Author Topic: Mark Fisher/Critiques of Capitalism and modern life  (Read 2528 times)

Twit 2

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Mark Fisher/Critiques of Capitalism and modern life
« on: April 11, 2018, 05:03:53 PM »
Thought I’d start a new thread rather than bump an old Fisher one or add this to the general books  thread.

So I read Capitalist Realism and thought it was very thought-provoking and lucid. He mostly avoided the abstract jargon-filled style of those he draws on (Zizek, Deleuze and Jameson mostly). I thought it was at its most successful when he could tie his theories to relatable examples such as his experience of being a lecturer, with its nightmarish bureaucracy and disaffected students.

Any recommendations for similar stuff? Critiques of capitalism tend to be so infuriatingly written so stuff that avoids this would be good.

buttgammon

  • You can't trust a man what's made of gas
Re: Mark Fisher/Critiques of Capitalism and modern life
« Reply #1 on: April 11, 2018, 05:34:21 PM »
There's a very interesting and provactive (and sometimes troubling) book called The Accelerationist Reader that gathers a lot of relevant material to this; Mark Fisher has one or two pieces in it. It also has excerpts of older works by Marx, Deleuze, Lyotard and others, but it leans more heavily on the recent stuff. I haven't read all of it, and would recommend skipping Nick Land's bits if you're remotely sensible, but there are some interesting ideas floating around there (and some nonsense as well, but that's par for the course with stuff like this).

I wouldn't exactly place him in this category, but David Harvey is a theorist who has written about a lot of similar areas and seems quite accessible. I've found his books A Brief History of Neoliberalism and The Enigma of Capital very useful and informative with the economic side of things, but he also wrote a very important book called The Condition of Postmodernity, which takes a broad look at social, cultural and economic change, without losing sight of some of the problems with postmodernist theorists. It came out in the 80s but still feels fresh and interesting.

As for Deleuze, I like him, but he can be a maddening writer, to the point that a lot of his stuff is impenetrable. Although Deleuze and Guattari wrote some very important stuff, I also think they could be a bit of a toxic combination; I've read one or two of his earlier things that he wrote on his own and while they're no less opaque, they do seem a bit more...measured.

My mind's drawing a bit of a blank at the moment but this sounds like my area, so I'll hopefully be able to come up with some more recommendations later. All I'll say is avoid Bataille's The Accursed Share and Lyotard's Libidinal Economy unless you want to get a headache. They're two books I've recently tried - and failed - with.

Large Noise

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Re: Mark Fisher/Critiques of Capitalism and modern life
« Reply #2 on: April 11, 2018, 07:58:06 PM »
Quote
Jameson
I read Postmodernism, or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism and thought it was a bunch of impenetrable bollocks with the occasional insight sprinkled throughout. It's so fucking difficult to decipher what he's saying at times that I could only conclude he wasn't saying anything worthwhile. David Foster Wallace famously cited Jameson as an example of terrible prose, and that was certainly my experience.

Capitalist Realism was quite interesting, but it's a couple of years since I read it and I can't really remember too much about it other than its discussion of Childern of Men.

Haven't read any Zizek or Deleuze. Was slightly put off Deleuze by the Sokal wrote about him. Also unsure about Zizek because I'm not sure how much value there is in that Freudian/Lacanian form of analysis. I mean, a lot of it has been debunked. I'd like to know more about that whole debate and subject area though. I probably sound quite dismissive of it, but it's more a case of being unsure whether it's worth spending a lot of time and energy on.

marquis_de_sad

  • I only wrote that poem to test my printer!
Re: Mark Fisher/Critiques of Capitalism and modern life
« Reply #3 on: April 11, 2018, 10:51:11 PM »
Mark Fisher was quite a formative influence on me, but I find the whole 'continental theory' stuff to be mainly a load of rubbish these days. Psychoanalysis in particular is just wank.

Alex Williams and Nick Srnicek have written about similar things (although not with the pop-cultural slant of Fisher).

Oh and I second David Harvey, who is a lot easier to read than most.

Large Noise

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Re: Mark Fisher/Critiques of Capitalism and modern life
« Reply #4 on: April 12, 2018, 03:37:49 AM »
I've got that Williams and Srnicek book sitting unread. Got that and Paul Mason's Post Capitalism at about the same time and for whatever reason read one but not the other.

David Harvey's another one I've been meaning to read. Saw someone (I think it might have been Aaron Bastani) on twitter saying that he's a big influence on him and the newer UK left in general.

Cuellar

  • MUSKATNUSS, HERR MULLER
Re: Mark Fisher/Critiques of Capitalism and modern life
« Reply #5 on: April 12, 2018, 10:00:44 AM »
Was just listening to some of his talks on youtube. Made me want to read Capitalist Realism.

He said something in one of them that gave me an idea for a thread in Oscillations actually. He suggested that if you beamed any 21st century music back to 1994, people of that time would 'recognise' it as music (i.e. get where the music came from). It was part of a wider point about the flattening out of the future, and also I suppose that we don't have anything really 'new'. He compared it to, say, someone in 1970 beaming music back to 1950 - what would a 50s audience's reaction be to some of the music that came out in the 70s.

Made me wonder if this was actually true. There must be SOME 21st century music that is so avant-garde and recherché that it would confound an audience of 20 years ago.

Mark Fisher's is quite a sad story. In some of his talks on youtube you can tell he's genuinely angry and upset at the state of the world; it's not detached academic theorising.

Twit 2

  • All impotence, no impetus
Re: Mark Fisher/Critiques of Capitalism and modern life
« Reply #6 on: April 12, 2018, 10:14:52 AM »
Yeah, I don’t think it’s massively healthy for your area of interest to be ‘why everything is shit’. A lot of my favourite miserablists have an art/literature background so I get the impression that their love of that carries them through the nihilism. Not many crumbs of comfort in dry, poorly written continental philosophy. I read a lot of Adorno in my youth, for example, and he really was a dreary fuckless git. Compare to a young ultra-nihilist Cioran, with his proto-Lynch shock of hair, chain-smoking in grave yards, banging street whores etc - lived to a ripe old age with a twinkle in his eyes.

Re: Mark Fisher/Critiques of Capitalism and modern life
« Reply #7 on: April 12, 2018, 10:24:28 AM »
Psychoanalysis, like pretty much all of the canonical academic disciplines, is useful for reading up to a point. Ultimately, though economic and social theory can explain much about patterns and systems, we have to contend with individual agency; that we're not all wired the same, that we are not products of pure rationality (quite the opposite!) and that our ability to recognise ourselves as individual creates interesting tensions that rupture these wider axioms. Of course neuroscience is an empirical discipline and has erased a lot of the "facts" of the work of your big three of psychoanalysis (Lacan, Freud, Jung). But I don't think the 'debunking' of psychoanalysis as science fact makes its usefulness to read cinema and literature any less valid. I'd take a Lacanian/Zizekian view of Hitchcock over that of any of their debunkers because it dares to actually dive into that unknowable and unquantifiable murk and suggest something.

for me the most eye-opening book in terms of capitalist critique was EP Thompson's The Making of the English Working Class. incredible bit of history with real feel and humanity without being leaky-eyed. the whole section about the church-and-king mobs and the anti-jacobins could just be transposed to the media demonisation of any marginalia now.

buttgammon

  • You can't trust a man what's made of gas
Re: Mark Fisher/Critiques of Capitalism and modern life
« Reply #8 on: April 12, 2018, 10:25:46 AM »
Yeah, I don’t think it’s massively healthy for your area of interest to be ‘why everything is shit’. A lot of my favourite miserablists have an art/literature background so I get the impression that their love of that carries them through the nihilism. Not many crumbs of comfort in dry, poorly written continental philosophy. I read a lot of Adorno in my youth, for example, and he really was a dreary fuckless git. Compare to a young ultra-nihilist Cioran, with his proto-Lynch shock of hair, chain-smoking in grave yards, banging street whores etc - lived to a ripe old age with a twinkle in his eyes.

Adorno can be a mixed bag. I've never got Minima Moralia, but I love Dialectic of Enlightenment. I've been reading Aesthetic Theory on and off for ages and seem to have more or less given up. I seem to recall thinking the first chapter or so was brilliant, but reading it was like wading in treacle after that point.

I'd definitely recommend Walter Benjamin, though. He had an interesting word about more or less everything, and left an enormous body of work despite the fact that he died young. My introduction to Benjamin was a nice little volume One-Way Street, which has some great bits of writing about the city in his time and also some essays about Proust, surrealism, and the changes art has undergone due to changes in capitalism.

Twit 2

  • All impotence, no impetus
Re: Mark Fisher/Critiques of Capitalism and modern life
« Reply #9 on: April 12, 2018, 10:42:16 AM »
Oh yes, love Benjamin. The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reprodiction is one of the most important essays of the 20th century. I’ve read Illuminations and Reflections and I’ve got his complete Arcades Project on my shelf, but I’ve only dipped into it. Another one who liked himself, too.

buttgammon

  • You can't trust a man what's made of gas
Re: Mark Fisher/Critiques of Capitalism and modern life
« Reply #10 on: April 12, 2018, 11:16:10 AM »
Oh, he certainly did!

I've had a look at Arcades Project but no more than flicking through it and reading a random chapter here and there. Even if he didn't die prematurely, I'm convinced it would have remained unfinished - it seems like the sort of work that is impossible to complete.

marquis_de_sad

  • I only wrote that poem to test my printer!
Re: Mark Fisher/Critiques of Capitalism and modern life
« Reply #11 on: April 12, 2018, 04:27:56 PM »
But I don't think the 'debunking' of psychoanalysis as science fact makes its usefulness to read cinema and literature any less valid. I'd take a Lacanian/Zizekian view of Hitchcock over that of any of their debunkers because it dares to actually dive into that unknowable and unquantifiable murk and suggest something.

I tend to agree with the Post Theory critique that the problem with Zizek and co is that they go looking for confirmation of psychoanalytic theory in films and regularly force their interpretations.

for me the most eye-opening book in terms of capitalist critique was EP Thompson's The Making of the English Working Class. incredible bit of history with real feel and humanity without being leaky-eyed. the whole section about the church-and-king mobs and the anti-jacobins could just be transposed to the media demonisation of any marginalia now.

Totally agree, a great book. In fact, history was the thing that really made plain for me the weakness of psychoanalytic and — for want of a better term — postmodernist approaches. Richard J Evans, in his In Defence of History, is good on this sort of thing.

Famous Mortimer

  • War - it's fantastic!
    • International Syndicate of Cult Film Critics
Re: Mark Fisher/Critiques of Capitalism and modern life
« Reply #12 on: April 12, 2018, 04:59:23 PM »
for me the most eye-opening book in terms of capitalist critique was EP Thompson's The Making of the English Working Class. incredible bit of history with real feel and humanity without being leaky-eyed. the whole section about the church-and-king mobs and the anti-jacobins could just be transposed to the media demonisation of any marginalia now.
Yes yes yes

I thought I had more to say about this, but it's just really good.

Funcrusher

  • Been shot up more times than Tom Mix
Re: Mark Fisher/Critiques of Capitalism and modern life
« Reply #13 on: April 12, 2018, 05:43:31 PM »
I also found 'Capitalist Realism' a good read, while going through a 'restructuring' at work and waiting to see if I would lose my job.

Franco 'Bifo' Berardi writes along the same lines as Fisher and liked his work - I've read 'The Uprising' and enjoyed it. 'The Soul at Work' is well rated as well.

Walden Bello's ' Capitalism's Last Stand' is interesting as a critique from someone from the global South.
http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/europpblog/2013/09/29/book-review-capitalisms-last-stand-deglobalisation-in-the-age-of-austerity/

Mark Fisher was also a man after my own heart on identity politics. RIP:

https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/mark-fisher/exiting-vampire-castle

buttgammon

  • You can't trust a man what's made of gas
Re: Mark Fisher/Critiques of Capitalism and modern life
« Reply #14 on: April 12, 2018, 06:22:48 PM »
Just thought of something relevant that I read recently: Psychopolitics by Byung-Chul Han, which is a very slender but very interesting book. A lot of it deals with big data, but he has a lot to say about contemporary capitalism in general, particularly about the way in which it plays on and relates to our emotions.

marquis_de_sad

  • I only wrote that poem to test my printer!
Re: Mark Fisher/Critiques of Capitalism and modern life
« Reply #15 on: April 12, 2018, 07:00:40 PM »
Good shout on Bifo, his After the Future was good (although thinking about it now I don't seem to remember much of it).

Byung-Chul Han looks interesting, will have to give him a read. According to wikipedia he's a Hegelian, which always makes me apprehensive.

Someone else who writes about the history of neoliberalism is Philip Mirowski. Bit of a dictionary basher, stylistically, but gives an in-depth overview of the history neoliberalism from an economic perspective in his Never Let a Serious Crisis Go to Waste.

Mark Fisher was also a man after my own heart on identity politics. RIP:

https://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/mark-fisher/exiting-vampire-castle

I take it you weren't a big reader of his blog? Fisher used masculine terms as pejoratives all the time, in a way that I'm sure you'd object to.

Funcrusher

  • Been shot up more times than Tom Mix
Re: Mark Fisher/Critiques of Capitalism and modern life
« Reply #16 on: April 12, 2018, 07:08:55 PM »

I take it you weren't a big reader of his blog? Fisher used masculine terms as pejoratives all the time, in a way that I'm sure you'd object to.

Never come across anything by him I've objected to, apart, probably, from some of his opinions on music as an acolyte of the whole 'Nuum business.

marquis_de_sad

  • I only wrote that poem to test my printer!
Re: Mark Fisher/Critiques of Capitalism and modern life
« Reply #17 on: April 12, 2018, 07:20:41 PM »
Yeah I wasn't really convinced by that either, and he often pushed to far in that direction in order to confirm his idea that music had stopped evolving. I incline more towards Adam Harper's “infinite music” thesis, that was partly a refutation of that idea.

Funcrusher

  • Been shot up more times than Tom Mix
Re: Mark Fisher/Critiques of Capitalism and modern life
« Reply #18 on: April 12, 2018, 07:46:38 PM »
Yeah I wasn't really convinced by that either, and he often pushed to far in that direction in order to confirm his idea that music had stopped evolving. I incline more towards Adam Harper's “infinite music” thesis, that was partly a refutation of that idea.

My grand intellectual objection is that Simon Reynolds is rude about Carl Craig in his poxy book so all of that lot can piss off. I suppose there is a musical continuum from hardcore/ jungle through to garage, but it was mostly about them bigging up the more banging kind of tunes they liked (I would argue as former rock/'arsequake' types), although I'm probably some kind of gentrifier in their eyes because I will always unapologetically revere Detroit techno. Having not even bothered to think about it in years, it occurs to me that as a winnowing out of the breakbeat based import tracks some Brits liked from early house/techno, ardcore could be argued to be a redux of northern soul, jazz dance and rare groove, which would piss that lot off I would imagine. And UK garage is just British kids copying Todd Edwards imports.

marquis_de_sad

  • I only wrote that poem to test my printer!
Re: Mark Fisher/Critiques of Capitalism and modern life
« Reply #19 on: April 12, 2018, 09:14:37 PM »
Yes, agree with all that. Fisher and Reynolds' insistence that the jungle music of their youth was the last 'shock of the new' in music is obviously tied to their own personal experiences. Jungle was highly derivative (in a good way), it just emphasised certain elements like most styles of music.

Still, I do feel like there's something in Reynolds' 'retromania' idea, it's just that when you think about it it's only a more exaggerated version of a trend that's been going on for a very long time.

Re: Mark Fisher/Critiques of Capitalism and modern life
« Reply #20 on: April 12, 2018, 09:30:03 PM »
John Maus wrote an interesting and manic piece that touched on his feelings on Retromania and Reynolds (who he likes), I thought they were very interesting and made me consider things in a different light. Here he is talking about it in terms of Ariel Pink, who is often considered an artist in the throes of such post-modern construction.

Quote
In the absence of any time here I would invite anyone who considers their vocation the criticism and/or analysis of popular music, especially those intent on writing book length elaborations, to get out some staff paper and a pen, and transcribe any single one of Ariel's songs (or at least almost any single one). Only in this way will we begin to hear what is actually happening on its own level. I believe there is truth to the idea that a piece of music cannot really be understood until it has been played, or at the very least, analyzed along the lines I am suggesting. If you have any doubts, try for yourself. They may look like simple send ups or whatever, but they are not, not in the least. By all means say the thing sounds like x combined with y, that was influenced somehow, but then please, do us all the favor of showing us just exactly how this is the case. "Among Dreams?" What possible precedent is there in all of music, nevermind pop, for "Among Dreams?" Is it a retroliscious looking  back upon the BeeGees or something because he sings falsetto? There is not anything like it anywhere ever. Listening from beginning to end, from part to whole, from voice to voice, and all of that, means to listen to the thing as it is capable of becoming and on its own terms.

The full tract is here http://adhoc.fm/post/re-dear-john-maus-how-are-you/ and just generally speaking Maus has been a good gateway onto various thinkers.

I realise this is a sidebar and is off the point but I think I generally prefer critiques of capitalism that invoke material practices rather than hauntology/retromania/psychogeography which can quickly seem like jacking off. David Harvey, Eric Hobsbawm, EP Thompson, Teresa Ebert, those kinds of people.

Funcrusher

  • Been shot up more times than Tom Mix
Re: Mark Fisher/Critiques of Capitalism and modern life
« Reply #21 on: April 12, 2018, 09:37:59 PM »
I have to concede that Reynolds is right about the retro stuff. From the little of Ariel Pink that I've heard he's doing something a bit more interesting than just retro rock.

Mark Steels Stockbroker

  • Lost in the former West
Re: Mark Fisher/Critiques of Capitalism and modern life
« Reply #22 on: April 12, 2018, 11:28:39 PM »
Good shout on Bifo, his After the Future was good (although thinking about it now I don't seem to remember much of it).

The only memorable bit is the remark about "Berlusconi and his perky banqueters in government".

Re: Mark Fisher/Critiques of Capitalism and modern life
« Reply #23 on: April 13, 2018, 02:17:35 AM »
I think one reason why people dislike Adorno is that he requires such a deep reflection on the way capitalist culture has irradiated one's whole existence, one's personality, one's persuits. He grew up before it became such an overwhelming totality and thus had one foot just outside of it, although he acknowledged that we're all part of the masses now.

As someone, just like everyone else on this board, socialised by mass culture I find it hard to anthing like completely refuse (though I have given up following professional sport recently). I also cannot help but find aspects of popular culture still valid in some way.

Do any of the writers you've talked about address in any way Adorno's cultural critique?

Re: Mark Fisher/Critiques of Capitalism and modern life
« Reply #24 on: April 13, 2018, 02:52:40 AM »
"As I read him, for Walter Benjamin the problem of modernity is that there has been this loss of experience. He says, not only have we lost emphatic experience, but we’re now getting to the point where we’re losing the memory of that loss. In writing the history of the 19th century, Benjamin was writing the history of that loss before we forget it completely. Benjamin talks about warfare in that way, that warfare used to be something that was experienced by people not totally governed by generals behind the lines or politicians thousands of miles away.

For Benjamin the trauma suffered by participants of the First World War was living through something they could not experience. The role of experience gets replaced by technology, by bureaucracy, by the market, by all these things until there’s no place for us as individuals in the world at all. Without experience, we are in some literal sense dead to the world."

https://brooklynrail.org/2007/09/art/berstein

Mark Steels Stockbroker

  • Lost in the former West
Re: Mark Fisher/Critiques of Capitalism and modern life
« Reply #25 on: April 13, 2018, 08:07:58 AM »
With regard to psychoanalysis: we haven't been waiting around all these years for the neuroscientists to enlighten us. There is already a decisive critical literature against it, starting with a reexamination of the gulf between Freud's clinical evidence and his theories.

Watching Ghost Stories last night, there was a line that annoyed me: when Andy Nyman gets accused of "reducing everything to atoms and molecules" when in fact there is nothing in his practice that actually does or depends on that, despite what he thinks. It is possible to doubt whether Lacan has any value without being committed to either positivism or eliminative materialism. But it seems any discussion around issues irretrievably linked to the Sokal Hoax rapidly descends into cultural stereotypes about Soulless Scientists versus Spiritual Values & Everything Worthwhile. Taking account of Individual Agency was something that critics and theorists were doing for hundreds of years before Freud, it is not distinctively psychoanalytic, unless you are blurring that term out to include psychology in general, rather than specific theories that give a special role to The Unconscious (a concept that can criticised and rejected like any other).

With regard to the impact of Lacan on Film Theory, a criticism I have read is that Colin MacCabe's promotion of that work is that led to sidelining of other approaches, such as sociological investigations into the construction of films as commercial products, who makes decisions based on what. Psychoanalysis is by no means the only method of inquiry available. That is if you're interested in inquiry, rather than just sounding off about how you feel.

Mark Steels Stockbroker

  • Lost in the former West
Re: Mark Fisher/Critiques of Capitalism and modern life
« Reply #26 on: April 13, 2018, 08:10:06 AM »
My take: Adorno's Minima Moralia and Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations are 2 fragments of the same book.

Mark Steels Stockbroker

  • Lost in the former West
Re: Mark Fisher/Critiques of Capitalism and modern life
« Reply #27 on: April 13, 2018, 08:12:47 AM »
Incidentally, Repeater books will be printing an anthology of Mark Fisher's blogs in November:

https://repeaterbooks.com/post_authors/mark-fisher/

buttgammon

  • You can't trust a man what's made of gas
Re: Mark Fisher/Critiques of Capitalism and modern life
« Reply #28 on: April 13, 2018, 10:31:00 AM »
I think one reason why people dislike Adorno is that he requires such a deep reflection on the way capitalist culture has irradiated one's whole existence, one's personality, one's persuits. He grew up before it became such an overwhelming totality and thus had one foot just outside of it, although he acknowledged that we're all part of the masses now.

As someone, just like everyone else on this board, socialised by mass culture I find it hard to anthing like completely refuse (though I have given up following professional sport recently). I also cannot help but find aspects of popular culture still valid in some way.

Do any of the writers you've talked about address in any way Adorno's cultural critique?

This is interesting. I wouldn't say I dislike Adorno per se, but I've had some problems with his stuff (especially Minima Moralia) and it may well be that - we're all so deeply interpellated into the capitalist world that his sense of perspective is something that we can't entirely identify with any more.

I'm trying to think of people who address or advance his critique and am struggling a bit. In terms of explaining how consumed we have become by capitalism, I suppose the more recent psychoanalysis-inclined theorists look at that, and I think Byung Chul-Han touches on it too. I recently read Derrida's Spectres of Marx and have been trying to conceive of capitalism as some sort of inescapable ghostly presence ever since, but it's an idea I need to develop more.

Re: Mark Fisher/Critiques of Capitalism and modern life
« Reply #29 on: April 13, 2018, 12:11:03 PM »
Psychoanalysis is by no means the only method of inquiry available. That is if you're interested in inquiry, rather than just sounding off about how you feel.

agree with what you said completely but I just feel duty bound to defend the approach as part of a wider curriculum (i teach it as a week in approaches to film). i'd give a wide berth to anyone who comes purely through the aperture of psychoanalysis though.