The Flâneur, The Hot-Rodder, and the Slow Food Activist: Archetypes of Capitalist Coasting
The flâneur was a modern literary figure that characterized the relationship of capitalism to urban alienation in 19th-century Paris. Our contention in this paper is that the flâneur can also be seen as an exemplar of a broader archetypical figure that exists across time, in multiple landscapes of capitalism. Following the work of Lauren Berlant on “slow death,” we identify this broader archetype as an adept “capitalist coaster”—one whose embodied “art” is the successful making and movement of the self within the maelstrom of capitalist modernity. We describe three examples of this archetype—the flâneur, the hot-rodder, and the slow food activist—arguing that all three personify a particular sort of privileged mobility that enables surviving within contemporary life. Tracing this archetype through time and space, we suggest that attention to the figure of the capitalist coaster is useful for interrogating how privilege produces specific forms of embodied coping within the varied landscapes of capitalism. We argue that attention to this coping is important for understanding the relationship between capitalist resistance and reproduction, as well as the structural conditions that impact the uneven embodied consequences of coping.
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