We live in an era of economic fabling where often fantastic representations of economic life in popular culture sit uncomfortably alongside a neoliberal capitalist fairy tale that the Earth's resources can continue to be exploited into an indefinite future. Popular Culture and Political Economic Thought: Fables of Commonwealth examines a variety of animated movies, TV shows, written fictions, adventure travelogues, and Paleo archeologies (and diets) to suggest that popular culture poses a multiform challenge to the failing theories and practices of neoclassical economics. This book contends that it does so most successfully by implementing older formations of political economic thought: stages theory, bioeconomics, and a robust discourse on commonwealth. An era of eco-crisis demands a new economics. It, therefore, also requires a new appraisal of the popular imaginary and its potential for leveraging alternative conceptions of economic and political relations. This book begins that conversation.
Thomas Strychacz is Frederick A. Rice Professor of English at Mills College at Northeastern University.
Chapter 1: The Political Economy of Potato Farming on Mars in Andy Weir’s The Martian
Chapter 2: Virtual Commonwealths of the Great Recession: The Obamas’ Garden and Farm Management Games
Chapter 3: Life in the Wilds: Plots of Polity in Harriet Martineau and Survivor
Chapter 4: Challenging the Privilege of Again: Recursive Plots of Polity in Octavia Butler’s Dawn and Nalo Hopkinson’s MidnightRobber
Chapter 5: “Should’ve kept better care of her”: The Political Economy of Joss Whedon’s Firefly
Chapter 6: Feast Fables: The Bioeconomics of Turkeys and Roast Beast
Chapter 7: Yak Burgers and Black Tea: Consumption, Deprivation, and the Literature of Himalayan Adventure Travel
Chapter 8: Histories, Hedgestories, and Herdstories: Beast Fables and Paleo Polities in Recent Animated Movies
Thomas Strychacz writes eloquently on the intersection of political economy and popular culture. Moving gracefully across a wide variety of texts—from novels to musicals to online games—Strychacz revisits some of the prevailing economic fables through a series of innovative, thought-provoking readings. Could popular culture really help us save our planet and imagine a better future? This timely and indispensable book poses all of the right questions.
This timely intervention into public rhetoric of economics reveals how the tools of narrative reformulate and write back against the abstractions of neoclassical economic orthodoxy. Placing a range of popular texts in dialogue with a centuries-long tradition of political economic debate, Strychacz adroitly stages a wide-ranging and necessary discussion of what precisely the economy is for. Weaving together critiques of neoclassical orthodoxy that represent their fables as if they were natural science, alongside discussions of overtly fabled narratives that enable us to ask questions and articulate perspectives mainstream economics elides, Popular Culture and Political Economic Thought offers urgent and perceptive insight into today’s market dysfunction while offering humanity hope as to how we might survive this era of market fundamentalism.