If you were looking to curl up with a good dystopian novel this summer, Brad Evans and Henry A. Giroux, authors of Disposable Futures: The Seduction of Violence in the Age of Spectacle, brand new from City Lights Open Media, might suggest otherwise for more reasons than you might have originally thought. In its sobering first paragraph, Disposable Futures asks you to think of our world in the present tense,
where spectacles of violence have become so ubiquitous that it is no longer possible to identify any clear civic, social, or ethical qualities in the enforced social order. Imagine a world where those who live on the margins of such social order are condemned for their plight, while those who control the political processes prosper from those very policies that bring about social abandonment and human destruction. Imagine a world where the technological promise of human connectivity is supplanted by forms of surveillance that encourage citizens to actively participate in their own inescapable oppression. Imagine a world that proclaims an end to the brutality of colonialism, all the while continuing to consciously vilify, target, incarcerate, and kill those of a different color. Imagine a world where the forces of militarism have become so ingrained that they are inseparable from the daily functioning of civic life. Imagine a world where the institutions tasked with producing the most brilliant and publicly engaged minds are put to the service of an uncompromising war machine.
In the chapter aptly named “Cultures of Cruelty,” Evans and Giroux go on to say that, “the great tragedy of the current historical moment is that we can imagine this world all too easily.”
Brad Evans, a political philosopher and critical theorist, specializes on the problem of mass violence in the 21st century. Here, he joins forces with cultural critic and prolific author Henry A. Giroux to try to make sense of, and ultimately describe, what’s going on in our world, which seems to only become increasingly more violent – so much so, they argue, that it seems to be normalized. Disposable Futures wastes no time and uses clear, concise language to deliver these hard but necessary truths.
There is no greater task today than to develop a critique of violence adequate to our deeply unjust, inequitable, and violent times. Only then might we grasp the magnitude and depths of suffering endured on a daily basis by many of the world’s citizens. Only then might we move beyond the conceit of a neoliberal project, which has normalized violence such that its worst manifestations become part of our cultural “pastimes.”
Disposable Futures makes connections between numerous violent contemporary phenomena in order to reveal the monstrously huge and oppressive power structures that have become a modern normalcy. Giroux and Evans vehemently advocate social movements and radical ideas that challenge these power structures in order to make violence intolerable.
Never have we more urgently required a new political imagination that can take us out of the poverty of contemporary forms of consciousness that prove to be politically catastrophic and lead to civil and social death. Power has always feared those who have dared to think differently. It has always banished the true poets of the age. It has always sought to pathologize or to kill those who dared to imagine alternatives instead of quietly conforming. This is not incidental, for it is precisely in the realm of the imagination that we can rethink the world.
You can read more about Evans and Giroux’s powerful and important work on their websites. They were recently interviewed by Truth-Out about Disposable Futures, which is available on our website for 30% off the retail price, on our shelves at City Lights Books, and at your local independent bookstore.