This essay introduces the special issue “Genres of Neoliberalism,” which considers the relationship between neoliberalism and aesthetic formations across a range of sites, including Argentina, Brazil, Canada, England, Hong Kong, Kenya, Mali, the Philippines, and the United States. While the term “neoliberalism” has become so evacuated of specificity that some argue it should be abandoned, we suggest instead that problematizing the term makes visible pressing problems of periodization in the twenty-first century. As it currently circulates, neoliberalism is often used to synthesize or even resolve the conflicting conceptual apparatuses of postmodernism (a term derived from aesthetic, humanistic, and cultural methodological questions) and globalization (a term derived from political economic, social, and cultural methodological questions). By attending to the way in which culture functions as hinge between these two intellectual formations, we draw on the literary-historical terminology of genre in order to posit a humanities-based approach that is capable of attending the relations among aesthetic form, formations of capital, and institutionally sedimented forms of reading. We situate this intervention first in relation to long-standing debates within the humanities regarding Marxism, modernism, and the aesthetic, and second in relation to the recent “descriptive turn” or reaction against “symptomatic reading,” suggesting that it is difficult to assess this latter debate outside of the questions of periodization that we raise here. Finally, we provide an overview of the work in the issue, by Matthew J. Christensen, Jane Elliott, Gabriel Giorgi, Gillian Harkins, Neferti X. M. Tadiar, Alys Eve Weinbaum, and Carey Young.

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