Late Escapism and Contemporary Neoliberalism Alienation, Work and Utopia
This book suggests that escapism – the desire to leave one’s physical or emotional circumstances for an ideal alternative – is a way to understand the social conflicts that structure our world. Considering this phenomenon across psychology, labour and cultural studies, the author engages with critical theorists such as Lukács, Fromm and Marcuse to examine how escapism appears in our minds, workplaces and utopian imaginaries from fiction to music. In this study, escapism emerges as a constitutive feature of the late capitalist lifeworld – a feature that must be understood in order to create social change.
Defining escapism as a new field of study, Late Escapism and Contemporary Neoliberalism: Alienation, Work and Utopia suggests that the phenomenon has much to teach us about contemporary consciousness and how we resist and reshape the edicts of neoliberalism. As such, this book will appeal to scholars of cultural and critical theory, social movements and political sociology.
1. What is Escapism?
2. Escapism and Negative Humanism
3. Work and Protective Escapism
4. Dystopias and Utopias
5. The Uses of Escapism
"In our clickbait-saturated digital media environment, everything from online shopping to binge-watching TV series is routinely framed as 'escapist' and bemoaned as distracting everyone from much more important matters. By probing the material conditions that billions of people are wilfully trying to escape from and illuminating the psychological needs met by the myriad cultural practices frequently lambasted as 'escapist', Greg Sharzer’s Late Escapism advances a deft and dialectical study of the social determinations of contemporary escapism. Sharzer’s stylishly written book brings together salient currents in political economy and cultural studies to forge a novel and interdisciplinary social theory of escapism. By explaining its popularity through the contradictions of neoliberal capitalism, the fantasies of the Left-Right culture war, and the coping strategies of the working class, the book convincingly argues that escapism matters as a new field of inquiry and site of politics. Even better, it finds some resources for emancipatory hope in the everyday practices of escapism."
Tanner Mirrlees, University of Ontario Institute of Technology, Canada
"Escapism – fleeing reality or routine – is a central experience of our lives, especially work lives. This masterful work explains the causes and uses of escapism drawing from a vast literature and using examples, including contemporary culture. Sharzer seeks to define a new field of scholarly research – escapism studies – and succeeds in doing so. A must read!"
Thomas Klassen, York University, Canada
"Late Escapism marks an important intervention in the cultural study of late capitalism. Sharzer moves beyond unhelpful distinctions between reality and fantasy, and resolutely defends escapism as a form of resistance and revolutionary imagining."
James Cairns, Wilfrid Laurier University, Canada
"Sharzer's work is firmly 'of the left', but it also consistently unpicks lazy leftist assumptions, in order to travel towards a more practical and robust understanding of the world and its issues. Here, he tackles the seemingly default left-wing aversion to leisure and escape as a possible utopian space. Sharzer always tries to cut new routes through the mud of congealed thought, and here he makes new paths, which are connected to his earlier work on localism. Whether you agree with him or not is far from the point, that he makes you re-think the issues for yourself always is."
Steve Hanson, Co-Editor, Manchester Review of Books