This session will consider the affective dimension of capitalism and the role of art, artists, teachers and intellectuals within capitalism. Adopting Mark Fisher's subjective approach, we will unpick the relationships between art, entertainment, labour, ideology and capitalism by addressing our own experiences. What contradictions do we face in our practice and labour? How do these situations make us feel? How can we respond productively to these contradictions in our everyday life?
Mark Fisher’s starting point is Margaret Thatcher’s slogan “There Is No Alternative”, which became the mantra of neoliberalism. This ideology eventually pervaded cultural discourse in the form of widespread and uncritical resignation to the idea that capitalism is the only viable political economic system. This ideology is reinforced by encroaching managerialism, “where there's no other available language or conceptual model for how we understand life, work, or society, except that of business” (Fisher and Capes, 2011). Writing in 2009, Fisher argues that far from being discredited after the financial crisis of 2008, capitalism has transformed into “market Stalinism” instead. He unpicks the bureaucratic culture of pointless targets, audits and assessments and its impact on mental health.
Capitalist Realism is an urgent, and therefore sketchy, attempt to understand the contradictions and pathologies of capitalism, and to distil a set of observations on environmental catastrophe, mental health and bureaucracy. Fisher argues that the left needs to shift the focus from anti-capitalism to post-capitalism in a mobilisation that is collective, practical and experimental.
“If capitalist realism is so seamless, and if current forms of resistance are so hopeless and impotent, where can an effective challenge come from?” —Mark Fisher, Capitalist Realism, p. 16
[SYMPOSIUM] is a monthly reading group on the intersections between art practice and critical theory. Everyone is welcome to propose a text and facilitate the reading group. For more information, to download the text and book your place please visit the website.