In The Already Dead, Eric Cazdyn examines the intersection among contemporary medicine, globalization, and present-day political and cultural practices—producing a condition and concept he names “the new chronic.” Cazdyn argues that as in contemporary medicine, which uses targeted drug therapies and biotechnology to manage rather than cure diseases, global capitalism does not aim for resolution but rather a continual state of crisis management that perpetrates the iniquities of the status quo. Engaging critical theory, philosophy, and psychoanalysis, Cazdyn explores the complexities of crisis, paying particular attention to how it affects perceptions of time and denies alternate ways of being and forms of thinking.
To resist this exploitative crisis state, which he terms “the global abyss,” Cazdyn posits the concept of “the already dead,” a condition in which the subject (medical, political, psychological) has been killed but has yet to die. Embracing this condition, he argues, allows for a revolutionary consciousness open to a utopian future. Woven into Cazdyn’s analysis are personal anecdotes about battling leukemia and struggling to obtain Canadian citizenship during his illness. These narratives help to illustrate his systemic critique, one that innovatively reconfigures the relationship between politics, capitalism, revolution, and the body.
“In The Already Dead, Eric Cazdyn establishes what he calls a nonmoralizing critique of capitalism, starting from the premise that crisis does not symptomize the failure of the system but rather its proper functioning. He is committed to a systemic, radical critique that keeps open the possibilities of revolution. This is a bracing and provocative book, both ideationally and stylistically.”—Rei Terada, University of California, Irvine
“Cazdyn’s treatise is provocative, creative, and intelligent, calling for no less than a global revolution in action and ideology. Anchored in American events and history, it also has much to offer at the international level, and it will be a welcome companion to a wide range of curricula in the humanities, medical, and social sciences.” — Lawrence C. Rubin, Journal of American Culture
“While it is not the only reason to read the book, it is the performance itself, the manner in which Cazdyn artfully combines three areas of study and speaks of them in parallel with one another, that is most valuable, no matter the discipline to which the reader belongs. Cazdyn invokes a system that is both utopian (in its impossible future – the American Dream is always just a step away) and pre-apocalyptic.” — Valérie Savard, Science Fiction Film and Television
“Cazdyn covers a dizzying array of examples of the way this shift has become normalized–drawn from popular culture, cinema, and literature. One must pause to marvel at the facility with which he melds such analysis with moving personal essays.” — Kurt Newman, U.S. Intellectual History Blog
“This book is a roller-coaster ride through a broad swath of cultural studies, psychoanalysis and the social sciences—from the relationship of the chronic subject to phenomena in capitalism, biopolitics and global formations, and from trends in medicine to descriptions of how death and life are brought together in the literary and psychoanalytic imagination.” — Sharon R. Kaufman, Culture, Health, and Sexuality
“The Already Dead comes at a critical moment in which the vulgarities of the global capitalist system have become increasingly difficult to conceal. The book’s approach, at once theoretical and personal, historical and cultural, seeks new modes of revolutionary consciousness that can destabilize both within and without the capitalist system so as to reconfigure everything.” — Adam Broinowski, Reviews in Cultural Theory
“Unlike some of his contemporaries, who couch the future in uncomfortable messianic terms, this is a work whose engagement with the thought of alterity defes the threat of transcendence in favor of a radical historical premise: the end, the cure—it’s already here.” — Andrea Gyegne, Cultural Critique
“The Already Dead ends on that most perilous but enigmatic of notes, a deep breath suspended in the time and place of letting go while still holding on, bargaining between terrors and desires, tarrying with the fear of dying for long enough that, just maybe, it becomessomething else.” — Angela Mitropolous,Cultural Critique
“Cazdyn constructs a meticulous, historically specific account of contemporary capitalism that, though bleak, maintains a sense of stoic optimism by promising that even if we cannot imagine life beyond the chronic present, we may still reclaim our right to live terminally and in doing so have faith that there is in us a future beyond the inevitable death of capitalism….The Already Dead is to be admired for its relentless and far-reaching critique. Cazdyn’s text implacably insists on hope for something more and better than capitalism’s constant meantime. It is not a book that prescribes a future like one would prescribe an illness-managing drug: Cazdyn cannot give us a pat answer in an argument that reminds us that as long as capitalism lives, we cannot know what lies beyond its death. In reclaiming their deaths, the already dead take control of finding new ways to live beyond capitalism, reminding us that this text is one about the hope and utopia inherent in knowing that capitalism will not last forever.” — Josh Morrison, Discourse