After the Good Life
©Mark A. Nye
In Cruel Optimism (2011), Lauren Berlant asks why we stay “attached to conventional good-life fantasies – say of enduring reciprocity in couples, families, political systems, institutions, markets and at work – when the evidence of their instability, fragility, and dear cost abounds” (2). The post-1945 social consensus in Britain, the reproduction of the American Dream, and the social democratic promises made across Europe are political expressions of the good-life fantasy after World War Two. These social contracts have long since worn out, put under pressure from various financial crises since the 1970s and radical shifts in the political landscape. Meanwhile, we have witnessed the rollback of welfare, of healthcare benefits, of pensions; we have seen the casualisation of the workforce, massive unemployment, and the attenuation of trade union power. In short, as David Harvey writes, as the post-war boom broke up in the early 1970s, Europe and the United States in particular have sustained an extended period of flux, of change, and of uncertainty. How is it, then, that the fantasy of the good life persists in the face of such contingency? Why do we still need the model of a ‘good life’?
Even as Italy winds down its search and rescue missions in the Mediterranean, scores of migrants continue to make dangerous journeys across the sea, fleeing poverty, violence, and persecution. In the United States, approximately 500,000 people enter the country undocumented from Mexico each year. The fantasy of a good life, of a ‘better life’, that these countries represent (imaginatively and, in some cases, practically) retains a hold on the global imagination, even as Europe and the United States tighten border controls and become increasingly hostile to immigrants. Why is this so?
Issue 20 of FORUM seeks contributions from a range of disciplines that engage with questions of how we conceive of ‘the good life’ in the contemporary moment. What does the good life look like under austerity, under economic, ecological, and social crisis, under neoliberalism and what comes after? How do relations of gender, race, ethnicity and sexuality affect our visions of the good life?
Suggested topics include, but are not limited to:
Papers must be between 3,000 – 5,000 words in length, formatted according to MLA guidelines. FORUM is also considering academic book reviews (1,000 words) and multimedia and alternative presentations for publication. Please e-mail your article, a short abstract and your academic CV in separate, clearly labelled DOC(X). files to by 2 March 2015. All eligible articles will be peer reviewed prior to publication. Only one submission per author per issue is permitted.