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Alien and the new enclosures

Alien and the new enclosures
Alien and the new enclosures

This article examines how Ridley Scott's classic science-fiction film Alien (1979) both registers and anticipates the 'new enclosures', the series of dispossessions and privatisations that have wracked the globe in the last 40 years. I begin by giving an overview of these enclosures, especially the ones that pertain to Alien's broad production context, such as the expansion of intellectual property rights, the privatisation of water, rampant logging in the national forests of the United States, and the destruction of public housing. I argue that David Harvey's and the autonomists' seemingly discrepant accounts of this process differ more in emphasis than in substance, and thus can be synthesised into a relatively coherent explanation for the persistence of enclosure. The rest of the article demonstrates the film's articulation with the new enclosures, which occurs at several points: not only in the characters' debates over their labour contracts, but in the corporeal appearance of non-human structures, and even the symbolic function of the alien itself. Alien's diegetic universe, I conclude, is one in which the foundations of capitalism, and the terms of the capital-relation itself, are precarious or under question-one in which those terms have become legitimate objects of debate, rather than the self-evident bases of capitalist accumulation.

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Warwick, Harry
22d86208-51a8-460b-9ee1-614970a5bf6d
Warwick, Harry
22d86208-51a8-460b-9ee1-614970a5bf6d

Warwick, Harry (2018) Alien and the new enclosures. Open Library of Humanities, 4 (2), 1-23. (doi:10.16995/olh.238).

Record type: Article

Abstract

This article examines how Ridley Scott's classic science-fiction film Alien (1979) both registers and anticipates the 'new enclosures', the series of dispossessions and privatisations that have wracked the globe in the last 40 years. I begin by giving an overview of these enclosures, especially the ones that pertain to Alien's broad production context, such as the expansion of intellectual property rights, the privatisation of water, rampant logging in the national forests of the United States, and the destruction of public housing. I argue that David Harvey's and the autonomists' seemingly discrepant accounts of this process differ more in emphasis than in substance, and thus can be synthesised into a relatively coherent explanation for the persistence of enclosure. The rest of the article demonstrates the film's articulation with the new enclosures, which occurs at several points: not only in the characters' debates over their labour contracts, but in the corporeal appearance of non-human structures, and even the symbolic function of the alien itself. Alien's diegetic universe, I conclude, is one in which the foundations of capitalism, and the terms of the capital-relation itself, are precarious or under question-one in which those terms have become legitimate objects of debate, rather than the self-evident bases of capitalist accumulation.

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Published date: 8 August 2018

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Local EPrints ID: 425187
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/425187
PURE UUID: 7957a06a-9cad-49b9-a8b8-4ba5fca7f91b

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Date deposited: 11 Oct 2018 16:30
Last modified: 07 Oct 2020 00:22

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Author: Harry Warwick

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