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      Historicising Neoliberal Freedom: GB84 and the Politics of Historical Fiction

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          Abstract

          To imagine alternative futures it is essential to historicise and denaturalise neoliberal iterations of freedom. This paper builds on Wendy Brown’s injunction to ‘undo the inevitability or givenness of the present’ and Jameson’s analysis of historicity as ‘a perception of the present as history […] which somehow defamiliarises it’ produced by representations of past or future. I argue that many recent British historical fictions historicise the ‘inevitability’ and hegemony of neoliberal freedoms by figuring them as the product of sustained political/ideological conflict in the 1980s. This article’s case study is David Peace’s GB84 (2004), which presents the 1984–85 miners’ strike as a civil war in which the battle to define and embody ‘freedom’ is central. However, I argue that the text also produces a highly suggestive contradictory sense of historicity without futurity. It denaturalises the neoliberal present as the product of struggle and structural forces but also tacitly presents the neoliberal triumph of the 1980s as the ‘End of History’, after which political alternatives seem impossible to imagine and subjects remain inescapably determined by neoliberal ‘common sense’. This article argues that the novel is political only in profoundly ambivalent ways but that its aesthetic strategies offer a significant critical intervention which teases out what Jameson terms the ‘limits beyond which [contemporary subjects] cannot think.’

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              Cabinet Papers Reveal ‘Secret Coal Pits Closure Plan’

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                Author and article information

                Contributors
                Journal
                2056-6700
                Open Library of Humanities
                Open Library of Humanities
                2056-6700
                02 October 2018
                2018
                : 4
                : 2
                Affiliations
                [1 ]University of Manchester, GB
                Article
                10.16995/olh.384
                Copyright: © 2018 The Author(s)

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC-BY 4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. See http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.

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                Self URI (journal-page): https://olh.openlibhums.org/
                Categories
                Freedom after neoliberalism

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