In this introduction to “Complicity in Post-1945 Literature: Theory, Aesthetics, Politics,” the editors address the intersections among literature, complicity, and capitalism. We begin by historicizing the concept of complicity and articulating its relationship to colonialism, slavery, and the spread of capitalist world markets. We then track the emergence and development of the field of complicity studies, and examine the role played by literature and aesthetics within that field. We explore the centrality of the Holocaust to the study of complicity, and—via a reading of Roberto Bolaño's novel 2666—we ask whether new conceptions of complicity are required to address more recent historical developments. Placing complicity studies in dialogue with the proliferating scholarship on neoliberalism, we conclude by naming complicity as the structure of feeling that corresponds to postwar liberalism, and consider the fate of complicity in the neoliberal and post-neoliberal eras.

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