Prosperity as a Crypt to Crisis

There is no image of prosperity which is not at the same time an image of crisis. I modify here Walter Benjamin’s famous dictum from Über den Begriff der Geschichte. For the current American context, we’ve advanced into a period where national prosperity is realized through social and cultural damage. That is to say, it is a context where tightened borders and criminalized immigration is accompanied by domestic instability and global unrest; where the expansion of global industry and capital accumulation is attended with ecological damage and economic collapse; and where the protection of national security necessarily involves orchestrating foreign wars, heightening surveillance, and reducing civil liberties.

The U.S.’s obsession with national security and prosperity is part and parcel of the American character more generally – one that fetishizes its constitution, brandishes its military through grandiose advertisements and popular television, and unapologetically relies on market fundamentalism and consumer culture. These elements uphold the image of a prosperous nation. Yet, that image has as its dialectical counterimage the enduring damage waged throughout the world. A sufficient account, then, of the ‘good American citizen’ – one who embodies the American moral license and authenticity – shall also be of one who owes his or her sense of virtue to every crisis that America creates. Global catastrophe is also ours, and is no less part of the…

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