Implications of apathy: The politics of desire

Plan Author

  • Margaret Jones, 2007

Fields of Concentration

Sample Courses

  • Course: Art Seminar Critique
  • Course: Feminist Political & Social Thought
  • Course: Writing Political Theory

Project Description

An investigation of the politics of apathy and desire with attention to consumerism, ’60s nostalgia and the depoliticization of modern youth in the United States.

Faculty Sponsors

Outside Evaluator

  • Barbara Cruikshank, University of Massachusetts Amherst


As our societies grow ever more complex and global, it has become increasingly difficult for individuals and groups to meaningfully affect societal change. The vast power and reach of contemporary political and corporate networks, and the increasingly nuanced way they present their actions and products to the public, have made drawing the clear distinctions between “right” and “wrong” that are necessary for effective protest nearly impossible. This Plan examines how these realities have shaped the political consciousness of the Millennial generation, and have often led to a culture of political apathy.

Using ideas from Antonio Negri and Michael Hardt’s books Empire and Multitude, the author chronicles her generation’s history of political activism. With the failure of the protests against the Iraq War in 2003, which at the time were the largest protests in human history, the young generation began to struggle with the reality that the political establishment was willing to ignore them. Not wanting to condone the system in any way, many young activists adopted a policy of negation, aiming to minimize their interaction with the nation-state whenever possible. While many have criticized this platform as apathetic, it more accurately seen as a complete rejection of U.S. political culture, and its own form of protest.


“The term Empire refers principally to “the globalization of capitalist production and its world market,” and is both a “fundamentally new situation” and a “significant historical shift.” Imperialist domination divided and conquered the world geographically; Empire divides and conquers it by transcending geographical boundaries.” “Contained within a façade of indifference, the unwillingness of young people to participate in prescribed political action may be both a silent protest of the system that falsely courts them, and a hope that there might someday be a system that is worth participating in.”