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Capitalist Realism: Is There No Alternative?

(Futuros Próximos #8)

4.23  ·  Rating details ·  8,973 ratings  ·  801 reviews
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, fiction, work and education, it a ...more
Paperback, 81 pages
Published December 16th 2009 by Zero Books (first published November 27th 2009)
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Bodhi So does mine. The only thing for it is to search online for things like "Robert Pfaller interpassivity" and hope for the best -- follow the white rabb…moreSo does mine. The only thing for it is to search online for things like "Robert Pfaller interpassivity" and hope for the best -- follow the white rabbit!(less)

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Dec 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 24, 2011 rated it really liked it
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 alternative to capitalism
Aug 06, 2014 rated it it was ok
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
Aug 13, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015, scribd, british, politics
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 ...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.
Wee Lassie
Oct 24, 2019 rated it it was ok
While reading this if I didn't feel confused, I felt depressed.
Feb 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
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 ‘alternative’
Nov 05, 2012 rated it liked it
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!
Oct 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
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
Dec 11, 2018 rated it it was ok
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 kind of super-ide
Peter (Pete) Mcloughlin
English Department Marxism. The Revolution won't be televised but there will be pop-culture references for your dank meme stash.

Update 1/2/2020 Okay I think I am going to revise my estimation of the book that I originally gave two stars. Upon my second reading either the book changed or more likely barring the Mandela effect my mind has changed. The book is more a study not so much as to the hard analysis of capital, state or geopolitics but more what our current system feels like on the inside
Jul 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The characteristic of a truly successful ideology is that it makes those under its spell unable to even conceive of a universe without it. For a long time religion filled this role. But the advent of secularism seems to have shattered its self-assurance forever among the masses. Today the system that truly reigns as universal and natural is capitalism in various different forms. To put it another way, as others have, today, "it is easier to imagine the end of the world than to imagine the end of ...more
Eren Buğlalılar
Jun 09, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: sosyalbilim
"Market Stalinism", "postmodern capitalist version of maoist confessionalism", "fascism or Stalinism". You can smell that Fisher hated the previous socialist experiments, so much that he grounds his entire critique of capitalism on anti-socialist jargon.

You find plenty of Deleuze, Lacan, Zizek, of course Kafka, plenty of psychologising and references to the popular movies. And a brilliant policy plan for a post-capitalist state: Broadcasting avant garde movies and documentaries to "perplex and
Sep 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
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 alternat
Wendy Liu
Feb 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
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 remains, the vices will
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

RIP Mark Fisher.

The task of repoliticizing mental illness is an urgent one if the left wants to challenge capitalist realism
May 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
Capital, capital, everywhere,
And all the will to live did shrink;
Capital, capital, everywhere,
In an ideological rubble we sink.
Oct 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
"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?
Jan 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
"What exemplifies the failure of the neoliberal world to live up to its own PR than the call center?" (64)
Dec 12, 2018 rated it liked it
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
Mar 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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
Sian Lile-Pastore
Aug 25, 2017 rated it liked it
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
Em Laurent
Apr 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: at-capacity
Written while he was still with us, the late Mark Fisher's Capitalist Realism is an affirmative polemic. Rhetorically, the text posits the question: is there no alternative? I think this text offers many salient points of analysis, from the disappearing public, to the bloating bureaucracy of academia. Fisher draws from the pop and literati to demonstrate how the affective narcissism of the empire of the self, coupled with total business ontology has created a broken, unreflexive demos, that fail ...more
Griffin Alexander
Feb 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: all-school-crit
My first foray into the work of the late Fisher. A good (and entertaining) summation of our current predicament of the ongoing (and therefore non-detectable-as-such) cataclysm of capitalism. There were a lot of interesting asides left unexplored in full (e.g., looking to institutions/economics as primary causes of mental illness; various pop-culture reads on the evolution of sci-fi and gangster movies since the 80s as indicative shifts in economic/power models), but also a lot of synthesizing an ...more
Jun 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Alright so this might be one of the best books I have ever read. It says so much in so few pages. We truly lost a real one, RIP
Rob Trump
Oct 28, 2018 rated it liked it
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
Tvrtko Balić
It sometimes happens that a book is so good that you feel that whatever you say about it would be underselling it and so it is the case here. It is not that it brought me some spiritual revelation, it's not even that I was surprised by anything since I already watched videos on the book and its concepts and read Mark Fisher's articles where he explores the same ideas, it's just really damn good. It offers great constructive criticism of the political state of things in the postmodern condition i ...more
Dec 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
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.

-The depoli
Dec 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
An intensely succinct work.

"Capitalism is what is left when beliefs have collapsed at the level of ritual or symbolic elaboration, and all that is left is the consumer-spectator, trudging through the ruins and the relics" (p.14).

And, as a direction to unleash a bit of the Real into capitalist realism, "the left should argue that it can deliver what neoliberalism signally failed to do: a massive reduction of bureaucracy. What is needed is a new struggle over work and who controls it; an assertion
Oct 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
It's unexpectedly *fun* to read in the voice of the sarcastic and sneering. The good analogies are the bonus.
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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 wit

Other books in the series

Futuros Próximos (1 - 10 of 20 books)
  • Going Public
  • The Wretched of the Screen
  • After Finitude: An Essay on the Necessity of Contingency
  • Towards Speculative Realism: Essays and Lectures
  • Into the Universe of Technical Images
  • Uncreative Writing: Managing Language in the Digital Age
  • Tecnopoéticas Argentinas
  • In the Flow
  • Shanzhai: Deconstruction in Chinese (Untimely Meditations Book 8)
  • La humanidad aumentada: la administración digital del mundo

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There's something great about a paperback book: They're perfect book club choices, you can throw them in your bag and go, and they've been out in...
50 likes · 11 comments
“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.” 102 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?” 65 likes
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