and development. (Soper 164) Compelled to search for an alternative mode of living that breaks “the link be‐ tween progress and economic expansion” (ibid. 165), humanity faces an incred‐ ibly difficult and complex task. Yet, as Gregory Claeys elaborates in his presen‐ tation Beyond Consumerism (2018), humanity is running out of options: climate crisis, ecological exploitation, and population growth mean that “humanity faces extinction for the first time” in history. If unchallenged, the current path of humanity defined by consumerism and neoliberalism will lead to the total col‐ lapse of the climate system -, a truth yet to be acknowledged universally. Since 311 VIII. Dystopia, ‘Immanent Criticism,’ and its Eutopian Implications “[t]he ground of civilization won’t break up under our feet so much as recede under melting ice caps and rising seas” ( Jacobson), climate change condensed into ecocriticism will steadily replace Marxist positions as capitalism’s critic number one (cf. Claeys, “Consumerism”), allowing nothing less than a complete redefinition of the status quo. Only through a combination of “wise legislation” and “individual restraint” (ibid.), born from an understanding of the interde‐ pendencies of human and non-human, and an awareness of network structures and network power produced by agglomerated individual decisions, can hu‐ manity alter its course and secure its future. Dystopias play a vital role in the necessary discourse, for they make these structures visible and educate indi‐ viduals about their individual responsibility in the decision-making process of the collective. Refraining from attributing blame according to the logic of the methodological individualism, these novels remind readers that individual sac‐ rifices and mindful alterations might transform malleable systems like those founded upon network consensus; if enough people are motivated to influence network standards for the better, this will occur slowly but gradually. Dystopias raise awareness that - while nobody is directly to blame for systemic inequali‐ ties - we are part of the network and must recognize our collective power. By illuminating the dark side of our economic system, dystopias nudge humanity towards a better future. Although without a ready-made alternative, they are firm in the conviction adapted from Theodor W. Adorno that “[t]he false, once determinately known and precisely expressed, is already an index of what is right and better” (Critical Models 288). 312 VIII. Dystopia, ‘Immanent Criticism,’ and its Eutopian Implications IX. Bibliography Primary Literature Anderson, M. T. Landscape with Invisible Hand. London: Walker Books, 2018. —. Feed. London: Walker, 2012. Atwood, Margaret. The Testaments: The Sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale. London: Penguin, 2019. —. The Heart Goes Last. London: Bloomsbury, 2015. —. MaddAddam. London: Virago, 2013. —. The Year of the Flood. London: Virago, 2009. —. Oryx and Crake. London: Virago, 2003. —. 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Band 85 Annika Gonnermann Absent Rebels: Criticism and Network Power in 21 st Century Dystopian Fiction Annika Gonnermann Absent Rebels Band 85 Layout 3 BuchTitelBild_128,5x49_RZ.indd 1 BuchTitelBild_128,5x49_RZ.indd 1 02.09.20 14: 52 02.09.20 14: 52 18459_Umschlag.indd 1,3 18459_Umschlag.indd 1,3 24.03.2021 16: 48: 56 24.03.2021 16: 48: 56