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Capitalist Realism: Is there no alternative?

(Futuros Próximos #8)

4.20  ·  Rating details ·  5,545 ratings  ·  489 reviews
Capitalism has become strange. Ironically, while the ‘age of work’ seems to have come to an end, working has assumed a total presence – a ‘worker’s society’ in the worst sense of the term – where everyone finds themselves obsessed with it. So what does the worker tell us today? "I feel drained, empty… dead." This book tells the story of the dead man working. It follows thi ...more
Kindle Edition, 91 pages
Published November 27th 2009 by John Hunt Publishing
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Average rating 4.20  · 
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Trevor
Dec 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Socialist Realism was an artform. It was conceived as a means to create a new kind of human – often called the new man – the point being to present heroic visions of people engaged in labour that was setting out to build the new and better world. Socialist Realism was pointedly ideological, and the point was to create images of healthy and vibrant people doing whatever it took to make that better world. When we look at Socialist Realism today we see it as all too obviously propaganda. Perhaps th ...more
Malcolm
Jul 24, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
So, what do you do about capitalism if you live in a world where, as both Jameson & Žižek have noted, it is easier to imagine the end of the world then the end of capitalism, or as Fisher puts it in the short, engaging, and entertaining book, if there is a "widespread sense that not only is capitalism the only viable political and economic system, but also that it is now impossible even to imagine a coherent alternative to it"?

First up, disagree: I can imagine a viable alternativ
...more
Antonomasia
Aug 13, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: scribd, british, politics, 2015
I don't read many books about politics these days: it doesn't change things, I'd rather use reading for distraction and I've enough tsundoku. Mark Fisher's Capitalist Realism, however, is only 100 pages and had been well reviewed by a number of people online whose opinions I respect. Some are on Goodreads; another is in this blog post. Moreover, it was on Scribd, and in the aftermath of the election, I was particularly gloomy about being caught between necessary polite small talk with Tories and UKIPpers IRL, and the ...more
Miguel
Aug 06, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Mark Fisher’s Capitalist Realism (2009) is a curmudgeonly and over-determined analysis of late capitalism with little theoretical value. His utter and complete assimilation into the ideological machine of Žižek’s New Left does him an enormous disservice. Because of this, Fisher is precluded from approaching the issues present in late capitalism with the necessary finesse. Rather, for every moment of insight (of which there are a few), there are ten face palm inducing misrepresentations of contem ...more
Emma Sea
Excellent. This is 8 years old now so I'd love to see an updated version with an essay reflecting on the exacerbation since original publication.

Highly recommended.
Liz
Nov 05, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I could've done without the "the wired society is killing us, get off my lawn" vibe of the chapter on young people and depression -- fisher basically needs to not talk about hip-hop ever, my god, that was cringeworthy. but overall it was good: succinct, super readable, thought-provoking, helpful in organising my thought around a lot of other stuff, and convincing w/r/t its key thesis (though I retain significant reservations about the specifics of fisher's revolutionary program). thanks, max!
Philipp
Feb 01, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Such an interesting book - in spite of its 80 pages it took me three days to read it, there is a lot to digest and think about. I'm pretty sure I underlined half the book, and what's the point of underlining so much?

Living in 2018 it is hard, if not impossible, to imagine an alternative system to capitalism. This feeling, this sense, is what the term 'capitalist realism' is about. Capitalism engulfs anything and makes it its own ('Witness, for instance, the establishment of settled ‘alternativ('Witness,
...more
Anna
Oct 11, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I’ve been meaning to read 'Capitalist Realism' for years, but only now that I’ve moved to Scotland do I find a library that has a copy. The University Library in Cambridge did not, outrageously enough. I’ve come across references to it in various other books criticising capitalism, plus it is only 81 pages long, so inevitably there wasn’t a great deal in it that felt new to me. Instead, I’d call it an impressively concise synthesis. Fisher picks certain bits of Žižek to interpret (ie make compre ...more
Jonfaith
Sep 01, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: theory
The closest that most of us come to a direct experience of the centerlessness of capitalism is an encounter with the call center.

This was the first effort by Zero Books that left an impact. I was disappointed by the lack of footnotes. That said Fisher follows Jameson and Zizek in exploring our paradoxical reality where we can’t even imagine an existence without capitalism. My dismay did bubble on occasion, especially when events are recognized as undisputed evidence of a reality without altern
...more
David M
We are not living in an age of unbridled innovation. The sad fact is it's becoming increasingly difficult to even create new humans

https://www.theguardian.com/science/2...

RIP Mark Fisher.

The task of repoliticizing mental illness is an urgent one if the left wants to challenge capitalist realism
sologdin
Dec 11, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: leftwing-theory
Post-modernized marxist assesses the continued failure of capitalism to eat itself. Plenty of involvement with Jameson, Foucault, Baudrillard, D&G, Lyotard. But also some interest in the Frankfurt School and Harvey.

This text attempts to define ‘capitalist realism,’ summarized as “Margaret Thatcher's doctrine that 'there is no alternative' - as succinct a slogan of capitalist realism as you could hope for - became a brutally self-fulfilling prophecy” (8). It “takes the form of a k
...more
Laryssa Almeida
Oct 07, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"the marxist supernanny would not only be the one who laid down limitations, who acted in our own interests when we are incapable of recognizing them ourselves, but also the one prepared to take this kind of risk, to wager on the strange and our appetite for it."

where do i sign to buy the rights of "the marxist supernanny" motion picture?
Sian Lile-Pastore
This is a short and super readable book. I was interested in lots of the things discussed, in particular about depression - which is a political rather than a personal/individual issue?, management, job reviews in work - where 'satisfactory' isn't actually satisfactory .... And other stuff too.

So it's interesting, it got me thinking, but alongside this, it felt like this wasn't the book for me. It has a very male narrative - pretty much all the references are from men - lots of Zizek, Deluze an
...more
and
Nov 01, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
read artuad- 'all writing is pigshit.' this is nothing new, he's just re-naming age old concepts, he can hardly go a sentence without referencing zizekbadioulacanjamesonblahblahblah boring!
Tyler
Jan 25, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sociology, philosophy
"What exemplifies the failure of the neoliberal world to live up to its own PR than the call center?" (64)
Daniel
Dec 12, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I think it's important to preface this with a few comments on the difficulty of reading a book like this - intended more as an intervention than a piece of worked through theory - almost a decade after it was published. Firstly and most obviously, it can't help but seem a little out of date - both in its pop culture references and in its analysis, the world of 2018 being quite different from a world where David Cameron was still called Dave and Gordon Brown was still Prime Minister (although som ...more
Seph Mozes
Jun 01, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I definitely recommend this book. fisher clearly articulates the ideological tendencies of capital to make it seem like the suffering it causes is natural and inevitable, and asserts the importance of continuing to assert the possibility of alternatives ways of structuring society, and of rebuilding collective consciousness in opposition to neoliberal individualism. on the other hand, I felt like fisher’s “post-marxist” framework made it difficult for him to actually articulate what that alterna ...more
Hind
Mar 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This brilliant and fascinating little book contained sagaciously written chapters trying to evince reality as it really is under capitalism, how cavernously rooted it is in our lives, and how it has infiltrated within every single aspect, be it the world of academia, work, mental health (it was rather shocking to know of the role capitalism plays in it), and every sort of entertainment.

It is dejecting to be cognisant of all that and to try to go through life knowing there is possibly no solutio
...more
Wendy Liu
So good.

My favourite quote:

"There are certainly conspiracies in capitalism, but the problem is that they are themselves only possible because of deeper level structures that allow them to function. Does anyone really think, for instance, that things would improve if we replaced the whole managerial and banking class with a whole new set of ('better') people? Surely, on the contrary, it is evident that the vices are engendered by the structure, and that while the structure
...more
Sarah
Dec 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Short, insightful book on the effects of capitalism.
Capitalism has been so successful that it is now considered the only realistic political system. In the US and the UK, the main parties are both neoliberal, differing on some issues but sharing a consensus that There Is No Alternative to neoliberalism. Now it is “easier to imagine the end of the world than to imagine the end of capitalism”.

I'm going to break this review up into summaries of several topics which I found interesting.

...more
royaevereads
Some interesting points, some sweeping generalisations. Manages to reference both Kafka and the Supernanny.
Ariya
Oct 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It's unexpectedly *fun* to read in the voice of the sarcastic and sneering. The good analogies are the bonus.
Sunil Kumar
A deeply depressing book about a system that all of us are born into and that slowly seeps into every facet of our lives, even the one's we think are free from its influence. Mark Fisher is good at pointing out the contratarian nature of the system and at highlighting its role in furthering the current epidemic of cultural stagnation with examples from the mainstream and the fringe. But I remain skeptical about his claims of us being able to convince the general population to essentially bite th ...more
Rob Trump
Generally correct, but suffers from issues of overdiagnosis (how sure are we, really, that media hypersaturation would not also be a problem even in a purely theoretical socialist society? I say this as a committed socialist!) and from overinterpretation of cultural artifacts at the expense of more concrete material relations. Still, I could see this opening someone's eyes the way Naomi Klein and David Graeber did for me back in the day, and to that end, it's certainly a good thing for people to ...more
Joe Bambridge
Feb 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Finally read this cover-to-cover. Fisher’s articulation of what he identifies as ‘capitalist realism’ is masterful if spine-chillingly bleak and pessimistic. What would Fisher make of the present state of things? A certain tear in the fabric of late capitalism has occurred. At the same time, the left wing movements that have forced this rupture, against the odds, while daring to challenge neoliberalism, are yet to develop a sophisticated and detailed alternative to bureaucracy and ‘market stalin ...more
John
Mar 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a hard book to stomach, but it has definitely had an effect, and while I'm not won over by Fisher he has given me a completely new lens I can now flip down when needed through which to view my own urges and emotions, and the state of the world.

Again, the book is incredibly depressing. The five star rating is due to the short length and its upheaval of my previous worldview which however patched back together will now have Capitalist Realism roiling underneath.
Darran Mclaughlin
I decided to read this after seeing the Sleaford Mods and Russell Brand refer to it as an influence in short succession. I think I've seen references to it before over the last 5 years but it hadn't entered my consciousness as something worth seeking out until recently. It is a very good polemic. It is intelligent, punchy, accessible and brief. The basic premiss is that we have entered a stage of history in which Capitalism has become the only game in town, and alternatives are no longer even co ...more
Adam  McPhee
Jan 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Adam by: Chapo Trap House
Shelves: essays, the-left
Capitalist ideology in general, Žižek maintains, consists precisely in the overvaluing of belief – in the sense of inner subjective attitude – at the expense of the beliefs we exhibit and externalize in our behavior. So long as we believe (in our hearts) that capitalism is bad, we are free to continue to participate in capitalist exchange. According to Žižek, capitalism in general relies on this structure of disavowal. We believe that money is only a meaningless token of no intrinsic worth, yet ...more
Riar
Jan 10, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As many people have already pointed out, for me, Capitalist Realism is one of the best analysis of the late capitalism without the necessity of becoming too academic. Popular culture is one of the key elements to dissect the issues—it's easier to imagine the end of the world through cinema and Hollywood than the end of capitalism. Fisher's argument on how Hollywood builds an anti-capitalist narrative on the capitalist system itself it's really fascinating—the same way thing like Live 8 exists; a ...more
Karl Steel
Feb 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
obviously needs to be updated to take the Occupy Movement into account and especially OCCUPY SANDY, which satisfies many of the demands he makes in his final chapter. Would also like to see an engagement with the grotesque nostalgic Tory fantasy that is Downton Abbey.

A few selected favorites from my notes:

"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 im
...more
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Mark Fisher (1968 – 2017) was a co-founder of Zero Books and Repeater Books. His blog, k-punk, defined critical writing for a generation. He wrote three books, Capitalist Realism, Ghosts of My Life and The Weird and the Eerie, and was a Visiting Fellow in the Visual Cultures department at Goldsmiths, University of London.

Librarian’s note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name.

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“The current ruling ontology denies any possibility of a social causation of mental illness. The chemico-biologization of mental illness is of course strictly commensurate with its depoliticization. Considering mental illness an individual chemico-biological problem has enormous benefits for capitalism. First, it reinforces Capital’s drive towards atomistic individualization (you are sick because of your brain chemistry). Second, it provides an enormously lucrative market in which multinational pharmaceutical companies can peddle their pharmaceuticals (we can cure you with our SSRls). It goes without saying that all mental illnesses are neurologically instantiated, but this says nothing about their causation. If it is true, for instance, that depression is constituted by low serotonin levels, what still needs to be explained is why particular individuals have low levels of serotonin. This requires a social and political explanation; and the task of repoliticizing mental illness is an urgent one if the left wants to challenge capitalist realism.” 67 likes
“Capitalist realism insists on treating mental health as if it were a natural fact, like weather (but, then again, weather is no longer a natural fact so much as a political-economic effect). In the 1960s and 1970s, radical theory and politics (Laing, Foucault, Deleuze and Guattari, etc.) coalesced around extreme mental conditions such as schizophrenia, arguing, for instance, that madness was not a natural, but a political, category. But what is needed now is a politicization of much more common disorders. Indeed, it is their very commonness which is the issue: in Britain, depression is now the condition that is most treated by the NHS. In his book The Selfish Capitalist, Oliver James has convincingly posited a correlation between rising rates of mental distress and the neoliberal mode of capitalism practiced in countries like Britain, the USA and Australia. In line with James’s claims, I want to argue that it is necessary to reframe the growing problem of stress (and distress) in capitalist societies. Instead of treating it as incumbent on individuals to resolve their own psychological distress, instead, that is, of accepting the vast privatization of stress that has taken place over the last thirty years, we need to ask: how has it become acceptable that so many people, and especially so many young people, are ill?” 32 likes
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