You know how often civil society has been invoked, and not just in recent years. Since the nineteenth century, civil society has always been referred to in philosophical discourse, and also in political discourse, as a reality which asserts itself, struggles, and rises up, which revolts against and is outside government or the state, or the state apparatuses or institutions. I think we should be very prudent regarding the degree of reality we accord to this civil society. It is not an historical-natural given which functions in some way as both the foundation of and source of opposition to the state or political institutions. Civil society is not a primary and immediate reality; it is something which forms part of modern governmental technology. To say that it belongs to governmental technology does not mean that it is purely and simply its product or that it has no reality. Civil society is like madness and sexuality, what I call transactional realities…That is to say, those transactional and transitional figures that we call civil society, madness, and so on, which, although they have not always existed are nonetheless real, are born precisely from the interplay of relations of power and everything which constantly eludes them, at the interface, so to speak, of governors and governed. Civil society, therefore, is an element of transactional reality in the history of governmental technologies, a transactional reality which seems to me to be absolutely correlative to the form of governmental technology we call liberalism, that is to say, a technology of government whose objective is its own self-limitation insofar as it is pegged to the specificity of economic processes.
Laurent Berlant on the body, normativity and the American Dream
"Yet, even as the image of the traumatised worker proliferates, even as evidence of exploitation is found under every rock or commodity, it competes with a normative/utopian image of the U.S. citizen who remains unmarked, framed, and protected by the private trajectory of his life project, which is sanctified at the juncture where the unconscious meets history: the American Dream. In that story one’s identity is not borne of suffering, mental, physical or economic. If the U.S. worker is lucky enough to live at an economic moment that sustains the Dream, he gets to appear at his least national when he is working and at his most national at leisure, with his family or in semipublic worlds of other men producing surplus manliness (e.g. via sports). In the American dreamscape his identity is private property, a zone in which structural obstacles and cultural differences fade into an ether of prolonged, deferred, and individuating enjoyment that he has earned and that the nation has helped him to earn. Meanwhile, exploitation appears as a scandalous nugget in the sieve of memory when it can be condensed into an exotic thing of momentary fascination, a squalor of the bottom too horrible to be read in its own actual banality.”
"Did you do anything fun this weekend, Sayaka-chan?"
"Yeah, my dad and I watched a movie together."
"Some American film called Groundhog Day."
"Groundhog Day? That’s a funny name."
"Yeah. It’s a holiday in America. The movie’s about this guy who gets stuck repeating that Groundhog Day over and over again. He’s locked in this time loop, and-"
She cuts off when someone in the next restaurant booth over has a coughing fit.
"Huh? Transfer student? You okay there?"
"I- I am fine. I-"
"Are you sure? Do you need me to get you a drink of water or anything?"
"No. Thank you, Madoka. … Miki Sayaka, what did you say the name of that film was?"
"Uh… Groundhog Day?"
"I see. Thank you."
"… She left. I wonder why."
"Well, it is the transfer student, after all. We’ll probably never know.”