The Long 1970s: Neoliberalism, Narrative Form, and Hegemonic Crisis in the Work of Marlon James and Paulo Lins

  • Michael NiblettEmail author
Part of the New Comparisons in World Literature book series (NCWL)


This chapter explores how Marlon James’ A Brief History of Seven Killings (2014) and Paulo Lins’ Cidade de Deus (City of God 1997) speak to the contemporary crisis in the neoliberal regime of accumulation, as well as to the initial struggle to impose neoliberalism in the global South. A Brief History registers the fallout from the turmoil in Jamaica in the 1970s, when Michael Manley’s efforts to pursue a path of democratic socialism were undermined by party-political gang warfare, economic crisis, and the impact of US imperialism. City of God, meanwhile, focuses primarily on the closed world of the titular favela, located on the western edge of Rio de Janeiro. Despite this limited compass, the “inexorable weight of contemporary history makes itself felt” in the novel’s representation of the desperate lives of its protagonists (Schwarz, Two Girls: And Other Essays. London: Verso, 2012: 227). Spanning the period from the 1960s to the early 1980s, the narrative is shadowed by the presence of the dictatorship in Brazil and by the unfolding logic of the world-economy. Through their formal logics and stylistic mannerisms, City of God and A Brief History rehearse the possibilities for both reactionary and progressive class realignments in the wake of hegemonic dissolution. The precise nature of these possibilities, however, is differentiated in the two novels by the specific social contexts and historical moments to which they respond.

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.CoventryUK

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