Academic journal article Social Justice

The Integrated Spectacle: Neoliberalism and the Socially Dead

Academic journal article Social Justice

The Integrated Spectacle: Neoliberalism and the Socially Dead

Article excerpt

Abstract

Despite the architectural forms of socio-moral spatial exclusion that have become the dominant theme of cities as they strive to channel capital, homelessness persists in any city street in the United States and abroad. Political discourse across the United States promises to put an end to the barbaric conditions that millions of homeless people, the "socially dead," experience in their everyday life; however, we suggest that this hegemonic discourse is symbolic at best and has been reframed to further exclusionary practices.

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ONE NEED ONLY WALK ON NEARLY ANY CITY STREET TO BE COGNIZANT of the homelessness that persists in the United States and abroad, regardless of architectural forms of socio-moral spatial exclusion that have become the dominant theme of cities as they strive to channel capital. Although political discourse across the United States vows to bring about social justice and end these barbaric conditions, in their everyday lives homeless people are branded by the integrated spectacle (1) as the "socially dead"--those who have little to no value based on capitalistic measures of worth (Cacho 2012). We suggest that this hegemonic discourse is symbolic at best and has been reframed to further exclusionary practices. Moreover, we argue that the state's treatment of the homeless is an emanation of state crime, as opposed to a "mere" effect of hierarchies of political power that undermines real efforts to realize social justice. However, to fetishize the role of the state is to overlook and become complied in quotidian forms of state violence (see Taussig 1989). After all, the state does not operate in a vacuum or as an atomistic entity. To frame the issue of homelessness as a state crime ignores the banal ways in which the integrated spectacle, the fusion of state and economy, has become spectacular domination with the complicity and consent of the general population (Debord 1988). Furthermore, we argue that focusing on homelessness as the problem obfuscates the systematic violence of the integrated spectacle.

We hope this article will bring forth a renewed discussion of the policies of the integrated spectacle that have generated further exclusionary practices, as well as our consent and consumption of the hegemonic discourse and truth about the homeless and the homelessness problem. Moreover, we hope discussion turns from homelessness as a problem to a denunciation of the integrated spectacle, the system that creates, facilitates, and reproduces socially disposed populations: the socially dead. We do not suggest the abandonment of help and services that provide resources and care for the homeless; rather, we must simultaneously disavow the integrated spectacle that maintains all truth and hegemonic discourse concerning inequalities and the manufacturing of socially dead populations. We first provide a brief overview of the related literature, followed by a theoretically driven discussion.

Brief Overview of the Literature

An abundance of literature has examined the contestation and utilization of public space (Del Casino and JoCoy 2008; Ferrell 1997,2001; Mitchell 1997) and the emergence of the neoliberal city and new architectural forms of socio-spatial exclusion, including the impact of neoliberalism on inequality, class, poverty, and homelessness (Andreou 2015; Beckett and Herbert 2008; Coleman 2004; Cronley 2010; Gaetz and O'Grady 2002; Hogeveen and Freistadt 2013; Krinsky 2006; Wacquant 2009). Other writers analyze the policing, criminalization, and social control of homeless populations (Amster 2008; Beckett and Herbert 2008; Coleman 2004; DeVerteuil, May, and Von Mahs 2009; May, Cloke, and Johnsen 2005; Stuart 2014).

Most research that focuses on homelessness, forms of social exclusion, and social control approaches the topic by critiquing but accepting these conditions as an expected outcome of neoliberalism, the increased control of the punitive carceral state, and the inequalities associated with the capitalist order, such as the deregulation of employment, the abandonment of labor laws, the free play of capital, and the erosion of collective protections, including social welfare (Wacquant 2009). …

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