The Self Without Interest: The Return of Sacrifice in The Leftovers

  • Author(s): Peter Paik
  • When: 2019-07
  • Where: Science Fiction Studies
  • While it is often said that the destruction of the world is easier to imagine than the end of capitalism, this essay reads The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta as a work of speculative fiction that explores the demise of the values that underpin the social order and economic system of bourgeois capitalism. The novel is set in a world that has experienced the mass disappearance of millions, in a manner that recalls the Rapture. The consequence of this supernatural catastrophe is to bring about a fundamental shift in values. The economic impulse that has long shaped suburban bourgeois life gives way to the will to sacrifice, portending the revival of archaic forms of religiosity with the disintegration of middle-class life. The characters in the novel find themselves overwhelmed and fascinated by strange and grotesque combinations of emotions, which lead them to act in ways that would have been unthinkable before the disaster. Drawing on the work of Nietzsche and Baudrillard, the essay examines how the deliberate negation of liberal values by the protagonists of the novel points to the arrival of a new, post-liberal age.

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