Living on the Edge of Burnout: Defamiliarizing Neoliberalism Through Cyberpunk Science Fiction
Alphin, Caroline Grey
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A dominant trend in cyberpunk scholarship draws from Fredric Jameson's diagnosis of postmodernism as the logic of late capitalism, using Jameson's spatial pastiche, schizophrenic temporality, and waning of affect, along with Jameson's characterization of Baudrillard's simulacrum to interpret postmodern cultural artifacts. For many cultural critics, the city of cyberpunk is thoroughly postmodern because parallels can be drawn between the cyberpunk city and the postmodern condition. However, very little work has considered the ways in which cyberpunk can defamiliarize the necro-spatial and necro-temporal logic of neoliberalism. This project moves away from more traditional disciplinary aesthetic methods of analyzing power and urban systems, such as interpretation and representation. And, it problematizes the biopolitical present in three different ways. First, by weaving in and out of an analysis of the narratives, discourses, and spatio-temporalities of cyberpunk and neoliberalism, I seek to produce epistemological interferences within these genres/disciplines, and thus, to disrupt the conceptual and lived biopolitical status-quo of late-capitalism. The goal is to open the door for discomfort with and a critical awareness of the necrotic conditions of competition by highlighting the fictive nature of neoliberalism. Second, this study problematizes accelerationism as a viable alternative to leftist politics and suggests in the end that accelerationism is a form of neoliberal resilience. It does this through an analysis of the biohacker that reframes this subject in terms of accelerationism and the logic of intensity. I argue that the biohacker is the accelerationist subject Alex Williams and Nick Srnicek advocate for in their "Accelerationist Manifesto," suggesting that this accelerationist subject is, in the end, a neoliberal subject that fits easily within the conditions of competition. This study argues that the biohacker in its numerous forms reflects an underlying pure neoliberalism at work within accelerationism and its neoliberal governmentalities. I suggest that far from being an alternative to leftist politics, accelerationism may further the goals of neoliberalism in its desire to accelerate to a purified market space. And, finally, this study works towards offering a biopolitics that theorizes death in terms of ordinariness and suggests that biopolitics is still a useful analytic within neoliberalism. In other words, Foucault's biopolitics can do more than theorize a genealogy of biological racism and genocide. Rather than advocate for moving beyond biopolitics, this study argues instead that neoliberal biopolitics can still be understood in terms of Foucault's analytic, and that perhaps, we need to disentangle Foucault's work from Achille Mbembe's "Necropolitics."
- Doctoral Dissertations