“Heroic Identifications” examines the American public’s willingness to affirm expansions of state power they supposedly protest. It argues that in the post-9/11 era, Americans who legitimated violent and impinging state actions may have done so as an expression of their own individual power. Legitimation stemmed from individual identifications with state power, as if state action was an extension of individual action and an expression of individual freedom. Violent unilateralism modeled an autonomy denied to individuals who are shaped both by daily experiences of unfreedom in a neoliberal era, and by the expectations of individual mastery generated within the terms of liberal individualism. Figurations of individualism thus set the conditions for the expansion of state power through a fantasy that this power could be an extension of each individual’s own. Engaging Sigmund Freud’s work on identification, this essay examines how individuals could identify with state action in an effort to experience freedom. It concludes that support for post-9/11 state power reflected a disheartening form of contemporary political subject whose quest to experience freedom is obstructed by the very methods it draws upon in its efforts.

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