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Capitalist Realism: Is there No Alternative?

Event date: 17 January 2011 (14:00-15:30)
Room 151 Birkbeck Main Building


Capitalist Realism: Is there No Alternative?

Mark Fisher in conversation with Amber Jacobs.

Last year Mark Fisher published Capitalist Realism: Is There no Alternative? (Zero Books 2009) in which he addressed the condition of ideological malaise produced by neo-liberal capitalism -or as he puts it- the “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.” The economic crisis has only reinforced and accelerated the rhetoric of capitalist realism that demands that we all must face the hard facts of economic ‘reality’ in our acceptance of the dismantling of the public sector. Fisher argues that now, more than ever, alternatives must be articulated and fought for and the current resistance being lead by students makes this all the more urgent. As Zizek puts it “Fisher’s book is simply the best diagnosis of our predicament that we have.” This research seminar will be organised around a discussion of Capitalist Realism and the questions of theories and practices of resistance, cunning and subversion -which also inform Amber Jacobs’ current research.

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Introduction by Amber Jacobs:

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Mark Fisher:

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discussion:

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  • Gary’s Golden Gondola

    Interesting to hear the reaction of the academics, including the chap in charge of the college’s REF – a total refusal to engage with the idea of Capitalist Realism.

  • Well, it’s not like Fisher (or everyone in the audience) isn’t an academic also. I thought he sort of had a point insofar as Zizek’s political position seems to me to be a purely negative or critical one.

    Up to this point at least.

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  • Lutheren Thanon

    Yeah, I think that is a valid point that Fisher’s constant evocation of Zizekian models seems to be in contradiction with his demand for systematic small acts of resistance in all areas of work and the wider economy. To be honest there were way too many over-generalisation in his presentation, not least his referencing of the capitalist realist left. Who are these people? No leftist would make the sorts of claims he’s attributing. He seems to be getting ‘the left’ confused with certain sections of the Guardian readership.

    My other criticism of his presentation is that he seemed to be preaching to the converted. I don’t think it’s possible to use Lacanian notions like the big Other or the structure of disavowal without some considerable qualification, although I do accept he was presenting to an audience of people many of whom were initiated in the thought he appropriates. The trouble is he like a lot of Zizek’s followers use these terms uncritically as a catch all for a huge range of phenomena. The woman who claimed big Other was an unhelpful term was spot on. Its uncritical usage obscures the far more material and less sexy sounding causes of the attacks on public services. I did enjoy much of Mark’s book but there is a deficit of systematicity and overload of uncritical and hyperbolic rhetoric.