A Brief Book Review: Capitalist Realism: Is There No Alternative? By Mark Fisher

This book is sort of like the modern-day Communist Manifesto. Short, but every sentence carries a vastness of ideas, constructions, and theories that make your head spin. Much like parts about Capital stuck out to me when reading Marx, there definitely were some points that stuck with me more, although I do confess this book is one you must read more than once. Since Fisher’s words and sentences and ideas are extremely dense, instead here are some quotes that were oh-so sticky. (I will only write four quotes so that I don’t end up quoting the whole book itself)

“So long as we believe (in our hearts) that capitalism is bad, we are free to continue to participate in capitalist exchange. According to Žižek, capitalism, in general, relies on this structure of disavowal. We believe that money is only a meaningless token of no intrinsic worth, yet we act as if it has holy value. Moreover, this behavior precisely depends upon the prior disavowal we are able to fetishize money in our actions only because we have already taken an ironic distance towards money in our heads”


“Capitalist realism insists on treating mental health as if it were a natural fact… But what is needed now is a politicization of much more common disorders … Instead of treating it as incumbent on individuals to resolve their psychological distress, instead, that is, of accepting the cast 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? The ‘mental health’ plague in capitalist societies would sunset that, instead of being the only social system that works, capitalism is inherently dysfunctional, and that the cost of it appearing to work is very high”


“If memory disorder proves a compelling analogy for the glitches in capitalist realism, the model for its smooth functioning would be a dream work”


“Instead of saying that everyone – ie every one – is responsible for climate change, we all have to do our bit, it would be better to say that no-one is, and that’s the very problem The cause of eco-catastrophe is an imperial structure which, even though it is capable of producing all manners of effects, is precisely not a subject capable of exercising responsibility. The required subject – a college subject – does not exist, yet the crises, like all other global crises we’re now facing, demands that be constructed”


This book provides a straightforward answer to capitalism’s multi-dimensional problems. Yet in a way, the book is also a juxtaposition: it is so simply put which makes it so hard to understand. Since every word and sentence means so much, it is of its utmost value, it is easy to overlook its brilliance. In some sections I found myself thinking I could refer this book to the young comrade as a beginning text in their journey, other times I found that it was too early for me to be reading this book in my journey to liberation through education. So if you decide to read this book put on your reading glasses and be ready. Be ready to coast through a roller coaster full of ups and downs and moments that will hurt your body. Exhilarating liberation but also times of deep contemplation. 

In memory of the late Mark Fisher

Published by ellakotsen

student at Bryn Mawr College

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