Kafka, Kafka Everywhere

Across the globe, a unique, modern strain of the Kafkaesque is at play, infecting new layers of reality. Part of the absurdity of contemporary politics is how easily these instances of the Kafkaesque can be corroborated—and that for much of the public, at least, it doesn’t really matter. Take for example our experience with surveillance capitalism. For Kafka, surveillance was uncertain—an anxious dialectic of paranoia and denial. Today, we blithely kowtow to its ubiquity, so that paranoia itself can seem a naive response to the exigencies of late capitalism. We don’t question whether or not we’re being surveilled, but only the gradations of surveillance we’re being subjected to—that is, whether the camera on our laptop is recording us now or later; whether the microphone on our phone is recording us at this moment or the next.

The outsourcing of authoritarian mechanisms to private entities fits neatly into Kafka’s universe, where a nebulous alliance exists between the hidden hydra of the state and the various minor clerks, landlords, and businessmen that oppress his characters, as though the absurdities of economic oppression were privileged in some fundamental way—as though profiteering itself partook of the same rarefied psychology that engenders Kafka’s plots.

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