Fictions Ltd.: Representations of Corporations in Post-World War II American Fiction and Film
Clare, Ralph E.
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My project explores the still emerging late-capitalist world-system through American literary, filmic, and pop cultural representations of one of its primary motors, the multinational corporation. Having expanded in size, scope, and power to an unprecedented degree in our neoliberal capitalist era, the corporation, with its long-time legal status as "fictional person" constitutes an embodiment of capital, with the tangible material result of the corporate body appearing to trump the (post) human's.The corporations represented in the various texts discussed--novels by Frank Norris, Thomas Pynchon, Don DeLillo, William Gaddis, Richard Powers, and Joshua Ferris; dramas like Executive Suite, Network, and Michael Clayton; comedies like Ghotsbusters, Gung Ho, and The Office--function as temporalized, if temporary, figures for the immateriality of capital. As such, they crystallize an economic system far too complex and dizzying to comprehend in and of itself. At the same time, these representations function as sites wherein the economic concerns, crises, and fears prevalent at the moment of their cultural production are cast and recast, thereby both affecting and being affected by the economic discourses of their eras.Taken collectively, these Post-World War II corporate fictions balance cultural critiques of a capitalism deemed "too big to fail" (as evidenced, for example, in the railroads, pharmaceutical, and automobile industries) against the possibilities of resistance to a system in whose endgame we now all appear to be participating. A study of them reveals, on the one hand, the dissolution of once-great American Industries, the withering of labor power, the disappearance of blue-collar jobs, the decenteredness of capital, the corruption of supposedly democratic institutions, and the financialization of everyday life that signals the first translations of biopower into a veritable bioeconomy. These suggest the declining or shrinking spaces of resistance for subjects. On the other hand, the study reveals the continuing resistance of the subject amidst the deterritorializations and reterritorializations of capital and its corporate bodies.