Review: Capitalist Realism

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It is easier to imagine an end to the world than an end to capitalism.

I couldn’t stay away from a book titled, CAPITALIST REALISM: IS THERE NO ALTERNATIVE? Give whoever came up with that title a medal, maybe that was even author Mark Fisher himself. Regardless, this is a brief, but piercing examination of post-modern thinking surrounding our economic and cross cultural malaise when it comes to thinking “beyond capital.”

Fisher lays out the primary premise of this book, which is also succinctly laid out in the title. We have come to an impasse that we cannot imagine anything beyond capitalism. We cannot even fathom a working system that does not work apart from it. This train of thought then has repercussions across all spheres of human life, because capitalism by nature is a utilitarian, exploitative system that squeezes everything for profit. This oppression only becomes that much more crushing when there is no “light at the end of the tunnel.”

I very much appreciated his emphasis on mental health and how how society/culture gaslights individuals into think that it’s not because of society that you feel mentally sick(but it is). This idea of capitalism being so pervading and entrapping, alongside the market’s demands for more production, more time, more control, and more attention, it is no wonder we have a mental health crisis. Sadly, when writing this review I learned that Fisher himself committed suicide back in 2016, and that he struggled with depression. It makes sense that he chose to emphasize this malfeasance within broader culture, because he seems to have struggled with it himself.

Stepping away from these rather grim overtones, Fisher does his best in academic fashion to lighten this with pop culture examples that are easy to connect with and draw out the abstractions he uses. Opening with CHILDREN OF MEN immediately drew me in, since it is one of my favorite films and though he alludes to the book the film is based on by P. D. James, he parallels the feelings of powerlessness felt by the main characters in the film by our own now in the face of rampant “capitalist realism.” Using modern and contemporary thinkers like Deleuze and Žižek, he explains his points thoroughly and in under 100 pages, which to me is a feat in academic writing.

I will be honest, I am a bit out of practice to be honest with some of the more academic jargon-y terms Fisher uses, but thanks to his pop-culture theorist spirit, the book itself isn’t the hardest to read or understand. If you’re interested in cultural criticism and critiques of capitalism, then look no further than this book and Fisher, himself.

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