"What we may be witnessing is not just the end of the Cold War, or the passing of a particular period of post-war history, but the end of history as such: that is, the end point of mankind's ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government."—Francis Fukuyama
With the fall of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, capitalism’s prophets were quick to sound the trumpet of victory. Francis Fukuyama quickly decreed an end to history and the establishment of “Western liberal democracy,” or rather the birth of neoliberalism—that insatiable beast, all claws and fangs—as the apogee of human development. That description of the world and its history, a history temporarily detained by the triumph of capitalism, was and still is somber and sterile and corresponds to a society without debates or ideas, without answers to questions and challenges that are in urgent need of solving. But what does the triumph of “free-market neoliberalism” have to do with Marvel’s The Avengers?
Somewhere along the way I’ve heard that it is easier to imagine the end of the world, than an end to capitalism. To imagine the end of capitalism would imply to imagine an alternative to a socio-economic form of development that requires infinite economic-growth while depleting finite resources and which results in human and environmental destruction. Capitalism is an animal that feeds on blood and oil alike; feeding it is an insatiable problem. It will eventually succumb to hunger. And in the meantime while half of Europe is on the verge of collapse and the planet continues its spiral fall into environmental catastrophe, Marvel’s The Avengers presents us with a now too seductive and familiar scenario: an apocalyptic attack on Manhattan that threatens to destroy the world as we know it. But the market’s invisible hand is a wizard of ingenuity that in a heartbeat can concoct the next gadget-wielding one-percenter savior of the earth, Stark Industries’ playboy Iron Man. Even Thomas Friedman himself could not have come up with a better savior for a system of economic development that is in serious need of saving.
From an analytical point-of-view The Avengers is an extension of neoliberal thought which extends itself like a mantle of lead that seeks to silence those voices demanding answers and alternatives to a model of economic development that has sunk the world into crisis.
On the other hand the Hulk still kicks ass.