Explains why the American cultural obsession with enjoying ourselves actually makes it more difficult to do so.
Winner of the 2004 Gary Olson Award for best book in cultural theory presented by JAC
Exploring the emergence of a societal imperative to enjoy ourselves, Todd McGowan builds on the work of such theorists as Jacques Lacan, Slavoj Zðizûek, Joan Copjec, and Theresa Brennan to argue that we are in the midst of a large-scale transformation—a shift from a society oriented around prohibition (i.e., the notion that one cannot just do as one pleases) to one oriented around enjoyment. McGowan identifies many of the social ills of American culture today as symptoms of this transformation: the sense of disconnection, the increase in aggression and violence, widespread cynicism, political apathy, incivility, and loss of meaning. Discussing these various symptoms, he examines various texts from film, literature, popular culture, and everyday life, including Toni Morrison's Paradise, Tony Kushner's Angels in America, and such films as Dead Poets Society and Trigger Effect. Paradoxically, The End of Dissatisfaction? shows how the American cultural obsession with enjoying ourselves actually makes it more difficult to do so.
Todd McGowan is Assistant Professor of English at the University of Vermont and the author of The Feminine "No!": Psychoanalysis and the New Canon, also published by SUNY Press.