Theses Doctoral

The Consumer Dictator: Theories and Representations of Agency in Neoliberal Argentina, 2001-2010

Dzaman, Jessica Cullen

This dissertation examines the co-evolution of consumption and production as competing models of agency in Argentine culture in the era of global consumer capitalism. Tracing the influence of several key political and intellectual developments in Latin America, the US, and Europe on the symbolic language of regional politics, I map out how participation in the global consumer market came to be understood as an expression of power and authority in the context of Argentina's disastrous experiment with neoliberalism in the last three decades of the 20th century. Then, using films and literary texts including works by Lisandro Alonso, Adrián Caetano, and Aníbal Jarkowski together with critical projects by George Yúdice and Josefina Ludmer, I examine how a model of subjectivity that exaggerates the economic, social, and cultural agency of consumers has managed to persist in Argentina's cultural imagination despite growing disillusionment with the neoliberal model and the disenfranchisement of the nation's consumers. Through close readings that reveal work as the site of a restored order that is ultimately incomplete, fantastical, and contradictory, I show how the myth of the consumer dictator perpetuates itself through a system of intellectual values, including abstract, absolutist visions freedom and tolerance, that isolate the subject and divert communication, inscribing an extreme version of consumer agency even upon production itself. Together, these instances of interrupted reform suggest that a model of agency suited to the era of global
consumer capitalism must understand production and consumption not as alternative options, but as distinct, integral modes of creativity.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Latin American and Iberian Cultures
Thesis Advisors
Alonso, Carlos J.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
April 28, 2015