Science Fiction Without a Future: Imagination in the Age of Post-productive Capitalism

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2022

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This dissertation takes as its starting point what contemporary cultural, literary, and science fiction scholarship have described as the “end of the future,” or the post-1970s rise in stagnant, bleak, and apocalyptic images of what is to come. Using science fiction films and novels as its primary objects of inquiry, it argues that such a dystopian (or false utopian) imaginary should not be normatively chastised or embraced, but rather analyzed as part of a set of post-productive capitalist conditions. Doing so makes visible both the material constraints upon the contemporary imagination—the way that images of decline, particularly in SF, are cognitively imbricated in their larger socio-economic moment—and what is termed the “postfuturist problem,” or the question of science fiction without a future. With both ideas in mind, the ultimate claim is that in order to think science fiction (and cultural production more broadly) in a moment of imaginative foreclosure, one must look deeper into these no-futurist works themselves. Rather than nostalgically lingering upon the past, lamenting the loss of a dynamic and optimistic futurism, our task is to discern how renewed conditions of thought might develop out of the contradictions of the present. In an era without a future, science fiction—and culture writ large—does not gain its relevance (its ability to map and estrange us from our actually-existing reality) by offering visions of the radically new and different, but immanently, within the hyper-extended confines of the present.

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Goldfarb, Jason (2022). Science Fiction Without a Future: Imagination in the Age of Post-productive Capitalism. Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/25742.

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