The Capitalist Unconscious

From Korean Unification to Transnational Korea

Hyun Ok Park

Columbia University Press

The Capitalist Unconscious

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Pub Date: March 2018

ISBN: 9780231171939

400 Pages

Format: Paperback

List Price: $28.00£22.00

Pub Date: September 2015

ISBN: 9780231171922

400 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $60.00£47.00

Pub Date: September 2015

ISBN: 9780231540513

400 Pages

Format: E-book

List Price: $27.99£22.00

The Capitalist Unconscious

From Korean Unification to Transnational Korea

Hyun Ok Park

Columbia University Press

The unification of North and South Korea is widely considered an unresolved and volatile matter for the global order, but this book argues capital has already unified Korea in a transnational form. As Hyun Ok Park demonstrates, rather than territorial integration and family union, the capitalist unconscious drives the current unification, imagining the capitalist integration of the Korean peninsula and the Korean diaspora as a new democratic moment.

Based on extensive archival and ethnographic research in South Korea and China, The Capitalist Unconscious shows how the hegemonic democratic politics of the post-Cold War era (reparation, peace, and human rights) have consigned the rights of migrant laborers—protagonists of transnational Korea—to identity politics, constitutionalism, and cosmopolitanism. Park reveals the riveting capitalist logic of these politics, which underpins legal and policy debates, social activism, and media spectacle.

While rethinking the historical trajectory of Cold War industrialism and its subsequent liberal path, this book also probes memories of such key events as the North Korean and Chinese revolutions, which are integral to migrants' reckoning with capitalist allures and communal possibilities. Casting capitalist democracy within an innovative framework of historical repetition, Park elucidates the form and content of the capitalist unconscious at different historical moments and dissolves the modern opposition among socialism, democracy, and dictatorship. The Capitalist Unconscious astutely explores the neoliberal present's past and introduces a compelling approach to the question of history and contemporaneity.
A stunningly original and significant contribution to a field that seems mired in a Cold War long passed. Not only does Hyun Ok Park seek to untie the knotted problem of the two Koreas, but she also persuasively provides an exemplary guide to how best unveil the interacting entanglements of history and the contemporary moment.Harry Harootunian, Columbia University
One of the most provocative works on North Korea to emerge in years, Hyun Ok Park's The Capitalist Unconscious offers a fresh look at the past twenty years of political and socioeconomic changes in Northeast Asia. Her focus is on labor moving across borders—how it moves, generates wealth, and transforms every place it travels. The two Koreas, we learn, might not be so divided after all.Andre Schmid, University of Toronto
Combining broad theoretical insights into Korea's rapidly changing political economy with vivid ethnographic details of migrant workers' experiences, Hyun Ok Park's The Capitalist Unconscious challenges us to reimagine the region's present, as well as its future. It will provoke lively debates about the construction of 'transnational Korea' in the twenty-first century.Gay Seidman, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Provocative and engaging.Korean Quarterly
Park's book fundamentally challenges existing understandings of Korean unification and will surely redefine debates about the meaning of a transnational Korea.American Journal of Sociology
Theoretically sophisticated and. . . . highly original.Journal of Asian Studies
A deeply moving, warm personal tale.Korea.net
A much-needed examination of North Korea and its relationship to South Korea, China, and global capitalism writ large.Patrick Chung, Journal of American-East Asian Relations
The Capitalist Unconscious offers that strangely illicit pleasure of having one’s common assumptions questioned and new historical vistas opened.Sino-NK
A brilliant and ambitious book. . . . The Capitalist Unconscious challenges the Cold War discourse that has dominated the field of Northeast Asian Studies and seeks to replace it with a new one.Contemporary Sociology
Preface
Acknowledgments
Part I: Crisis
1. The Capitalist Unconscious: The Korea Question
2. The Aesthetics of Democratic Politics: Labor, Violence, and Repetition
Part II: Reparation
3. Reparation: On Colonial Returnee
4. Socialist Reparation: On Living Labor
5. Chinese Revolution in Repetition: The Minority Question
Part III: Peace and Human Rights
6. Korean Unification as Capitalist Hegemony
7. North Korean Revolution in Repetition: Crisis and Value
8. Spectacle of T'albuk: Freedom and Free Labor
Conclusion
Notes
Bibliography
Index

Commended, 2017 James D. Palais Book Prize

About the Author

Hyun Ok Park teaches sociology at York University. She writes about global capitalism, transnational migration, empire, postcolonialism, and the issues of comparison and comparability. She is the author of Two Dreams in One Bed: Empire, Social Life, and the Origins of the North Korean Revolution in Manchuria.