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Theoretical Explorations Module III

Nov '19

Symptoms of the Contemporary

Symptoms of the Contemporary

This course employs Marxian and psychoanalytic methods to treat five fundamental symptoms of the contemporary, signs of the persistence of crisis in our simultaneously modern and postmodern present. We will explore the relationship between (1) our modern contemporary, which understands crisis as having passed ("we have overcome" world wars, financial busts, racism, etc.) and, (2) our postmodern contemporary, which anticipates crisis in a future to come ("we must overcome" ecological catastrophe, terrorism, communalism, etc.). 


SYMPTOM 1: CLASS 

Why, with the abolition of feudalism, when capitalism introduced the world to equality between individuals, do asymmetrical classes (proletariat and bourgeoisie) persist? 


SYMPTOM 2: WORLDS 

Why, with decolonization, when the world was introduced to equality between nation ­states, do different worlds ("First" and "Third") persist? 


SYMPTOM 3: VIOLENCE 

Why, with the West's planetary defeat of Communism in 1989, when the world's history of violent ideological struggle was to have ended for once and for all ("end of history"), does violence and its anticipation persist? 


SYMPTOM 4: ANTHROPOCENE 

Why, with definitive knowledge of man-made ecological catastrophe the world around, is the Anthropocene imagined and exhibited as an apocalyptic future to come? 


SYMPTOM 5: FREEDOM 

Why, with an almost infinite freedom to choose what we buy ("consumer choice"), when we work (the "gig" economy), indeed, who we are ("identity politics"), do we feel more anxious and less secure, incapable of coping with our "free" choices?

About the Professor

Rohit Goel