Mark Fisher’s Capitalist Realism

Freedom, Spinoza shows, is something that can be achieved only when we can apprehend the real causes of our actions, when we set aside the ‘sad passions’ that intoxicate and entrance us.

Mark Fisher
Capitalist Realism

There are thematic similarities between Dead Man Working and Mark Fisher’s Capitalist Realism, particularly around the invasive and pervasive characteristic of working life specific to late capitalism. Both books present cogent arguments for the devastating effects on our lives and mental health. Each book also addresses the propensity for counterculture to be absorbed into the mainstream.

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, films (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’s a sharp analysis of the post-ideological malaise that suggests that the economics and politics of neo-liberalism are givens rather than constructions.

2 thoughts on “Mark Fisher’s Capitalist Realism

  1. I read the reviews – not the book – and was wondering how do you feel about statements like “Why, then, are we in the UK suffering from epidemic levels of depression?” when I think you recently finished “A field guide to melancholy”. I’d be happier with someone advocating the right to be sad and blaming capitalism, culture, or what you will, for overmedicalizing feelings rather than accepting statements like the above. Still, I may try to read it.

    • Fisher doesn’t get into the merits or otherwise of melancholy. He presents a case that record levels of people (increasingly teenagers) are seeking treatment on the NHS for depression and other mental illnesses, and argues for the politicisation of mental illness rather than just sweeping it under the carpet as being genetic or down to chemical imbalance. He argues that the NHS is dishing out chemical solutions to mental illness when its cause lies in capital realism. It is the most convincing part of the book. Both authors would, I suggest, agree that the solution to depression is not in a bottle of pills.

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