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Disturbing Pleasures

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Abstract:

The photographs of the US ‘Kill Team’ smiling next to dead Afghan civilians are taken as deeply symptomatic of a broader shift in American culture away from compassion towards a barbarous pleasure in spectacles of pain and torture. American popular culture increasingly manifests a ‘depravity of aesthetics’ through eagerly consuming displays of aggression, brutality and death. Connecting an ideology of hardness and the economy of pleasure it justifies to current neoliberal policies across all sectors, it suggests that this disturbing new sadistic enjoyment in the humiliation of others – far from representing an individualised pathology – now infects US society as a whole and bespeaks the imminent death of the social state.

Keywords: Gul Mudin; Henry A Giroux; Jacqueline Lichtenstein; Jeremy Morlock; Susan Sontag; United States; aesthetics; depravity; neoliberalism; sadism; war in Afghanistan

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09528822.2012.679036

Publication date: May 1, 2012

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