Recall that we’re only going to have 2 class meetings on Arundhati Roy’s An Ordinary Person’s Guide to Empire: Feb. 15 and 17. This work is explicitly political and takes as its central themes some of the concepts we’ve already encountered in class thus far: Empire, globalization, and neoliberalism. Regardless of your political persuasion– conservative, liberal, monarchist, socialist, bored, etc.– you’ll find something to praise or condemn in this collection of short essays. (Unless your political apathy runs so deep that you don’t even bother to read it.) One of the things we ought to consider is the difference between Coetzee and Roy in their treatment of the political. WFB, after all, is concerned with the political scene in S. Africa if we take that novel to be some sort of allegory, while Roy operates in a different register. Both “modes” of writing– fictional narrative and non-fiction social commentary– have their strengths and weaknesses. We’ll talk about that on Monday.
Incidentally, there are many books devoted to the issue of Empire, particularly as it pertains to the United States. Some of the more compelling criticisms are not only “from the left” but from the right. For instance, John Gray’s Black Mass or the works of Andrew Bacevich. At the same time, some of the most devoted supporters of US Empire (“interventionism”) come from the Democratic Party. We might with a full measure of justice identify Barack Obama this way (see for example his “30,000 troops/$30 billion” speech or– one of many– this article.)