The Law of Diminishing Returns: Precarity and Nonreproduction in The Fall | Sean O’Brien

The Law of Diminishing Returns: Precarity and Nonreproduction in The Fall | Sean O’Brien

The Law of Diminishing Returns: Precarity and Nonreproduction in The Fall
Sean O’Brien

Abstract: This essay examines the representation of precarity in the BBC Two series, The Fall (2013-), starring Gillian Anderson as Detective Superintendent Stella Gibson and Jamie Dornan as serial killer Paul Spector. In the series, institutions of social reproduction are revealed to be sclerotic, exemplified not only in the austerity policies of fiscally insolvent national governments but also in the family and the couple, social forms integral to a system of crisis management that depends upon feminized reproductive work. Here, precarity emerges as a double bind: a reproductive crisis that would seem to demand a doubling down, a renewed investment in the very systems of accumulation and control that underwrite its proliferation. This essay argues that the representation of such contradictory logic should not be mistaken for some failure of the imagination, but should instead be recognized as an expression of a crisis in the reproduction of the capitalist class relation as it is mediated across the social field. 

Keywords: precarity, nonreproduction, austerity, gender, the child 

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Published in March 2020

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