Capitalist realism - Mark Fisher

Mockup of London's future financial district

It is easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism. After 1989, capitalism has successfully presented itself as the only realistic political-economic system - a situation that the bank crisis of 2008, far from ending, actually compounded. The book analyses the development and principal features of this capitalist realism as a lived ideological framework.

Using examples from politics, film (Children Of Men, Jason Bourne, Supernanny), fiction (Le Guin and Kafka), work and education, it argues that capitalist realism colours all areas of contemporary experience, is anything but realistic and asks how capitalism and its inconsistencies can be challenged It is a sharp analysis of the post-ideological malaise that suggests that the economics and politics of free market neo-liberalism are givens rather than constructions.

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Capitalist Realism - Is there no alternative? PDF5.18 MB

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Anonymous
Jan 1 2012 18:51

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svenne
Jan 3 2012 15:10

This is a good book. It's like reading Zizek, Fredric Jameson and the likes, but without having to deal with 300 pages of boring parts between all the good stuff.

Ramona
Jan 3 2012 15:36

I can't think of a better review, sounds amazing!

tuckerbalex
Jan 4 2012 05:03

This is the book that i want to read. where can I buy this?

Melancholy of R...
Jan 4 2012 12:03

You can buy it from Amazon through the links in this page - http://www.zero-books.net/books/capitalist-realism

I read this yesterday (slow times at work) and liked it very much. Perhaps too broad a subject to talk about in just 81 pages, though. For example, when he mentions Tarkovsky's two sci-fi films as a product of a snobbish, elitist USSR government culture department, that is not necessarily true, or at least not true to the purpose the author intends and would require a thicker book to explain them.

Still a cracking read, thanks very much for sharing.

Ramona
Jan 4 2012 12:12

Also, Y NO REFERENCES? I'm sure it can all be tracked down though.

petey
Jan 4 2012 15:22

have downloaded, it's now in the reading stack

NoRefunds
Jan 4 2012 20:45

This is an amazing book, it has plenty of the sophistication of the writers and subjects it refers to, but very little redundant or overly complex language. It is actually quite enjoyable to read rather than tiresome.

bastarx
Jan 5 2012 06:08

If it references Heat I'll have to read it. I love that movie especially the part where they come out of the bank and kill all those cops. Best movie shootout ever.

Choccy
Jan 22 2012 16:19

might give it a wee jook

Choccy
Jan 22 2012 16:49

To open a can of worms, do you think this is why Revol likes it?
He's going through a BAADER MEINHOF HAD THE RIGHT IDEA phase of political regression where he thinks we'll never win and should 'at least take some of the bastards out', rather than get on with the hard slog of talking to our workmates and trying to get shit off the ground.

Choccy
Jan 22 2012 17:04

Hmm I'll pick up a hard copy, hate reading on a screen and don't have kindle.

Joseph Kay
Jan 22 2012 17:24

The practical side is weak, but I didn't read it for tactics. I think some of the cultural analysis/politicisation of depression is decent, and the stuff about bullshit managerialism in his college was interesting too. I have a load of annotations on my copy but it's lent out, so going off memory. Iirc there was a cringeable bit about 'not capturing the state but subjecting it to the general will' too, but like I say I remember thinking it was decent, but not on practical stuff/tactics.

Cooked
Jan 22 2012 18:55

I found this text version of the book.
http://pastebin.com/Qysdgj7Y
Looks like it's spellchecked and all, but the quotes aren't highlighted. smile

Choccy
Feb 15 2012 21:12

Capitalist Realism is a great book. The bits on education had me nervously laughing and I hope to reflect on it's relevance to teachers in the next week or so.

Overall I don't think it's anywhere near as pessimistic as JimClarke makes out - there's a kernal of hope at the end, but only in the realisation that we have to move beyond what we're doing, which is something we'd say anyway. I certainly don't think he advocates doing nothing in the workplace, nor is he 'against' one day strikes as such, just recognising them for what they are, which, again, we already know.

Of course he isn't full of practical suggestions but it's opening up that conversation about those sorts of actions. I think he's right about suggesting we choose actions that reject managerialism/bureuacracy - personally something like this would work in schools - refusing to be observed, collectively, refusing to sign our performance management documents things like that.

Juan Conatz
Feb 20 2013 20:42

Went home sick today, but before that, I stopped by Boneshaker Books (local lefty bookstore in Minneapolis) and picked up this. Reading now and will hopefully get through it. I got about halfway through the PDF a while ago. Its pretty good, but $15 for a 80 page book, really ?

Steven.
Feb 20 2013 23:05

You need to get a Kindle!

Also, get well soon

cardy lady
Feb 21 2013 21:44

great book, his piece in 'what are we fighting for' is also very good, which is a little bit more optimistic, i do think things are pretty bad though, I like his description of stalanistic capitalism, we are slipping rapidly into a dystopia in the UK and there seems to be little opposition and the old nostalgic left tactics still linger

wojtek
Mar 12 2013 21:04
thelonegroover
May 30 2013 15:38

Fisher's book crystallizes the ideas of many of the most important critics of the cultural and economic landscape since the onslaught of neoliberalism; a succinct, readable and jargon-free slim volume that should be the inception of a new debate about late-capitalist society and the way we humans interact with it.

Spikymike
Apr 11 2016 12:42

Also criticised and discussed here:
http://libcom.org/library/capitalist-realism-renewed

Steven.
Jul 12 2017 22:59

Apparently page 37 is missing from this PDF. Anyone have a better version?

Juan Conatz
Apr 28 2019 21:50

Not sure if this is the best place to mention, but I noticed that Mark Fisher is mentioned quite a bit by the 'new' Social Democratic Left in the US. Chapo Trap House, Jacobin, various figures associated with DSA, etc I've seen all cite or mention Fisher positively. What they have in common is they are 'very online', which I think Fisher was, too. I think they sympathize with some of Fisher's critique of online identity politics and leftist behavior online. Ironically, some of these figures are some of the worst people online I've ever seen so its hard to take seriously. I'm most familiar with Capitalist Realism but not so much his other writings.

LeninistGirl
Apr 29 2019 03:54

The resurface of Mark Fisher is honestly a plague on online discourse, it has only driven the most online socialists deeper into their dogmas and egos. People like Peter Coffin just say and do awful things, and justify everything by throwing around psudo-intellectual terms("perception labor") and then start talking about "the vampire castle" when they are criticized or dismissed. These people have forgotten that the power of class struggle comes from collective struggle, not trying to be the coolest on twitter.

Zero books, Peter Coffin and Xeixzy; we must fight all three Mark Fisherites but we fight the second most of the lot.

R Totale
Apr 29 2019 09:38

Yeah, as I understand it I think the Nagle book was probably an important point for that "Fisher revival".
Tbf to Fisher, I think it's worth bearing in mind that he was a very prolific writer, and as far as I can tell a lot of the self-proclaimed Fisherians seem to be basing that very heavily on one particular article. Someone saying they really like Mark Fisher because they got criticised online so now they think Fisher's article about how it's bad to criticise people online feels a bit like calling yourself a Marxist because you like the bits in the communist manifesto about nationalisation or something.
A lot of his writing's worth reading, especially if you like pop-culture criticism - there's always plenty of stuff to disagree with, but I think it does him a real disservice to try and turn his legacy into just an endless repetition of one internet fight from 2013, which often seems to be what his supposed fans want.

Fozzie
Apr 29 2019 08:43
Steven. wrote:
Apparently page 37 is missing from this PDF. Anyone have a better version?

There is one here;
https://monoskop.org/File:Fisher_Mark_Capitalist_Realism_Is_There_No_Alt...

Mike Harman
Apr 29 2019 10:36
R Totale wrote:
Someone saying they really like Mark Fisher because they got criticised online so now they think Fisher's article about how it's bad to criticise people online feels a bit like calling yourself a Marxist because you like the bits in the communist manifesto about nationalisation or something.

A venn diagram of those two groups would have a lot of crossover.

radicalgraffiti
Apr 29 2019 17:26
LeninistGirl wrote:
The resurface of Mark Fisher is honestly a plague on online discourse, it has only driven the most online socialists deeper into their dogmas and egos. People like Peter Coffin just say and do awful things, and justify everything by throwing around psudo-intellectual terms("perception labor") and then start talking about "the vampire castle" when they are criticized or dismissed. These people have forgotten that the power of class struggle comes from collective struggle, not trying to be the coolest on twitter.

Zero books, Peter Coffin and Xeixzy; we must fight all three Mark Fisherites but we fight the second most of the lot.

i preferred it when peter coffin was just that guy who faked a girlfriend

sherbu-kteer
May 6 2019 06:48
Juan Conatz wrote:
Not sure if this is the best place to mention, but I noticed that Mark Fisher is mentioned quite a bit by the 'new' Social Democratic Left in the US. Chapo Trap House, Jacobin, various figures associated with DSA, etc I've seen all cite or mention Fisher positively. What they have in common is they are 'very online', which I think Fisher was, too. I think they sympathize with some of Fisher's critique of online identity politics and leftist behavior online. Ironically, some of these figures are some of the worst people online I've ever seen so its hard to take seriously. I'm most familiar with Capitalist Realism but not so much his other writings.

I see that phenomenon as well, twitter and reddit have a lot of these people. The best example I can think of recently is the absolutely bizarre dispute between the Red Scare podcast (+ Amber Frost) and Current Affairs/Nathan Robinson -- the Red Scare people in particular seem to have mainly arrived at their positions by being as cynical and contrarian as they possibly can towards what they perceive to be the mainstream left.

I've been meaning to write something about this, as the polarisation between 'idpol' and 'class-based' leftists has been weighing on my mind, as it doesn't seem to be going away and in fact is increasing in severity. In the past few years there's been serious splits and disputes in a bunch of organisations over these issues and I don't think many yet have figured out a coherent way to solve them or to mend fences (if they should be mended at all).

Admittedly I haven't read as much of Fisher's work as other people have but I don't think these people are misappropriating what he says too much, not like someone liking the Communist Manifesto just because of nationalisation. The overemphasis on being online is arguably there in Vampire Castle; the first paragraph of the piece is him saying he was thinking of retiring from political engagement without ever really implying that 'political engagement' for him was anything more than being online -- aside from the mention of the People's Assembly it's not really clear what he'd be withdrawing from... was he withdrawing from union activity? A political party? An activist group? He doesn't say.

There's also an overlap in the way they all seem to dislike anarchists. Fisher used to criticise 'neo-anarchists' a lot, Bhaskar Sunkara of Jacobin does the same thing but calls them 'anarcho-liberals' instead. Same vague, perpetually moving target.

R Totale
May 6 2019 09:48
sherbu-kteer wrote:
I see that phenomenon as well, twitter and reddit have a lot of these people. The best example I can think of recently is the absolutely bizarre dispute between the Red Scare podcast (+ Amber Frost) and Current Affairs/Nathan Robinson -- the Red Scare people in particular seem to have mainly arrived at their positions by being as cynical and contrarian as they possibly can towards what they perceive to be the mainstream left.

Do I need to know anything about what this means, or am I happier not knowing?

Quote:
Admittedly I haven't read as much of Fisher's work as other people have but I don't think these people are misappropriating what he says too much, not like someone liking the Communist Manifesto just because of nationalisation. The overemphasis on being online is arguably there in Vampire Castle; the first paragraph of the piece is him saying he was thinking of retiring from political engagement without ever really implying that 'political engagement' for him was anything more than being online -- aside from the mention of the People's Assembly it's not really clear what he'd be withdrawing from... was he withdrawing from union activity? A political party? An activist group? He doesn't say.

Yeah, that particular article is dire, it's more just that he wrote tons and tons of other stuff, which wasn't all perfect by any means (I don't think he ever had a proper critique of representation as such, which is a pretty big sticking point from an anarchist perspective), but much of it was way better, and I just find it dispiriting how one of the worst things he ever wrote also seems to be treated as the one thing that defines his legacy. Do you get the impression that many of these Fisher stans have read or paid attention to much other than the VC piece?

Mike Harman
May 6 2019 12:32
sherbu-kteer wrote:
There's also an overlap in the way they all seem to dislike anarchists. Fisher used to criticise 'neo-anarchists' a lot, Bhaskar Sunkara of Jacobin does the same thing but calls them 'anarcho-liberals' instead. Same vague, perpetually moving target.

Without knowing details of the current spat there's a few ways this works:

They will rarely if ever actually engage with anarchism or any kind of anti-state communism, to do so openly would be to acknowledge that there are ideologies to their left. Similarly when it comes to left social democrats like Nathan Robinson they can't make an (ultra) left critique of him (like http://libcom.org/library/socialist-dog-catchers-or-presidents-won-t-sav... does), but have to give the appearance of doing so despite this. Therefore anyone who talks about both class and race/colonialism etc. becomes a race-first liberal and conflated with Hillary Clinton (or Deray) and the people who want you to (only) vote for Bernie, canvass for M4A and push business unions are the class warriors.

When Sunkara has a go at anarcho-liberals, he means people like Naomi Klein and George Monbiot who are really left-liberals who support extra-parliamentary action as opposed to purely electoral methods. Monbiot has is own more direct (but still straw man) anti-anarchist screeds (although has apparently just has a damascene conversion to anti-capitalism and started reading Bookchin, see how long that lasts and where it ends up).

It's easiest to understand some of these disputes not as a genuine argument about how race and gender etc. interact with class struggle and capitalism, but instead as a factional dispute for control over the left of the Democrats (mirrored to some extent in Labour/Momentum but not in the same way). Obviously people who are operating in good faith (whether they've got great politics or not) get caught up in this too but when I'm trying to figure out what the fuck people are on about, it's useful to remind myself that some of them are earning the equivalent of very good salaries running a podcasting business and/or promoting themselves as op-ed writers and/or a couple of years before they're in charge of a think tank or someone's election campaign.

Probably most people on this thread have seen it, but an examination of how Adolph Reed does this bait and switch here: https://libcom.org/blog/identity-crisis-leftist-anti-wokeness-bullshit-2... (since writing that article Reed has directly got involved with some of these intra-DSA spats on the Amber Frost side of things).