Fictions Inc: The Corporation in Postmodern Fiction, Film, and Popular Culture

Fictions Inc: The Corporation in Postmodern Fiction, Film, and Popular Culture

Fictions Inc: The Corporation in Postmodern Fiction, Film, and Popular Culture

Fictions Inc: The Corporation in Postmodern Fiction, Film, and Popular Culture

Synopsis

Fictions Inc. explores how depictions of the corporation in American literature, film, and popular culture have changed over time. Beginning with perhaps the most famous depiction of a corporation--Frank Norris's The Octopus --Ralph Clare traces this figure as it shifts from monster to man, from force to "individual," and from American industry to multinational "Other." Clare examines a variety of texts that span the second half of the twentieth century and beyond, including novels by Thomas Pynchon, William Gaddis, Don DeLillo, Richard Powers, and Joshua Ferris; films such as Network, Ghostbusters, Gung Ho, Office Space, and Michael Clayton; and assorted artifacts of contemporary media such as television's The Office and the comic strips Life Is Hell and Dilbert.

Paying particular attention to the rise of neoliberalism, the emergence of biopolitics, and the legal status of "corporate bodies," Fictions Inc. shows that representations of corporations have come to serve, whether directly or indirectly, as symbols for larger economic concerns often too vast or complex to comprehend. Whether demonized or lionized, the corporation embodies American anxieties about these current conditions and ongoing fears about the viability of a capitalist system.

Excerpt

It is curious to note that the 2004 remake of The Manchurian Candidate (1962) has little of Manchuria left in it apart from the title’s resonance. To be sure, each Manchurian Candidate follows Captain Bennett Marco (Frank Sinatra in the original, Denzel Washington in the remake) as he inadvertently stumbles on, and ultimately foils, a plot to assassinate a prominent politician. Yet, whereas the Cold War classic simultaneously entertained American fears of both communist and McCarthyist conspiracies, its post-9/11 relative, while updating its war to the decidedly hotter topic of Iraq and Afghanistan, does not simply replace a Red scare with a shadowy terrorist network. Instead, the private equity firm and multinational corporation Manchurian Global takes the place of the communist conspiracy. This is both a notable change and a telling one. For the more recent Manchurian Candidate marks a shift from Cold War–era neuroses about political ideology to contemporary worries about economic power. Certainly, political ideology still resonates in the remake, as the film shows the presidential election centering on issues of terrorism, rogue states, the erosion of American liberties, and the ever-nebulous concept of “freedom.” But it is not the clash of ideologies, or civilizations as Samuel Huntington might have it, that defines the central struggle in the film so much as it is the waning of democracy and the nation-state’s sovereignty against the transnational power of corporations and capital. Indeed, Manchurian Global, as a friend tells Marco, is “not just a corporation … but a goddamn geopolitical extension of policy for every president since Nixon,” whose shareholders . . .

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