Unfinished business: Michael Jackson, Detroit, and the figural economy of American Deindustrialization

Research output: Book/ReportBook

18 Scopus citations


Unfinished Business argues that Michael Jackson and Detroit, both as material entities with specific histories and as representations with uncanny persistence, have something valuable to teach us about three decades of structural economic transition in the United States, and particularly about the changing nature of work and capitalism between the mid-1980s and 2016. They teach us about the racialization and aesthetics of these changes, how they operate as structures of feeling and representations as well as shifts in the dominant mode of production, and about how industrialization's successor mode, financialization, uses imagery both very similar to and very different from that of its predecessor. The book uses the methods of performance studies to advance three major points. First, figural economies of tropes, dance and theater conventions, and actual performances shape and reflect the ways structural economic change in the United States between the mid-1980s and 2016 congeals into public spectacles, circulates through a wide variety of media, and offers "lessons" to be learned about normative and aberrant relations to capital in transitional times. Second, Michael Jackson and Detroit illuminate the operations of these figural economies with special clarity. Third, Jackson's and Detroit's figural potential resides in their capacities to both complicate and bring fictive coherence to the intertwining of race, work, and capital in this period. Sites examined include Jackson's performances, media coverage of his life, plays featuring Detroit, plans for the city's postindustrial revitalization, and Detroit installations the Heidelberg Project and Mobile Homestead.

Original languageEnglish (US)
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages286
ISBN (Electronic)9780199348589
ISBN (Print)9780199348589
StatePublished - Nov 23 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Arts and Humanities


  • Deindustrialization
  • Detroit
  • Figural economy
  • Financialization
  • Michael Jackson
  • Performance
  • Performance studies
  • Race


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