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Author ORCID Identifier
Open Access Dissertation
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Year Degree Awarded
Month Degree Awarded
This dissertation examines the way that capitalism responded to the financial crisis of 2008 by presenting itself as the solution to problems of its own making. Guiding my criticism, is the concept of immanent critique and these chapters represent works of critical theory that endeavor to think through the contradictions of contemporary capitalism. The chapters of this dissertation examine capitalism’s response to it’s own crisis in four domains: political consumerism, the 2010 Haitian earthquake, philanthropy, and the prosperity gospel. Each of these responses seeks to overcome one or more of the fundamental problems of capitalism – inequality, poverty, environmental degradation, climate change, and the ceaseless imperative of unlimited growth – by presenting capitalism as the solution to these very problems in specific, though related ways. In Chapter I, I look at advertising that seeks to appeal to politicized subjectivities (e.g., green) and consider practices of consumption, such as “buy one give one,” that unite consumerism and charity within the act of consumption itself, in order to argue that consumer politics is constrained by the very logic of consumerism and is incapable of challenging its dominance. In Chapter II, I argue that the 2010 Haitian earthquake provided an alibi - a problem not of capitalism’s making - which then in turn obscured the dialectical relationship between capitalism and impoverishment and the role of debt in constraining Haiti’s past and future and allowed capitalism to present itself as the solution to both the natural disaster and the broader problems of its own making. In Chapter III, I argue that the philanthropists of today fail to recognize capitalism as an engine of inequality, immiseration, and environmental degradation, and in doing so, wrongly seek to solve the problems of capitalism with techniques and programs that replicate the very logic of capital. In Chapter IV, I argue that the Prosperity Gospel offers a solution to the problems created by capitalism by stunting systemic or structural criticism and transforming any failing of capitalism into a personal failure that can be overcome by right thinking.
Stein, Michael, "The Solution is the Problem: An Immanent Critique of Capitalism's Crisis, 2008-2018" (2019). Doctoral Dissertations. 1765.