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July 07 , 2009

The Capitalist Unconscious

From Korean Unification to Transnational Korea


The unification of North and South Korea is widely considered an unresolved and volatile matter for the global order, but this book argues capital has already unified Korea in a transnational form. As Hyun Ok Park demonstrates, rather than territorial integration and family union, the capitalist unconscious drives the current unification, imagining the capitalist integration of the Korean peninsula and the Korean diaspora as a new democratic moment. Based on extensive archival and ethnographic research in South Korea and China, The Capitalist Unconscious shows how the hegemonic democratic politics of the post-Cold War era-reparation, peace, and human rights-have consigned the rights of migrant laborers-protagonists of transnational Korea-to identity politics, constitutionalism, and cosmopolitanism. Park reveals the riveting capitalist logic of these politics, which underpins legal and policy debates, social activism, and media spectacle. While rethinking the historical trajectory of Cold War industrialism and its subsequent liberal path, this book also probes memories of such key events as the North Korean and Chinese revolutions, which are integral to migrants’ reckoning with capitalist allures and communal possibilities. Casting capitalist democracy within an innovative framework of historical repetition, Park elucidates the form and content of the capitalist unconscious at different historical moments and dissolves the modern opposition among socialism, democracy, and dictatorship. The Capitalist Unconscious astutely explores the neoliberal present’s past and introduces a compelling approach to the question of history and contemporaneity.
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