Mark Fisher (11 July 1968 – 13 January 2017), also known as "k-punk", was a British writer, critic, cultural theorist, and teacher based in the Department of Visual Cultures at Goldsmiths, University of London. Fisher published several books, including the unexpected success Capitalist Realism: Is there no alternative? (2009), and contributed to publications such as The Wire, Fact, New Statesman and Sight & Sound. He was also the co-founder of Zero Books, and later Repeater Books. He died in January 2017, shortly before the publication of his latest book The Weird and the Eerie (2017).
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- The power of capitalist realism derives in part from the way that capitalism subsumes and consumes all of previous history: one effect of its 'system of equivalence' which can assign all cultural objects, whether they are religious iconography, pornography or Das Kapital, a monetary value.
- Chapter One
- The new defines itself in response to what is already established; at the same time, the established has to reconfigure itself in response to the new. Eliot’s claim was that the exhaustion of the future does not even leave us with the past. Tradition counts for nothing when it is no longer contested and modified. A culture that is merely preserved is no culture at all.
- Chapter One
- The power of capitalist realism derives in part from the way that capitalism subsumes and consumes all of previous history: one effect of its ‘system of equivalence’ which can assign all cultural objects, whether they are religious iconography, pornography, or Das Kapital, a monetary value. Walk around the British Museum, where you see objects torn from their lifeworlds and assembled as if on the deck of some Predator spacecraft, and you have a powerful image of this process at work. In the conversion of practices and rituals into merely aesthetic objects, the beliefs of previous cultures are objectively ironized, transformed into artifacts. Capitalist realism is therefore not a particular type of realism; it is more like realism in itself.
- Chapter One
- Capitalist realism no longer stages this kind of confrontation with modernism. On the contrary, it takes the vanquishing of modernism for granted: modernism is now something that can periodically return, but only as a frozen aesthetic style, never as an ideal for living.
- Chapter one
- No cultural object can retain its power when there are no longer new eyes to see it.
- Chapter One
- The role of capitalist ideology is not to make an explicit case for something in the way that propaganda does, but to conceal the fact that the operations of capital do not depend on any sort of subjectively assumed belief. It is impossible to conceive of fascism or Stalinism without propaganda – but capitalism can proceed perfectly well, in some ways better, without anyone making a case for it.
- Chapter Two
- What we are dealing with now is not the incorporation of materials that previously seemed to possess subversive potentials, but instead, their precorporation:the pre-emptive formatting and shaping of desires, aspirations and hopes by capitalist culture. WItness, for instance, the establishment of settled 'alternative' or 'independent' cultural zones, which endlessly repeat older gestures or rebellion and contestation as if for the first time. 'Alternative' and independent' don't designate something outside mainstream culture; rather, they are styles, in fact 'the' dominant styles, within the meainstream.
- Chapter One
- The role of capitalist ideology is not to make an explicit case for something in the way that propaganda does, but to conceal the fact that operations of capital do not depend on any sort of subjectively assumed belief. It is impossible to conceive of fascism or Stalinism without - but capitalism can proceed perfectly well, in some ways better, without anyone making a case for it.
- If capitalist realism is so seamless, and if current forms of resistance are so hopeless and impotent, where can an effective challenge come from? A moral critique of capitalism, emphasizing the ways in which it leads to suffering, only reinforces capitalist realism. Poverty, famine and war can be presented as an inevitable part of reality, while the hope that these forms of suffering could be eliminated easily painted as naive utopianism. Capitalist realism can only be threatened if it is shown to be in some way inconsistent or untenable; if, that is to say, capitalism’s ostensible ‘realism’ turns out to be nothing of the sort.
- Chapter Three
- A moral critique of capitalism, emphasizing the ways in which it leads to suffering, only reinforces capitalism realism. Poverty, famine and war can be presented as an inevitable part of reality, while the hope that these forms of suffering could be eliminated easily painted as naive utopianism. Capitalism realism can only be threatened if it is shown to be in some way inconsistent or untenable; if, that is to say, capitalism's ostensible 'realism' turns out to be nothing of the sort.
- Chapter Three, "Capitalism and Reel"
- Initially, It might appear to be a mystery that bureaucratic measures should have intensified under neoliberal governments that have presented themselves as anti-bureaucratic and anti-Stalinist. Yet new kinds of bureaucracy - 'aims and objectives', 'outcomes', 'mission statements'- have proliferated, even as neoliberal rhetoric about the end of top-down, centralized control has gained pre-eminence. It might seem that bureaucracy is a kind of return of the repressed, ironically re-emerging at the heart of a system which has professed to destroy it. But the resurgence of bureaucracy in neoliberalism is more than atavism or an anomaly.
- Chapter Four
- This is in part a consequence of the inherent resistance of certain processes and services to marketization. (The supposed marketization of education, for instance, rests on a confused and underdeveloped analogy: are students the consumers of the service or its product?) The idealized market was supposed to deliver ‘friction free’ exchanges, in which the desires of consumers would be met directly, without the need for intervention or mediation by regulatory agencies. Yet the drive to assess the performance of workers and to measure forms of labor which, by their nature, are resistant to quantification, has inevitably required additional layers of management and bureaucracy. What we have is not a direct comparison of workers’ performance or output, but a comparison between the audited representation of that performance and output. Inevitably, a short-circuiting occurs, and work becomes geared towards the generation and massaging of representations rather than to the official goals of the work itself. Indeed, an anthropological study of local government in Britain argues that ‘More effort goes into ensuring that a local authority’s services are represented correctly than goes into actually improving those services’. This reversal of priorities is one of the hallmarks of a system which can be characterized without hyperbole as ‘market Stalinism’. What late capitalism repeats from Stalinism is just this valuing of symbols of achievement over actual achievement.
- Chapter Six
- It would be a mistake to regard this market Stalinism as some deviation from the ‘true spirit’ of capitalism. On the contrary, it would be better to say that an essential dimension of Stalinism was inhibited by its association with a social project like socialism and can only emerge in a late capitalist culture in which images acquire an autonomous force. The way value is generated on the stock exchange depends of course less on what a company ‘really does’, and more on perceptions of, and beliefs about, its (future) performance. In capitalism, that is to say, all that is solid melts into PR, and late capitalism is defined at least as much by this ubiquitous tendency towards PR-production as it is by the imposition of market mechanisms.
- Chapter Six