International Journal of Humanities and Social Science

ISSN 2220-8488 (Print), 2221-0989 (Online) 10.30845/ijhss

Shangri-La Democracy: Accessorizing the Neoliberal Subject
Randy Schroeder

Bhutan—the tiny Himalayan country currently installing radical democracy—is sometimes mythologized and orientalized in popular media through utopian projections. Of special interest to westerners is the Bhutanese “Gross Happiness Index,” which seems to found democracy on a unique set of assumptions about interdependence. But who projects? This essay explores the possibility of an evanescent neoliberal subject, and the utopian daydreams cast up by experiences of dislocation and broken promise in “Western” democratic capitalism. It relies on Fredric Jameson’s foundational speculation that persistent cultural narratives and images constitute symbolic management and resolution of disjunctive lived experience. Rather than presenting a univocal thesis, the essay offers a braid of related theses or blink apercus; rather than offering a thick, ethnographic catalogue of representations, it investigates a single National Geographic article, treating that article as emblematic rather than representative.

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