In this Book

Duke University Press
summary
A relation of cruel optimism exists when something you desire is actually an obstacle to your flourishing. Offering bold new ways of conceiving the present, Lauren Berlant describes the cruel optimism that has prevailed since the 1980s, as the social-democratic promise of the postwar period in the United States and Europe has retracted. People have remained attached to unachievable fantasies of the good life—with its promises of upward mobility, job security, political and social equality, and durable intimacy—despite evidence that liberal-capitalist societies can no longer be counted on to provide opportunities for individuals to make their lives “add up to something.”

Arguing that the historical present is perceived affectively before it is understood in any other way, Berlant traces affective and aesthetic responses to the dramas of adjustment that unfold amid talk of precarity, contingency, and crisis. She suggests that our stretched-out present is characterized by new modes of temporality, and she explains why trauma theory—with its focus on reactions to the exceptional event that shatters the ordinary—is not useful for understanding the ways that people adjust over time, once crisis itself has become ordinary. Cruel Optimism is a remarkable affective history of the present.

Table of Contents

  1. Cover
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  1. Title Page, Copyright
  2. pp. i-iv
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  1. Contents
  2. pp. v-vi
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  1. Acknowledgments
  2. pp. vii-viii
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  1. Introduction: Affect in the Present
  2. pp. 1-22
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  1. 1 Cruel Optimism
  2. pp. 23-50
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  1. 2 Intuitionists: History and the Affective Event
  2. pp. 51-94
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  1. 3 Slow Death (Obesity, Sovereignty, Lateral Agency)
  2. pp. 95-120
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  1. 4 Two Girls, Fat and Thin
  2. pp. 121-160
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  1. 5 Nearly Utopian, Nearly Normal: Post- Fordist Affect in La Promesse and Rosetta
  2. pp. 161-190
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  1. 6 After the Good Life, an Impasse: Time Out, Human Resources, and the Precarious Present
  2. pp. 191-222
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  1. 7 On the Desire for the Political
  2. pp. 223-264
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  1. Note on the Cover Image: If Body: Riva and Zora in Middle Age
  2. pp. 265-268
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  1. Notes
  2. pp. 269-302
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  1. Bibliography
  2. pp. 303-326
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  1. Index
  2. pp. 327-344
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  1. Back Cover
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Additional Information

ISBN
9780822394716
Related ISBN
9780822350972
MARC Record
OCLC
1144747241
Pages
352
Launched on MUSE
2020-03-16
Language
English
Open Access
No
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