This essay argues that William S. Burroughs's The Place of Dead Roads (1983) produces a concrete utopia in response to the political reaction of the 1980s and the rise of neoliberalism. Against Margaret Thatcher's claim that “there is no such thing as society,” Burroughs articulates a biopolitical poetics defying the conceptual oppositions between collective and individual, public and private, socialist and liberal. I contend that, with its combination of tropes from the genres of science fiction, utopia, and the western, The Place of Dead Roads functions as a pedagogy of utopian desire, illuminating the persistence of the social beyond neoliberal privatization and constructing a horizon in which the United States is irreducible to capitalist and statist imaginaries. More specifically, I show how Burroughs elaborates and complicates the concept of the common as proposed by Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri by emphasizing the common as a process of reeducation, or a biopolitical struggle to produce new kinds of political subjects.

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