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Capitalist Realism 10 Years On

This weekend I had the pleasure of attending and presenting a paper at a conference at the University of Huddersfield on Mark Fisher’s Capitalist Realism in order to discuss its ongoing relevance 10 years after its publication. It was a great experience, and the first time I’ve attended or presented at a conference, so a little nerve-wracking. As luck would have it, I developed an ear infection three days prior to the conference meaning I could not hear out of my left ear, but I went ahead anyway. Hopefully I didn’t embarrass myself too much! Here’s the abstract for my paper:

Mark Fisher’s Capitalist Realism provokes us to think more deeply about our relationship to the past, the slow cancellation of the future, the possibility of post-capitalism, and the ways in which ideas of nostalgia and authenticity manufacture consent for the prevailing image of thought. Capitalist Realism is the slow cancellation of the future: both the past and the future are simultaneously dead and alive; they persist, and haunt our present at every moment. My paper starts with some remarks on cultural phenomena such as vaporwave and progressive rock, as well as the relation between history, authenticity, and ’new tourism’, before using the aporia represented by the book’s conclusion as a point of departure for thinking about desire and post-capitalism, history and ideology. This will also draw on Fisher’s other work, particularly Terminator vs Avatar and Post-Capitalist Desire, as well as work by Nietzsche, Franco “Bifo” Berardi, Heidegger, and the Frankfurt School. The central tension which Fisher recognises is the same as for Deleuze and Guattari: between ‘resistance’ to the prevailing forces of global capitalism and a return to a Fordist labour society, and the possibility of a vision of society after Capitalism which is increasingly ‘precuperated’ by Capitalism itself. How do we square Fisher’s call for a more libidinally-free society and a ‘designer socialism’ with a seemingly infinitely plastic system which can very well incorporate all such demands? Can we imagine a future which does not resemble the present?

Thankfully all the attendees were incredible – great people and I learned a lot. Of particular interest to me were Jorge Boehringer’s “The Enormous Festival and its Discontents”, Peter Conlin’s “Atmospheres of infrastructure and the infrastructure of atmosphere: Eerie sites and the political imagination”, and Pedro Alvarez’s “A Revolution to Dance to: The cultural dimension of the 2019 anti-neoliberal revolts in Latin America” which provided a much-needed global corrective to the anglocentrism of Capitalist Realism. It was also a pleasure to hear Matt Colquhoun (Xenogothic) speak about his book “Egress: On Mourning, Melancholy and Mark Fisher” and to have the chance to pick his brains on a number of different topics during smoke breaks and during a ‘long table’ discussion.

At some point I may turn what I wrote/presented into a post on here, though it draws on ideas I’ve explored here previously, so I worry it might be a little redundant.

I’m also in the process of writing the first chapter of my PhD thesis (or the first draft of the first chapter). The basic problematic is the work of William E. Connolly (for whom I have enormous respect and admiration), and in particular the way in which he uses Deleuze, Foucault, and Nietzsche in developing a theory of radical democratic pluralism. At this stage three questions animate the project: What does he do with these thinkers? How does he smooth over their radicalism? And what can be done to recover the radicalism of these thinkers while preserving the many important ideas developed in Connolly’s own writing? The hope is to eventually provoke a more genuinely ‘radical’ democratic theory by performing a sort of deconstructive reading, reading against the grain of his texts. This means connecting up certain ideas in New Materialist ontology with ideology/noology, and a generally left reading of Deleuze. That’s the gist of it for now anyway.

By Matthew

I run this blog. Interested in political theology, critical theory, power, populism, ideology, science fiction, and extreme metal.

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