characterised by ‘unbridled capitalism’, and an example of
the economic dynamism – but also the extremes of wealth and
poverty – that could also be unleashed in Britain by a return to
During the period examined in this book, Hong Kong was
often portrayed as a territory free of the rules that constrained
economic choices elsewhere. Such portrayals were by no means the unique
accept and work with the world as is –
rather than how it ought to be . In celebrating the positive demand for empathy,
humility and resilience, adaptive design supplants the call for systemic change. This
conservatism is an example of how a progressive neoliberalism ( Fraser, 2017 ) is dissolving and sapping the powers of resistance ( Han, 2010 ). The excessive positivity of adaptive design,
its endless willingness to happily fail-forward into the future, suits the economic logic of
late-capitalism. 2 To draw this out, it is
Violence and Miscegenation in Jean Toomer‘s ‘Blood- Burning Moon’
Jean Toomer‘s Cane (1923) has long been considered a signature text of both avant-garde Modernism and the Harlem Renaissance. While Gothic tropes and imagery lurk throughout Toomer‘s collection of poetry and prose, Anglo-American Gothic conventions come to the foreground in the story ‘Blood-Burning Moon’. The story‘s interracial love triangle provides a locus of conflict between the post-Reconstruction American South and the haunting economic logic of slavery. Though the three characters each aspire to new racial, sexual and economic identities, they are terrorized by a society where employer-employee relations cannot escape the violence of the master-slave dialectic. Toomer does not relinquish his aesthetic experimentation and political radicalism to the Anglo-American Gothic, but instead engages the Gothic form in order to critique the violent racism of American capitalism. In this way, Toomer positions the Gothic centrally within African-American literary and cultural history.
The book analyzes capitalism’s growing destructiveness and the cost–benefit contradiction it generates. Its new conception of the surplus, which recognizes not just capitalist businesses but also households and the public sector as sites of surplus production, links capitalism’s destructiveness to that system’s use of the surplus. Capital’s use of the surplus turns scientific knowledge and technique into forces of destruction, and the book illustrates this dynamic by making reference to the growth of a consumerist culture, to massive military spending, and to other technologies that fuel a deepening ecological crisis. This crisis, along with economic and public health crises as well as a crisis of political democracy, are also analyzed as being intimately linked to capitalism’s use of the surplus. It is capitalism’s undemocratic control of the surplus by capitalist elites, moreover, that ultimately leads to the cost–benefit contradiction of contemporary societies: the futility of our consumerist culture no longer translates productive development into correspondingly growing human well-being, while the simultaneous growth of capitalism’s forces of destruction increasingly endangers human beings and the planet. Thus, this contradiction creates the potential for an opposition to capitalism and its exploitative and destructive nature by a wide range of social movements, both “old” (such as the labor and socialist movements) and “new” (for example, the feminist, anti-racist, ecological, and peace movements). To address capitalism’s contradiction, a democratic classless society is required, but the book also analyzes how capitalism’s operation obstructs the formation of an anti-capitalist coalition fighting for such an alternative.
Crude Metonymies and Tobe Hooper‘s Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)
My analysis of Tobe Hooper‘s Texas Chain Saw Massacre centralizes the films political setting: an early 1970s Texas gas station that has no fuel and that offers only death to those who assume petroleums easy purchase. Such a move shifts critical attention from the film‘s monstrous bodies to its Gothic economy and the dead ends of corporate US oil culture. In Chain Saw, metonymies of blood and oil signify not only the material history of Texas oil and the seemingly unstoppable machinery of capitalism, but also the tremendous gap – or ‘gulf ’ – between human and nonhuman persons.
This book arose out of a friendship between a political philosopher and an
economic sociologist, and their recognition of an urgent political need to
address the extreme inequalities of wealth and power in contemporary
societies. The book provides a new analysis of what generates inequalities
in rights to income, property and public goods in contemporary societies. It
claims to move beyond Marx, both in its analysis of inequality and exploitation,
and in its concept of just distribution. In order to do so, it critiques Marx’s
foundational Labour Theory of Value and its closed-circuit conception of the
economy. It points to the major historical transformations that create
educational and knowledge inequalities, inequalities in rights to public goods
that combine with those to private wealth. In two historical chapters, it argues
that industrial capitalism introduced new forms of coerced labour in the
metropolis alongside a huge expansion of slavery and indentured labour in the
New World, with forms of bonded labour lasting well into the twentieth century.
Only political struggles, rather than any economic logic of capitalism, achieved
less punitive forms of employment. It is argued that these were only steps along
a long road to challenge asymmetries of economic power and to realise just
distribution of the wealth created in society.
Gothic productions appear in clusters during the capitalist world-markets transition from one economic cycle to another. Using a world-systems approach, I argue that Gothic narrative devices and sensations are both historically specific to the time of their production and representative of the general logic of capitalist time-space contortions. A world-systems perspective insists on an inter-state relational approach relatively unexplored within Gothic studies. Using Stoker‘s Dracula as a case study, the article claims that Dracula encodes inter-imperialist tensions, primarily those between England and Germany and their proxy agents over South African gold mines in the Transvaal. This antagonism provides the background to the Boer War, itself a forerunner to the First World War‘s battle among imperialists.
Money, Commerce, Language, and the Horror of Modernity in ‘The Isle of Voices’
Money, not merely as subject in literature but also in its very form and function, exhibits qualities of spectral evanescence, fetishised power over the imagination, and the uncontrollable transgression of boundaries and limits, which closely parallel the concerns and anxieties of Gothic literature. Yet it is in the writings of economic theorists and commentators on market society like Adam Smith and Karl Marx that these Gothic anxieties about money are most clearly articulated. Stevensons short story ‘The Isle of Voices’, read in the context of his comments on money in his other writings, is one of the few fictional texts which uses these properties of money to create what might be called a ‘financial Gothic’ narrative, which nevertheless has insights and implications for the narratives of capitalist modernity in general.
Gender, Money and Property in the Ghost Stories of Charlotte Riddell
This article explores Riddells representational strategies around gender: in particular her male narrators and her female characters made monstrous by money. It argues that Riddell, conscious of social prohibitions on financial knowledge in women, employs male protagonists to subversive effect, installing in her stories a feminine wisdom about the judicious use of wealth. Her narratives identify the Gothic potential of money to dehumanise, foregrounding the culpability of economic arrangements in many of the horrors of her society. While they contain pronounced elements of social critique, they ultimately however defend late-Victorian capitalism by proff ering exemplars of the ethical financial practice by which moneys action is to be kept benign.
Del Principe argues that a compelling historical and political vision of post-unification Italy lies beneath the preternatural façade of Ugo Tarchettis Fantastic Tales, and that the authors transgressive approach to social realism is a reflection of the vast, cultural transformations of the period. Del Principe proposes correlations between sexual and political realms surfacing in Tarchettis narrative as indicators of mutating class structure and emerging capitalism. An examination of spatial allegories engages a discussion of psychic and physical modes of hysteria and xenophobic reactions that stem from the nationalistic fervor of post-unification Italy.