By Patrick Brantlinger
In his latest book, Patrick Brantlinger probes the state of contemporary America. Brantlinger takes aim at neoliberal economists, the Tea Party movement, gun culture, immigration, waste value, surplus people, the war on terror, technological determinism, and globalization. An invigorating return to classic cultural studies with its concern for social justice and challenges to economic orthodoxy, States of Emergency is a delightful mix of journalism, satire, and theory that addresses many of the most pressing issues of our time.
States of Emergency consists of twelve essays ranging from top-down class conflict in the U.S. to immigration (“What’s the Matter with Mexico?”) to the war on terror to unemployment and homelessness among veterans (“Army Surplus”) to the World Social Forum. Brantlinger’s focus is on social justice; he explores, for example, how and why societies exclude certain segments of their populations from full rights and recognition, sometimes to the extent of deeming them “surplus” populations worthy only of extermination. Five of the essays were invited contributions to journals or to other people’s anthologies. These include “Shooters,” about the Virginia Tech massacre, invited for the inaugural issue of the on-line South Korean journal Situations, and “Shopping on Red Alert: The Rhetorical Normalization of Terror,” which first appeared in Iraq War Culture, edited by Cynthia Fuchs and Joe Lockard. The essay on the Tea Party ends with a short, dramatic excursion to Wonderland, and “The State of Iraq” is Brantlinger’s attempt to out-Twain Mark Twain. The volume’s title comes from Walter Benjamin: “The tradition of the oppressed teaches us that the ‘state of emergency’ in which we live is not the exception but the rule.”