An examination of America’s most popular novels, television shows and movies of the early 21st century illuminates a clear and persistent theme: the end is near. Horror as a genre is the easiest way to explore these cultural anxieties. The omnipresence of vampires, aliens, and zombies offers an opportunity to explore the experience of living in a modern capitalist society in culturally safe and sanctioned ways. Then how do these monsters operate within their narratives and what do they reveal about the fears that Americans hold? At their most basic, they demonstrate a profound preoccupation with a sense of loss. Not only of meaning and direction but specifically, the loss of body autonomy within the rigid structure of a capitalist country. Contained within the heart of capitalist economies is the fiendish explanation for why the oppression and suppression of humanity is key to their ability to generate massive amounts of wealth.
The figure of the zombie is a manifestation of this explanation. The iconography of the zombie: stumbling, half-dead, half-alive, was initially conceived when the African diaspora in Haiti collided with their American occupation from 1915 to 1930. It was here that the initial imagery of the zombie emerged. Not as the crazed cannibalistic killer that we know today, ravaging without mercy or thought, but as a slave, pressed into service in perpetuity by a totalizing force, whether that be the American military industrial complex or simply a witch who controls your body and sends you to work on a plantation forever. The imagery of the dead man coming back to life can be traced back further still, to the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.
In Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel Frankenstein: or the Modern Prometheus, she writes of a piecemeal man alive again, brought back from death through electrical means. The imagery of the Creature, Shelly’s moniker for the undead man, while intelligent, undergoes a zombification process when the culture industry takes hold of him in the early 20th century. A few years later is the Great Depression. It is during this time that William Seabrooks’ pseudo-autobiographical book The Magic Island, about his travels through Haiti is released. It gains tremendous popularity in Depression-era America most particularly due to the chapter “Dead Men Walking in the Cane Fields,” where Seabrook writes of the zombie laborer, a figure that will define the image of the zombie for 30 years. That is, until George Romero releases his movie, Night of the Living Dead, in 1968. Night upends zombie tropes again, but this time the zombie becomes not a laborer, but a consumer, gorging itself on the body politic of America. Through close examinations of Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein: or the Modern Prometheus, Williams Seabrook’s novel The Magic Island, and George Romero’s film Night of the Living Dead, we can trace the genealogy of the figure of the zombie from its original conception associated with the zombie-laborer who works to generate wealth for someone or something else, to the zombie-consumer who gorges itself off the commodified human body.
Mary Shelley’s gothic horror novel, Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus (1818), is about a doctor who after scavenging graves for body parts, brings the reconstituted dead man back to life. The plot centers around Victor Frankenstein and his creation, known throughout the novel as the Creature. The Creature, after awakening, escapes Frankenstein’s lair and accidentally kills Victor’s brother. Victor in turn vows revenge, and the two spend the rest of the novel as the chasing and the chased, though who is doing the chasing and who is being chased changes as dictated by the plot. Eventually Victor tracks the Creature to the arctic, where he nearly catches his creation. Instead, Victor falls through the ice and dies from illness days later. As he dies, the Creature vigilantly stands over Victor’s body, full of regret, hatred and loneliness, before he too returns to the arctic to die.
Frankenstein would come to be translated into at least thirty languages, be picked up by early Hollywood, and further enmeshed itself into the public imagination (Hitchcock, pgs. 7-8). When modern readers of Frankenstein conceptualize the Creature, the one that entered the culture industry in the 30’s, they likely conjure the image of the Boris Karloff’s version, shuffling and groaning forlornly, as depicted in the movie Frankenstein (1931). Karloff reflected on the decision to strip the Creature of speech, of intelligence, to in effect, zombify him by saying, “If he spoke, he would seem too much more human, I thought. It would have been better if the Creature had not spoken at all” (Hitchcock, pg. 173). However, this version is dissimilar to Shelley’s novel, and antithetical to Shelley’s intent.
In her novel, the Creature is literate and speaks eloquently after learning English through works like Paradise Lost (Shelly & Hindle, pg. 130). The Creature was meant to be more human than the monstrous Victor Frankenstein, who “…collected bones from charnel houses and disturbed, with profane fingers, the tremendous secrets of the human frame…The dissecting room and slaughter-house furnished many of [his] materials…” (Shelley & Hindle, p. 55). This facet of the novel, how Victor Frankenstein obtains the parts he uses to create his man, is not paid much attention today, but some believe it is what accounts for its profound resonance in the early nineteenth century (Lilley, McNally, Yuen & Davis, pg. 110). Victor Frankenstein is a grave-robber, who dissects human bodies and uses them in his experiments. He mentions his macabre habit early in the novel, “…often did my human nature turn with loathing from my occupation, whilst, still urged on by an eagerness which perpetually increased, I brought my work near to conclusion” (Shelley & Hindle, pgs. 55-56). These practices that Frankenstein engages in were common in nineteenth century London. There was also a particular class dimension, as it was the poorest Londoners that were likely to be affected. When, after several high-profile scandals involving both the murder of people and the sale of their dead bodies to willing anatomists, Parliament stepped in to regulate the practice of anatomists using bodies for dissection and from where they could procure their materials. In 1832 they passed the Anatomy Act, which granted anatomists access to unclaimed pauper bodies from workhouses (Marshall, pg. 2). This had the effect of punishing all poor people for their possible poverty, while reminding them that dissection could be their ultimate fate.
Fears of dissection were widespread in nineteenth century London. Dissection was used as a “mark of infamy” that was to be “added to the punishment” of execution for those that commit murder by decree of the Murder Act of 1752. This made the dissection of the executed compulsory (Marshall, xiii). In the 1790’s, the need for surgeons or anatomists rose, especially within the context of the armed forces. Surgery and anatomy students were tasked to dissect three corpses in a sixteen-month course. But the usual supply, the bodies of the condemned that the University provided, ran low and the prices of dead rose (Marshall, pgs 20-21). In order to get the bodies they needed, anatomists often hired “Resurrectionists,” groups of tomb raiders, to scavenge graves for dead bodies or dead body parts which could then be sold to further their macabre learning (Marshall, pg. 4). Whether they were aware of it at the time or not, the practice of buying corpses had the effect of creating a literal corpse economy, as Ruth Richardson notes in her book Death, Disease, and the Destitute:
Corpses were bought and sold, they were touted, priced, haggled over, negotiated for, discussed in terms of supply and demand, delivered, imported, exported, transported. Human bodies were compressed into boxes, packed into sawdust, packed in hay, trussed up in sacks, roped like hams, sewn in canvas, packed in cases, casks, barrels, crates and hampers, salted, pickled, or injected with preservative…Human bodies were dismembered and sold in pieces, or measured and sold by the inch (as cited in Lilley, McNally, Yuen, & Davis, pg. 112).
The importance of this corpse economy is that at the same time that emergent capitalism is creating a corpse economy, fantastic amounts of wealth are being produced by the exploited laborers for industry. The dreadful misery of the laborers of the nineteenth century developed the wealth and power of the bourgeoisie (Beaud, pg. 102). Laborers have entered the industrial market, and, for the first time in history, are living on a wage. Individuals were being pressed into the wage-labour market with no means of escape because capitalism, “requires that everything, particularly people’s embodied working energies (or labour power), can be bought and sold” (Lilley, McNally, Yuen & Davis, pg. 112).
The working laborer is not a slave, though they are still expected to compartmentalize, to divide, or in a sense, to dissect their lives between work time and life time. The laborer sells his product, his life force, to the capitalists or the bourgeoisie, who own the means of production, the corporations and the factories while the laborers who work in those corporations or factories gets pennies. As Marx (2010) explains in Wage Labour and Capital:
…labour-power is a commodity which its possessor, the wage-worker, sells to the capitalist. Why does he sell it? It is in order to live. But the putting of labour-power into action – i.e., the work – is the active expression of the labourer’s own life. And this life activity he sells to another person in order to secure the necessary means of life. His life-activity, therefore, is but a means of securing his own existence. He works [sic] that he may keep alive. He does not count the labour itself as a part of his life; it is rather a sacrifice of his life. It is a commodity that he has auctioned off to another….Life for him begins where this activity ceases, at the table, at the tavern, in bed (Marx, Blaine & Harris, pg. 9).
The laborer’s time at work and time outside of work are separate and distinct from each other. And if life only begins, as Marx says, outside of work, then the time under the wage-labor system is a form of living death, which the laborer undergoes every day (Lilley, McNally, Yuen & Davis, pg. 113). By losing body autonomy, losing creativity, losing individuality, the laborer lives his life straddled between life and death, again and again and again, never fully alive, being able to exchange his wares for their use value directly to who wants it, and never fully dead, enslaved, subsumed into the system.
These themes of dissection and grave-robbing, which resonate throughout the novel are, in part, what gives Frankenstein its critical charge. But the genre of the dead coming to life, of zombies rising from the grave, enters the American consciousness around 1930, after white American writer, William Seabrook, publishes his 1929 novel, The Magic Island, an account of his travels throughout Haiti.
In the “autobiographical” book, The Magic Island, William Seabrook documents his travels through Haiti, and while he relies on every ethnic stereotype imaginable of Black people for hundreds of pages, it is what Seabrook writes in the chapter, “Dead Men Walking in the Cane Fields,” that will impact in Depression-era America, where the image of the zombie, specifically the zombie-laborer, makes its mark. The narrator recalls how he had heard tales of something monstrous from the locals,
Werewolves, vampires, and demons were certainly no novelty. But I recalled one creature I had been hearing about in Haiti, which sounded exclusively local – the zombie.
It seemed (or so I had been assured by negroes more credulous than Polynice) that while the zombie came from the grave, it was neither a ghost, nor yet a person who had been raised like Lazarus from the dead. The zombie, they say, is a soulless human corpse still dead, but taken from the grave and endowed by sorcery….People who have the power to do this…make of it a servant or slave… (Seabrook, pg. 93).
When the narrator expresses doubt of the existence of these creatures, Polynice, his guide corrects him,
‘No, my friend, no, no. There are only too many true cases. At this very moment, in the moonlight there are zombies working on this island, less than two hours’ ride from my own habitation….If you ride with me tomorrow night, yes, I will show you dead men working in the cane fields’ (Seabrook, pg. 94).
It is no accident that in the section right after Polynice corrects the narrator on the existence of zombies, he discovers that the zombies are working on behalf of a corporation, a Haitian American sugar company described as, “an immense factory plant, dominated by a huge chimney, with clanging machinery,” a company that “pays low wages, twenty or thirty cents a day, and gives steady work. It is modern big business, and it sounds it, looks it, smells it” (Seabrook, pg. 95).
The zombie of Haiti is a laborer, someone who, through magical means, works on behalf of someone or something else. As anthropologist Alfred Metraux writes in his work, Voodoo in Haiti, “The zombi is a beast of burden which his master exploits without mercy, making him work in the fields, weighing him down with labour, whipping him freely and feeding him on meagre, tasteless food” (Metraux, pg. 282). This is the zombie that makes an impact in America. That of the zombie laborer, whether it be on behalf of big businesses like in The Magic Island or for the often white, wealthy plantation owner, the zombie toils away and never sees any of the profit that he produces.
However, what is notable about this zombie, what is singular about him is that, for all his toiling out in the moonlight, this zombie can escape his fate. He can wake up. Quoting Voodoo in Haiti again,
Their docility is total provided you never give them salt. If impudently they are given a plate containing even a grain of salt the fog which cloaks their minds instantly clears away and they become conscious of their terrible servitude. Realization rouses in them a vast rage and an ungovernable desire for vengeance. They hurl themselves on their master, kill him, destroy his property, and then go in search of their tombs (Metraux, pg. 283).
Understanding why it might be that Haitian zombies can overcome their fate is important, as it speaks to the history of Haiti as a slave colony under French colonial rule, and Haiti’s place in history as the locale of the largest slave uprising in the history of the world. Rebellion against a totalizing force like slavery, colonialism, or zombiehood is a major facet of the Haitian identity.
As historian Laurent Dubois points out in his book, Haiti: Aftershocks of History, Haiti, then known as the French colony Saint-Domingue, was perhaps the most profitable piece of land in the world whose only function was to export crops for France (pg. 4). Nine-tenths of the population of Saint-Domingue was enslaved and when, in 1791, slaves on sugar plantations rebelled, it quickly became the largest slave revolt in history (Dubois, pgs. 4-5). Haiti officially declared independence in 1804, but the country’s success was seen as an existential threat to every slave labor country in the area. Haiti became politically isolated. For decades, France refused to recognize Haiti’s independence, and England and America followed France’s lead. Until they realized how they could exploit Haiti’s weaknesses to their advantage (Dubois, pg. 5).
Haiti was exclusively covered in farmland. Once Haiti gained independence, the populace quickly found that Haiti completely lacked an infrastructure and no willing partners to trade with. Without trade, Haiti was unable to build up wealth. Early leaders keenly felt the burden of proving to the world that a black colony could succeed. To defend against threats of attack, Haiti poured money into fortifications and the military (Dubois, pg. 5). Eventually, France did recognize the country after insisting the new nation pay 150 million francs ($3.96 billion in 2017’s currency) to compensate the slaveholders for their losses. To pay off the debt, Haiti took out loans from French banks which then added interest to their payments. By 1898, half of Haiti’s government budget was spent paying off these loans. By 1914, it would rise to 80% (Dubois, pg. 8).
White American Woodrow Wilson was elected President of the United States in 1912. He oversaw the resegregation of multiple agencies of the federal government which had been integrated as a result of Reconstruction decades earlier (Byrd, para. 11). Prior to his election, Wilson was an academic, who in his book, A History of the American People, had defended and was sympathetic towards the Klu Klux Klan (Matthews, para. 13). President Wilson saw Haiti, black, struggling to pay off its debts, and close to America’s borders, as an opportunity. Not only to make money for American corporations, but to re-establish white supremacy on the independent island. In December of 1914, US forces, under the guise of establishing political order after an attempted coup, and collecting debts owed to US bankers, invaded Haiti. In broad daylight US marines stormed into the Banque Nationale d’Haiti stealing millions worth of gold and shipped it back to America. No one, not the bank employees, not the state officials or Haitian military dared to stop them (Dubois, pg. 204). The National Bank from then on was under United States control and refused to fund the Haitian government. In April of 1915, President Wilson wrote to his secretary of state that, “the time to act is now,” and by July, the USS Washington headed to the Haitian harbor to stay (Dubois, pgs. 210-211).
The US occupation of Haiti would last roughly 15 years. US marines “recruited” labor on large segments of the population to build roads and other infrastructure. While white colonizers refer to it as merely forced labor, or corvée, the locals considered it a form of slavery (Dubois, pgs. 242-243). There are stories of laborers being paid pennies if they were paid at all. Haitian historian Roger Gaillard interviewed laborers about their time under corvée or forced labor. One man described what happened when he was about to be paid by the US marines: “the officer lined up the laborers, placed their money on the ground a few steps in front of them, and stood there with a large attack dog. As the workers stepped forward to get their money, he let the dog lunge forward to growl and bite at them” (as cited in Dubois, pg. 242). US marines killed randomly and without care, ensured the local populace was scared and malleable. This led to the people of Haiti reacting the same way as their ancestors did under the tutelage of slavery: revolt (Dubois, pg. 243).
It is around this time that the zombie gains cultural significance in Haiti and beyond. Emerging from the people is a haunted figure, a being stripped of its humanity, lacking personality, memory, and language, dead. A being that has been turned into nothing but flesh that works for others. But as bad as things are, as bad as things can get, the Haitian zombie is not without hope. This laboring zombie can wake up, revolt, rebel against the terrible circumstances it finds itself in. The Haitian zombie-laborer hits American shores around 1930 through The Magic Island by William Seabrook, but by 1940, Americans were primarily being entertained not through novels, but through live radio dramas.
From the 30’s to the 50’s, live radio dramas were a popular method of entertainment. And one of the first genres established in the canon of radio dramas, was horror. The most famous live radio horror drama, an adaption of the H. G. Wells novel The War of the Worlds (1898), was broadcast on October 30th, 1938. As Richard Hand remarks, as important as “War of the Worlds” is in the history of broadcast radio, it has overshadowed other horror dramas of the time (Hand, pg. 39). Live radio drama, “Scoop” is about a journalist, Mr. Roberts, who gets fired by his editor and commits suicide by jumping out of his office window. The undead Roberts comes back to terrorize his editor. Roberts is driven to kill his editor for vengeance, mentioning how much he hates his editor for being driven only by profit (Hand, pg. 44). Lights Out, the company that produced “Scoop” also produced live radio dramas in the nascent superhero genre, which had its golden age through the 40’s and 50’s. The Lights Out superhero drama, The Shadow (1930-1954), featured their eponymous superhero, Shadow, meet zombies of a kind several times (Hand, pg. 47). Shadow went up against typical Haitian zombie laborers in his final surviving recording, “Isle of the Living Dead” (1940), which features the charming white plantation owner Mrs. Nesbitt, who is revealed not only to have created a zombie army through mind-altering drugs that works her plantation so she can make more profits, but Mrs. Nesbitt is also exploiting the very superstition of zombies on the island to keep the locals away from her plantation (Hand, pgs. 48-49). Finally, one year prior to that, in 1939’s “Valley of the Living Dead,” superhero Shadow and his companion Margo arrive in a village and quickly discover that it is controlled by millionaire Mr. Maxim. Mr. Maxim has created a communistic paradise in which the villagers never have to work and never go hungry. Shadow suspects the villagers are under some sort of bondage and he listens to the villager’s sleeping thoughts that night. The villagers describe a listless atrophying of spirit and a tortuous boredom and Shadow frees them from their suffering. Mr. Maxim is not described as evil, merely as deluded; his idealistic communism founded on good intentions was, in the end, oppressive and he is delighted when the villagers cheer their newfound freedom at the end (Hand, pgs. 47-48).
At the time, the zombies in film were fairly dissimilar to those found in the popular novel. The few films released in the 40’s and 50’s that featured zombies often explored fears of nuclear experiments gone awry. Films like Edward L. Cahn’s Creature with the Atom Brain (1955) or Ed Woods’ film Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959) explored the fears of living through the Atomic Age. Plan 9 features aliens who, in an effort to stop humans from developing a “doomsday weapon,” implement “Plan 9,” which would reanimate the dead of the world, forcing all of humanity to work together. The America of the 40’s and 50’s was reckoning with possibility of nuclear annihilation, and these Atomic Age zombies were one way to do that.
None of these films or radio dramas made the impact that The Magic Island did, not in terms of popularity or of introducing a new type of monster to America. Prior to this, zombies as we know them simply didn’t exist. These were movies less about processing life under capitalism and more about trying to scare its audiences, but they are useful in that they do show a culture working through its fears of the future, if indeed, there is to be one. The figure of the zombie waned in its cultural influence, that is, until George Romero releases his seminal film, Night of the Living Dead.
In Night, however, the critical potential that zombies originally held would, in a sense, become completely reversed. Night of the Living Dead is a 1968 zombie horror movie directed, edited and written by George Romero. The plot revolves around Barbara, a white woman who loses her brother in a zombie attack early in the film and whose mental state begins to decline, and Ben, a Black man who struggles to keep Barbara and other survivors of the zombie apocalypse alive as they wait out the assault in a house. As the survivors are killed one by one, eventually Ben is the only one left alive. The next morning he hears noises outside, and emerges from the boarded up house, only to be shot in the head by a posse of white vigilantes, cops and civilians who assume or choose to assume that because he is Black, he is a zombie.
The zombie depicted in the 1968 film Night is that of the relentless flesh-eating machine. No longer a laborer, this zombie is a consumer who eats without compunction or discrimination. However, while this is the movie which came to define the zombie image for thirty years, it is important to note that Romero never considered his monsters zombies. Romero referred to his monster as “ghouls”. And the original title for the film, Night of the Flesh Eaters, did not reference the living dead at all (Lilley, McNally, Yuen & Davis, pg. 117).
In Night of the Living Dead, the zombies are all middle American: men in suits, women with curlers in their hair. But no matter their positioning in life, now, in death, they are all the same. Race, size, sex, gender, all flatten and shrink away as their individuality and personality are vacated and all that is left is a mass of shambling death who, together, gorge themselves on the flesh of the living. (Badley, pg. 74). However, while Night dissociates the zombie from his Haitian zombie-laborer beginnings, Romero doesn’t completely deracialize the narrative. Zombies are still associated with blackness. The status quo of the white world, the posse at the end, do not allow Ben or other zombies to survive. The threat that the zombie-ghouls and Ben represent, as a challenge to the posse’s white supremacy and a capable self-possessed black man respectively, is entirely contained (Kee, pg. 56).
This movie was released at the height of the Vietnam era, and the depiction of manic flesh eaters, feasting on the bodies of American dead, was highly charged and might explain in part why this film captured the American consciousness (Lilley, McNally, Yuen & Davis, pg. 112). The cannibalism of these zombie-ghouls became the dominant metaphor. While this critique of the American public is first explored in Night, the connection between the zombies and their rampant consumerism is made more clear in the sequel, Dawn of the Dead (1978), also written and directed by George Romero. In this version of the zombie apocalypse, survivors barricade themselves in a shopping mall. The zombies, who have all wandered here out of some death-induced nostalgic reverie, do in death as they did in life: consume the products produced by American industrialization (Badley, pg. 75). But the conflation of capitalism and hyper-consumption quickly became cliche, requiring no further analysis.
What is significant here is that, within the cultural landscape of the 1960’s era in America, the zombie laborer was entirely dissected from his own history, displaced by the image of the mindless consumer. Here, the locus of the driver of capitalism is repositioned away from the corporations, and placed onto the consumer. This is not to say that consumers don’t drive capitalism. In a sense they do; however, the secret of capitalism is that wealth is generated off the back of the exploited laborer. Enslaved in the system, he toils away at work, earning his meager wage while the wealthiest 1%, the bourgeoisie, the captains of industry, accumulate more and more profit. This film, while speaking to a culture that was going through a crisis of the military-industrial-complex gorging itself on the bodies of American men, warped the relation to capital that the original Haitian zombie critiqued.
There are other works that have changed the conception of zombies. Danny Boyle’s 2002 film, 28 Days Later, depicts for the first time, fast moving zombies (referred to in the film as ‘the infected’). This film was released in 2002 after the world had watched the fall of the Twin Towers in America. The change in zombie-lore about how they moved, how zombies are supposed to operate, parallels an America in the midst of cultural trauma. Therefore, it can be seen as a meta-commentary: this is a new era, a new world, and the rules that previously held no longer apply. Zombies move fast and are not forced to labor on behalf of anyone, and they are not trying to consume their human victims bodies. Instead, they are infected with “rage” (the virus is referred to as the “Rage virus”). Another zombie movie that remixed the zombie horror genre was Shaun of the Dead (2004). This is the first zom-rom-com, or zombie romantic-comedy, about 30 year old slacker Shaun who, after his girlfriend leaves him, must contend with a zombie outbreak, while also trying to win her back. Interestingly, at the end of the film it is revealed that after the initial outbreak which was quickly contained, the zombies are fully integrated into society, often laboring at the very same menial jobs they had before they were dead. Here, the connection between processing the experience of living under a wage-labor system and the very monster designed to fictitiously explore that experience is explicit. Multiple characters that we had met in the beginning of the movie working at dead-end jobs are seen literally zombified by the end of the movie. Both of these movies changed our expectation of the zombie genre, and so did later works like the film Warm Bodies (2013) which features a zombie as the main protagonist who falls in love with a human and, as a result of their love comes to live again, or the 2009 novel Pride, Prejudice and Zombies, an adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.
The stories that we tell to scare in the dead of night are in part, a way a people process the experiences of the past. This is why American horror stories often start the same way: two people alone at night away from the prying eyes of civilization. This is because the American consciousness associates the countryside with horror. As well they should, the genocide of the Native Americans took place on the plains, the evils of slavery took place on farms. And so Americans imbue these settings with a sense of dread. English horror is different. Tales of Jack the Ripper, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and Frankenstein were all set in the city. This too fits with our understanding of cultures reckoning with their past – the violences of rising capitalism during the Industrial Revolution turned London into a horrorshow: child labor, low wages, long hours, poor health, undernourishment, sickness, and accidents were common; so common in fact, that the conditions of life were judged to be harder than what the serfs of the past endured (Beaud, pg. 125). And they needed a way to process being at the mercy of the market.
Tales of zombies were one way they could express their anxieties and their fears. When examining the figure of the zombie in mass popular culture, from its history to its trajectory as a cultural signifier, what becomes apparent is that the zombie was the figure through which a culture could explore the fears of being trapped under industrial capitalism. However, the zombie has since been displaced, dissected from its own history. It has moved from a searing critique of the experience of living in the wage labor market under capitalism, to cliché horror stock, but still, that displacement can be helpful in understanding how the capitalist system appropriates the image of its critiques and turns them into commodities themselves, selling back to the masses the idea that the end of capitalism is an apocalyptic nightmare. This is a lie. Whether we can build a future not off the work of the exploited laborer but off the radical self-awakening and revolution that Marx believed was necessary remains to be seen. However, to find the way forward we might best turn to the Haitian zombie, struggling in the dark moving toward consciousness.
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