‘Sovereignty, Inc.: Three Inquiries in Politics and Enjoyment’

Published by The University of Chicago Press in 2020.

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What does the name Trump stand for? If branding now rules over the production of value, as the coauthors of Sovereignty, Inc. argue, then Trump assumes the status of a master brand whose primary activity is the compulsive work of self-branding—such is the new sovereignty business in which, whether one belongs to his base or not, we are all “incorporated.”

Drawing on anthropology, political theory, philosophy, psychoanalysis, and theater, William Mazzarella, Eric L. Santner, and Aaron Schuster show how politics in the age of Trump functions by mobilizing a contradictory and convoluted enjoyment, an explosive mixture of drives and fantasies that eludes existing portraits of our era. The current political moment turns out to be not so much exceptional as exceptionally revealing of the constitutive tension between enjoyment and economy that has always been a key component of the social order. Santner analyzes the collective dream-work that sustains a new sort of authoritarian charisma or mana, a mana-facturing process that keeps us riveted to an excessively carnal incorporation of sovereignty. Mazzarella examines the contemporary merger of consumer brand and political brand and the cross-contamination of politics and economics, warning against all too easy laments about the corruption of politics by marketing. Schuster, focusing on the extreme theatricality and self-satirical comedy of the present, shows how authority reasserts itself at the very moment of distrust and disillusionment in the system, profiting off its supposed decline. A dazzling diagnostic of our present, Sovereignty, Inc., forces us to come to terms with our complicity in Trump’s political presence and will immediately take its place in discussions of contemporary politics.

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