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Capitalist Realism: Is there no alternative? (Zero Books) Paperback – December 16, 2009

3.7 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


Let's not beat around the bush: Fisher's compulsively readable book is simply the best diagnosis of our predicament that we have! Through examples from daily life and popular culture, but without sacrificing theoretical stringency, he provides a ruthless portrait of our ideological misery. Although the book is written from a radically Left perspective, Fisher offers no easy solutions. Capitalist Realism is a sobering call for patient theoretical and political work. It enables us to breathe freely in our sticky atmosphere. -- Slavoj Zizek

What happened to our future? Mark Fisher is a master cultural diagnostician, and in Capitalist Realism he surveys the symptoms of our current cultural malaise. We live in a world in which we have been told, again and again, that There Is No Alternative. The harsh demands of the 'just-in-time' marketplace have drained us of all hope and all belief. Living in an endless Eternal Now, we no longer seem able to imagine a future that might be different from the present. This book offers a brilliant analysis of the pervasive cynicism in which we seem to be mired, and even holds out the prospect of an antidote. -- Steven Shaviro, Author of Connected and Doom Patrols

About the Author

Mark Fisher is a writer and lecturer who maintains a highly successful weblog. He lives in the UK.

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Product Details

  • Series: Zero Books
  • Paperback: 81 pages
  • Publisher: Zero Books (December 16, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846943175
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846943171
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 0.3 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #97,451 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Anyone who believes Fisher's book is "Zizek-lite" (as in the case of the reviewer below) has clearly neither read Zizek nor Fisher. Zizek's work unfolds in and through the analysis of the cultural register or symbolic formations. While Fisher certainly has much to say about cultural artifacts, he also deftly analyzes contemporary structures of affectivity (such as the recent rise of depressive and anxiety disorders), as well as how the post-Fordist workplace is structured and what challenges these transformations entail for organizing and pursuing emancipatory politics. The reviewer below misses the key point of Fisher's analysis of students and schools today. Fisher is not setting out to *blame* students or shake his cane and declare with exasperation "these kids today!", but rather to analyze the new forms subjectivity is taking within our contemporary milieu and to analyze how the reigning apathy and ubiquitous (yet unsatisfying hedonism) that characterizes our cultural memory is a product of a social structure in which "it is easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism". Just as Voltaire's Candide suggested that we tend our gardens, the new form of subjectivity, discerning no limit to the horizon of capitalism seems to resign itself to dissatisfying small hedonistic pleasures as the only way to render life tolerable within such a hopeless situation. The question, then, is that of how it might become possible to begin imagining an alternative to current historical moment.Read more ›
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
It took me a fairly long time and a second read to come up with an view on Fisher 's brief but fairly deep book. With good engagement with some of the major theorists of postmodern thought Fisher casts a picture of Capital as that which cannot be thought beyond. With deference to a number of the other reviewers, I think it is dismissive of his argument to say there are lots of alternatives. If one believes that, one should confront the argument directly. It seems to me that Capitalism does have an inherent blocking function.

The provisional space Fisher opens is in the development of full blown alternatives to Capitalism that grow out of the promises Capitalism makes and not only does not but cannot keep. Towards the end of this book Fisher gives a number of examples. Capitalism promises an end of bureaucracy, but we live in the most standardised world imaginable. Capitalism promises joy for the individual, but we live in a world of increasing affective disorder. We approach catastrophic ecological collapse. In this space alternatives can be developed.

Again, with respect to other reviewers, I really do not care whether this is Zizek lite or otherwise. There is a well thought out argument here that deserves more engagement and less branding. A good book and heartily recommended.
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Format: Paperback
My brother gave me a book a couple of months ago which I've just managed to read. Interestingly, I read the book just days after being involved in an online discussion about politics. It was a late, tangential, and general contribution to a post on the issue of asylum-seekers in Australia. I began my series of reflections (or, perhaps, rants) by declaring that there was a part of me that felt `blah, blah, blah' about the issue. This was not something I wrote with a sense of sardonic superiority nor a cynicism which might have grown from such a position. Rather, I felt disappointed, frustrated and perhaps even exasperated. Moreover, it was an expression of a response to politics that has been growing for some time now; first articulated, I think, in the aftermath of the last federal election in Australia.

Essentially, I am tired of boring, lazy, uncreative, expedient, conservative politics. I am completely uninterested in a politics that is only different in respect to the story within which it locates itself (and even this can seem barely indistinguishable at time). Ironically perhaps, this lament is, I think, a pretty boring, clichéd, glib statement. Yet, the point remains that I want to see, hear and participate in a truly alternative politics. Yet, it seems any time I have a conversation with someone, it is either explicitly stated or implied that `what we have is the best of the admittedly flawed offerings'. What we have, of course, is some kind of liberal capitalism. Can we really not imagine anything else...anything better?

Mark Fisher begins his book, Capitalist Realism, at this point in the story. Chapter 1 is titled, after Jameson and Zizek, `It's easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism'.
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Format: Paperback
Fisher makes a concise and compelling argument for the politicization of some of the symptoms of capitalist ideology, such as the widespread nature of mental health problems and stifling bureaucracy and audits. In doing so he begins pulling apart some of the latent tensions in today's capitalist system, exposing them as outright contradictions. Curiously he devotes very little space to the ongoing politicization of the ecological crises. But the issues he does address are presented from many different angles: cultural, Marxist, psychoanalytic, social, etc. Not surprisingly, Fisher's argumentation is along the same lines as Zizek's, and he does cite Zizek frequently, as well as a host of other philosophers and cultural critics.

But what distinguishes Fisher's writing from Zizek is that it is much more accesible and clearly written. Even a less diligent reader will be able to nod along to Fisher's writing, instead of scratching his or her head at every paragraph. And unlike some similar literature, this short book is refreshingly optimistic, revealing hidden opportunities for an ideological revolution. If you are concerned about today's social and economic structure--as you should be--but haven't written a thesis on the post-Fordist economy (yet), you need to read this book!
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