“There’s no Lack of Void”: Waste and Abundance in Beckett and DeLillo


The opposition between Waste and abundance offers itself, arguably, as that which structures contemporary culture more fundamentally than any other. The experience of living in the West today is defined by the perception of abundance, or of superabundance. There is more of everything. When George Bush famously quipped to his supporters at a fundraising dinner during his 2004 presidential campaign that they were the “haves and the have mores,” he unwittingly identified a deeper failure in the culture to think of wealth as in any sense limited, or balanced against poverty as its defining opposition. There is only having and having more, without the shadow of having less and not having. The physical sign of relative poverty in the West, accordingly, is not malnutrition, not wasting away, but obesity, as if what remains of poverty can only show itself in a weakened resistance to the dangers of abundance. Where the distribution of resources—commodities as well as capital and mineral reserve—has traditionally been understood as an unequal sharing, as balancing the wealth of the few against the poverty of the many, the global economy has produced, and been produced by, the apparition of a wealth without limit, a wealth that will grow by contact with poverty, until, in Tony Blair’s and Anthony Giddens’s vision of third-way globalization, the market will make everyone rich, will eradicate poverty and suffering. This is a benign version of the horrible sexual appetite that Hamlet so dreaded in his mother, the “increase of appetite” that “grows by what it fed on” (188, 1, 2, 144–145). But if wealth has absorbed or assimilated its other, in a utopian movement towards an unlimited global surplus, this supposed triumph of abundance over scarcity has produced another limit, another kind of boundary.

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