Like many cities in the Midwestern United States in recent years, Kalamazoo, Michigan has experienced profound social and economic restructuring, resulting in significant job losses, poverty, homelessness, hunger, and racialized inequalities. Despite these conditions in Kalamazoo, many are attempting to improve social conditions by engaging in a wide range of activities such as downtown development projects, investments in education, living wage movements, entrepreneurial training programs, anti-racism advocacy, among many other initiatives. In this paper, we analyze these well-intended efforts by drawing upon Slavoj Žižek's (2008, 2009) insights on violence in today's world. We suggest that the focus on what is perceived to be reasonable, or realistic, is maintained by and helps to maintain, the normal workings of capitalism which appear as inevitable, natural, or altogether invisible. In other words, relations of exploitation remain in the realm of the REAL.
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