Notes from Mark Fisher and Samira Ariadad
This is my thoughts from the seminar with Mark Fisher, author of Capitalist Realism and the blog K-punk, and Samira Ariadad, editor of the Brand magazine. I don’t know if my goal when writing this is to conclude the seminar or to comment it. But it will be a comment no matter what, since my notes from Fisher and my comments during the seminar i wildly intermixed in my note document. I haven’t read Capitalist Realism yet, and it should be noted that the topics I write about mostly concern the topics I have a personal interest in. If you want to read all my notes (which contain a lot more than this text), it can be done here.
1. What is capitalist realism?
The source of the idea is Margaret Thatcher’s claim “There is no alternative [to capitalism]”. When Thatcher uttered the words, it was a moral claim. No system seemed better than capitalism, morally, politicaly, compared in efficiency (to many).* Today, however, it has become an ontological claim. We really see no alternative. Capitalist realism is psychic structure risen inside of capitalism, telling us that any other way of governing a society is ontologically impossible.
In addition to this, a paradox has risen. We hate capitalism. We hate that the banks are ripping us off. We hate that we can’t get any stable jobs. We hate what kinds of persons capitalism makes us into. There is a large wave of anti-capitalism. “When was the last time you saw a Hollywood movie about a company acting good?” But since we can’t see any alternative, we don’t change it. We may not have any faith in capitalism, but we don’t have any faith in anything else either.
2. The part of culture in the neo-liberal society
One of the important parts of the post-fordist superstructure is the thought that everyone can get employed, if they only try hard enough. If you only pull your socks up, you can get employed. Only you can help yourself to this. If you were just willing to put in some effort, you could become an entrepreneur and get rich.
Mark Fisher spoke a lot of the Fairy Jobmother, a television series that pushes this ideological superstructure. But Fairy Jobmother is just a part of it. We’ve got a whole culture enforcing the lie that social injustices isn’t a political, but a individual problem. When people start to see the political problems as individual problems, they stop to fight politically and in the union. Instead, they only rely on themselves, and they start to expect less from society and politics. They no longer expect their rights as a worker to be respected. They no longer expect health care to be cheap. They no longer expect to get a job.
3. Therapy and drugs
Instead of fighting through unions and politics, they go to therapy. The depression capitalism forces them into is no longer converted to a constructive anger against capitalism, but a self-pathological problem that needs to be treated. But political anger is not self-pathological.
The capitalist society, along with an intensification of society, has increased our stress and depression. In the fordist society, we had the “luxury” of having a stable job situation and a secured supply of food, and a couple of hours of boredom each day. Now, we’re never free. Belonging to the precariat means being your own boss. You have to work all the time to become “employable”. You have to check your mail all the time, you have to check your social media accounts, you have to work on your personal trademark. You can never rest unproductively.
And of course, this is stressful. So we cure it with anti-depressants. Then we work harder to afford these anti-depressants. What we should do is to recognize our problems and fight the cause, the capitalist society. But instead, we eat drugs to be satisfied with being depressed. This should be viewed in the same sense as Marx’ critique of religion. But instead of religion being the opium of the people, opium is now the opium of the people.
4. Capitalism and the anti-communism propaganda
Neo-liberal propaganda claims that left wing political all lead to what we see as bad with communism, we picture a generic, non-personal, corporativist, authoritarian, bureaucratic society. But what has capitalism led us to? The culture of Starbucks, McDonalds and Wal-Mart can’t be said to be anything else than a generic, non-personal monoculture. Our society is extremely monitored. Where we don’t have cops, we have rented guards en masse. We’re all victims of a state and a European Union where we have zero influence, since it’s run by corporate lobbyists and bureaucrats.
Apparently then, capitalism leads to a generic, non-personal, corporativist, authoritarian, bureaucratic society. If this is what the people want, then I’m sure communism can do it too, but better. At least a generic, non-personal, corporativistic, authoritarian bureaucractic communist society would have it’s welfare and political power equally distributed.
* This claim is interesting from the viewpoint of historical materialism too, since historical materialism (according to Marx and Engels) claims in the preface to the Contribution to the critique of the political economy that “No social order is ever destroyed before all the productive forces for which it is sufficient have been developed, and new superior relations of production never replace older ones before the material conditions for their existence have matured within the framework of the old society.” That is interesting, but quite another subject than the subject for this post.