Cruel optimism

“The persistence of the American Dream, Berlant suggests, amounts to a cruel optimism, a condition ‘when something you desire is actually an obstacle to your own flourishing.’ … 

Berlant tuned in to a wider sense of disaffection—the feeling among average voters that neither of these visions for change was really about them, or for them. According to Berlant, these suspicions manifested themselves in mundane ways: hoarding things or overeating might be attempts to overcome feelings of personal powerlessness. And her affective framework was a means of understanding larger manifestations of these suspicions, too: the Occupy movement, which began in September, 2011, could be seen as a response to the cruel optimism of capitalism, the pent-up outrage of citizens realizing that they’d been chasing nothing more than a dream.”

Affect Theory and the New Age of Anxiety

See also Lauren Berlant’s blog.

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