This essay defines the notion of the “empathetic imperative” and interrogates how that imperative is staged in a number of contemporary literary and cultural texts. The essay argues that the recent fascination with empathy in academic and popular discourses is a function of prevailing regimes of individuation and affective labor. Through attention to a reality television show, film, and novels from Joseph O’Neill and Ali Smith, the essay demonstrates how empathy today is a device for managing and ultimately obscuring economic precarity in our uneven world system; the essay reads the novelistic example from Smith offering an alternative form of empathy that is based upon solidarity and systemic awareness.
Karl, Alissa G.
"Empathize! Feeling and Labor in the Economic Present,"
Criticism: Vol. 62:
2, Article 5.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.wayne.edu/criticism/vol62/iss2/5