Essay (415)

So far we’ve covered a fair bit of ground in our efforts to understand the contemporary history of capitalism. The key readings in this effort include not only the Communist Manifesto, which offers a thumbnail sketch of the rise of global capitalism and its material and social effects, but also Hall & Massey’s “After Neoliberalism.” In terms of specific historical changes— longterm and more recent— these texts are foundational for the goals of the course as a whole.

On March 16, the last class meeting before Spring Break, I will ask that you turn in (both hard and digital copies of) a four page essay that is grounded in the narratives that Marx & Engels and Hall & Massey tell. You’ll need to have a solid understanding of how— according to these thinkers— capitalism has developed and what those developments mean in terms of ordinary people’s social experience. Be sure to consider the core elements of narrative: agents, plot events, settings, imagery, etc. Here is your prompt:

What does the key phrase “all that is solid melts into air” mean within its specific context in the Manifesto, and how does it relate to the post-Keynesian, neoliberal settlement that has enjoyed hegemony since the 1970s (and now seems to be fragmenting)? In what interesting and productive ways might it be evaluated in light of JG Ballard’s dystopian novel High-rise? You may also wish to address Ben Wheatley’s adaptation of Ballard’s novel, though should you do so please make liberal use of the critical vocabulary of film analysis that we have taken from Villarejo and Gibbs.

For specific guidelines consult this page:

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