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Liberalism and American Literature in the Clinton Era argues that a new, post-postmodern aesthetic emerges in the 1990s as a group of American writers – including Mary Gaitskill, George Saunders, Richard Powers, Karen Tei Yamashita, and others – grapples with the political triumph of free-market ideology. The book shows how these writers resist the anti-social qualities of this frantic right-wing shift while still performing its essential gesture, the personalization of otherwise irreducible social antagonisms. Thus, we see these writers reinvent political struggles as differences in values and emotions, in fictions that explore non-antagonistic social forms like families, communities and networks. Situating these formally innovative fictions in the context of the controversies that have defined this rightward shift – including debates over free trade, welfare reform, and family values – Brooks details how American writers and politicians have reinvented liberalism for the age of pro-capitalist consensus.
The end of the twentieth century saw a significant change – quantitatively and qualitatively – in refugees coming to Britain. As the post-Cold War world saw growing numbers fleeing a constellation of state collapse, civil war, environmental disaster and economic stagnation, 1990s Britain saw an absolute increase in the number of asylum applications. It also saw a shift away from the entry of distinct blocks of refugees towards the piecemeal entry of individuals seeking refuge. These two trends came together, combining with Britain’s continued restriction of extra-European immigration, to ensure two things. First, that Britain’s stated commitment to refugee rights via the Refugee Convention became undermined by a determination to reduce the number of successful asylum applications. Through repeated legislation, the burden of proof an individual needed to make a successful application became ever greater. Second, despite assertive grassroots activism, new measures – dispersal, detention and ever-more restricted access to welfare support and legal employment – all served to marginalise asylum seekers from the mainstream population. While these sought to underline the difference between, and the competing claims of, asylum seekers and the ‘hard working poor’, in fact both faced the consequences of a retreating state, shrinking affordable housing and the erosion of universal welfare.
By 1992, when Australia was asked to recommit to the US-led peacekeeping force – the Multinational Force and Observers (MFO) – more than a decade had elapsed since Israel’s withdrawal from the Sinai Peninsula, marking the transfer of the Sinai back to Egypt and the start of the MFO’s operations. Peace, a shaky proposition in the region – and absent on Israel’s other borders – had held. Mostly, as an Australian diplomat recognised, this was because of the ‘political will’ that Egypt and Israel, encouraged by US leadership, displayed in maintaining the underlying aims of the 1978 Camp David accords and the subsequent 1979 Treaty of Peace. But the MFO also played a role.