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The Cruelty of Banality
  • Joshua Ayer
Joshua Ayer
University of Alberta

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This paper provides a novel exploration of extreme global poverty using an original framework that combines critiques of cruelty with the concept of necro-economics. Departing from conventional perspectives on inequality and poverty that accept both as necessary, I contend that global inequality is inherently cruel in outcome and in the becoming cruel of necro-economic subjects.
Necro-economics, conceptualized by Warren Montag, is an underutilized concept within the broader biopolitical discourse. Like necro-politics, necro-economics emphasizes the centrality of death within modern economic apparatuses. I show how the concept can be usefully applied to understanding the global economy. The study re-evaluates two perspectives on global poverty (human rights and structural violence) and suggests that both are inadequate for explaining the role of cruelty within the system.
To address this gap, I turn to the work of Zygmunt Bauman to show how the global economy, as a necro-economic system engenders a process of cruel subjectivation. The necro-economic framework developed within this paper reveals the global economic system to be one that requires suffering from those at the margins while simultaneously cultivating a callous indifference amongst those at the center. This occurs through self-reinforcing processes of distancing and substituting technical for moral responsibility. In conclusion, the paper establishes that the global economic structure perpetuates suffering through the becoming cruel of necro-economic subjects, shedding new light on the intricate relationship between capitalism, inequality, and human suffering.