Allegorizing Neoliberalism: Contemporary South Asian Fictions and the Critique of Capitalism
Sarker Hasan Al Zayed
Abstract: What is neoliberalism? This essay tries to answer this question by drawing upon two sources: theoretical discussions and literary representations. Michel Foucault and Wendy Brown argue that neoliberalism is best understood as a new logic of governmentality which has brought into being a new economic subject, homo œconomicus. This article, positioning itself against the main tenets of Foucauldian theories of neoliberalism, argues that a normative logic of governmentality is an inadequate frame for understanding neoliberal capitalism. In order to understand the contemporary moment better, we need to historicize neoliberalism and look carefully into its relationship with capitalism and class. What we also need to factor in is how a monetized consumerist worldview has normalized itself in neoliberal culture. When we read contemporary South Asian fictions allegorically, these normalized worldviews and masked relationships begin to come into view. Allegorical presentations of neoliberalism in fictions, this essay hypothesizes, have often taken two different paths: representation of it as a structure of feeling, and parody and critique. A number of contemporary fictions including Samrat Upadhyay’s “The Good Shopkeeper” and Amitav Ghosh’s the Ibis trilogy can be read as neoliberal allegories thematizing not only the material alterations that neoliberalism has ushered in but also the cultural transformations that have become parts of our everyday life.
Keywords: allegory, capitalism, Foucault, Marx, neoliberalism, South Asian fiction
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Published in March 2020