[Capitalist realism] is more like a pervasive atmosphere, conditioning not only the production of culture but also the regulation of work and education, and acting as a kind of invisible barrier constraining thought and action. (p16)
Mark Fisher, academic, K-Punk theorist’s, small book—why these interesting books are so thin is interesting in themselves, you can actually say a lot in a few words, a fact Maggie Nelson knows all too well—’Capitalist Realism’, argues that after the Berlin Wall went down, capitalism presented itself as the only real, true system. Fisher asks is it possible to imagine an alternative political structure? While the ‘war on terror,’ normalised our notions of crisis (p1), there is no ending to a war on terror, and Fisher illustrates this with the film ‘Children of Men’ that there is no catastrophe waiting to happen, no Armageddon, so to speak. “There is no punctual moment of disaster: the world, doesn’t end with a bang, it winks out unravels, gradually falls apart.we are now living through….Action becomes pointless; only senseless hope makes sense” (p2/3).
How long can culture persist without the new? What happens if we are no longer capable of producing surprises? Living in a time of ‘reiteration’ and ‘re-permutation’, could it be, he asks, that there will be no ‘shocks of the new?’ Our anxieties become a hope that something must change, to the depressed conviction that nothing new can ever happen. The new is a response to that which is established, and the established needs to ‘reconfigure itself to the new’ (p3). Capitalist realism is powerful as it subsumes and consumes all our previous history. He suggests visiting any museum to see this in action, this of course, is in essence Boltanski and Esquerre’s enrichment economy argument, transforming ‘rituals and practices into aesthetic objects’, adding new value for production of wealth (not its consumption). A turning from ‘belief to aesthetics, from engagement to spectatorship.’ (p5)
Our culture has become a Jameson post-modernist nightmare, where we continue to live out lives through pastiche and revivalism (p7). As Zizek argues in his book “A Thief in Broad daylight” we no longer have alternative to conservatism or neoliberalism, the ideology has become an ontology. A way of being. There is no other. Espousing the other is pointless to, as independence and alternatives, used to mean something outside the normal, now it has been coopted by the mainstream as a style or fashion, we are left to imitate dead style. Perversion has seeped into our everyday conscious. The supersaturation fails to even outrage or shock. This excessive nostalgia, a craving for the familiar’, with an incapability of generating the novel (p59). Why else would a womaniser and infantiliser Trump be so accepted by the conservatism? Fisher argues this is worse than a ‘recuperation or incorporation, but their “pre-corporation”: “the pre-emptive formatting and shaping of desires, aspirations and hopes by the capitalist culture.” (p9) Even ideas like ‘authenticity’ are highly marketable., again the is the basis of the enrichment economy, creating ‘anti-mythical myths’ (p10). Quoting Zizek, Fisher suggests in fact that anti capitalism is widely disseminated by capitalism.
He goes on to suggest that capitalism relies on this structure of disavowal. We believe it is bad for us, but we still participate. Bun Chul Han takes this up further in Psychopolitics, when before we used to be “staging protest,” (Fisher argues these too are impotent see Live 8, p14) nowadays, we are relegated to shooting of a series of tweets that disappear into the ether in an instance. Or multi billionaires and ‘liberal communists’ like Gates and Soros wanting to save the world by throwing “intrinsically implicated proceeds” of capitalism to good causes (pp 15, 27). Everything it seems is embedded with the ‘capitalist realism' notion of the business ontology or a ‘natural order of things’ (p17). Everything should be run as a business. I am guilty of trying to encourage my clients (arts and culture did the same), my argument being why shouldn’t we be able to use the same language to sell 'charity and the arts. Good in theory, but of course it means we end up being complicit with the same system, not breaking it.
The politics of neoliberalism are not ‘new according to David Harvey, ‘is best conceived of as from of restoration; a ‘political project to re-establish the conditions of capital accumulation and to restore the power of economic elites.’ (p29)
How does designing perversion fit in here? According to Fisher the way corporations generate value, is n the beliefs and perceptions about the company, rather than merely performance. He goes on to quote Zizek’s notion of the ‘Big Other’, ‘a collective fiction, a symbolic structure, presupposed by any social field.’ (p44) This social reality, allows it to function, and it’s when this illusion can no longer be maintained that the system disintegrates (p45) (see also here his example about Gerald Ratner now infamous gaff—or as Fisher puts it, ‘crisis of symbolic efficiency.’ (p47) We look to find solutions in products, not processes (Wendy Brown p61)**
Popularity whether media or politics bred stagnation and conservatism, and misses the point that ’the most powerful forms of desire are precisely craving for the strange, the unexpected, the weird.’ (p76)
** see also pp75 for a critique on the media.