Vulnerability of “Virtual” Subjects: Childhood, Memory, and Crisis in the Cultural Value of Innocence


Innocent childhood currently attracts a great deal of cultural attention and energy, both positive and negative. It is a privileged site not only of concern, celebration, and protection, but also of anxiety regarding its putative demise at the hands of abusive adults, poverty, consumerism, and an increasingly sexualized popular culture. Children are conceived of as vulnerable, to be sure, but so too is the “innocence” they represent and for which, to a large extent, they are held responsible. In spite of its apparent obviousness, the privilege of childhood innocence is complexly overdetermined by a variety of adult exigencies, desires, and crises which, once exposed to scrutiny, may become less self-evident—even questionable. As a virtue, innocence is not cultivated through self-discipline, sustained effort, or special giftedness. It is, rather, an empty trait, valued precisely as a deficit of experience, as if experience itself were corrosive of virtue. That this is so speaks to the extent of vulnerability to life felt by a world-weary middle-class, which imagines for itself a palliative, fantasied existence free of care and safe from the demands of others.

Read Article On Muse