Cruel Optimism

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A feeling, or condition, produced when normative fantasy itself— begins slowly but quite visibly to erode in tandem with the destruction of the social institutions that once seemed to make it achievable, while nonetheless remaining an object from which people across social divisions cannot detach easily or without pain. This fantasy consists of the promise of a good life delivered to the subject, not only through the idea of the nuclear family but also to the state and the liberal public sphere (1).

This term is drawn from the book by Berlant, deployed to describe the diffusion, fraying, slow erosion or stuckness, the impasse as a feature of the contemporary moment. Unlike the past or the future, the present is what is affectively felt before it is conceptually known, emotionally codified in a legible way.

1 Berlant, Lauren, Cruel Optimism. Durham : Duke University Press, 2011. Print.