Mark Fisher: Pathologies of Late Capitalism

Mark Fisher: Pathologies of Late Capitalism

Mark Fisher: Pathologies of Late Capitalism

Fisher is not the only author who suspects that our institutions are fostering an illiterate post culture much more in line with their biopolitical needs

Detail of  cover M. Fisher’s book/

License Creative Commons


Andreu Navarra


The multifaceted figure of Mark Fisher fascinates us because he is one of the few recent thinkers who, in addition to providing a diagnosis of what is happening to our society, is capable of proposing solutions: recovery of the promises of the Welfare State, Popular Modernism and bureaucracy reduction of public services. However, Fisher wrote a decade ago, it seems that the problems he observed in British classrooms foreshadowed those that are intensifying among us.

Mark Fisher (1968-2017) published Capitalist Realism. Is there no alternative? in 2009. In an open dialogue with F. Jameson, he wrote that he preferred to call the postmodern era “Late Capitalism” or “Capitalist Realism”, because the latter label did not insist enough on the real face of our culture. We live immersed in Capitalist Realism because we all believe that everything must be managed like a business. That’s what this “realism” consists of: from the disciplinary society we have moved to one of diffuse and liquid surveillance, omnipresent, accepted by all, and based on the irrational production of statistics and behaviour patterns.

Only if we were able to think again about our institutions as bubbles alien to business logic, would we begin to be in a position to unlock our future and stop the bureaucratic dehumanization that deprives us of effective and well-endowed public services. The consequence of living in an overwhelmingly bureaucratic and futureless bubble is the proliferation of mental pathologies that the system strives to “privatize”, in the sense that it tries to attribute them to an individual circumstance, when it would be more sensible to consider that the state of generalized anxiety and depression is due to the dynamics of dehumanization and guilt-tripping of late capitalism.

Let’s say if these lived situations do not sound familiar when Fisher was a professor, a decade ago: “If something like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is a pathology, then it is a pathology of late capitalism: a consequence of being connected to circuits of entertainment and control hypermediated by consumer culture. Similarly, what is known as dyslexia may be nothing more than a kind of “posslexia”. Fisher is not the only author who suspects that our institutions are fostering an illiterate post culture much more in line with their biopolitical needs. It is not that dyslexia is a growing problem that causes us scandal, it’s that our own institutions are shaping an increasingly illiterate society making it impossible to stop the flow of compulsive consumption.

He also observed that for British teenagers about twenty years ago, evil was boredom, and being bored was focusing their attention on something other than the constant flow of mind-numbing consumption: whether it was music flow, sugary snacks or drugs… today we would say Tik Tok videos or porn. Everything costs us double effort because we seem like we have been kidnapped by attention-grabbing technology. What could be expected from a world that considers it normal to pathologize its young people, who concentrate unprecedented rates of depression and anxiety. What was happening there twenty years ago? That adults had turned their children into addicts, compulsive consumers and “anhedonic”, unable to reach a pleasure they could not stop pursuing, and this due to an absolute lack of alternatives and future proposals, due to a voluntary abandonment of commitment with ethical progress.

Fisher writes: “Many of the young people that I have taught were in what I would call a state of depressive hedonia. Usually, depression is characterized by anhedonia, while the picture I am referring to is not so much constituted by the ability to feel pleasure as by the inability to do anything other than seek pleasure.” In this sense, the responsibility would clearly fall on adults, incapable of imagining progressive alternatives to emotional capitalism. Things cannot change, things must not change. An invisible statism decorated with philanthropic tinsel has condemned us to unprecedented conservatism. Without the conviction that an avant-garde cultural project needs transmissible objective facts and a communication channel located outside of business or digital optimization, we will not be able to combat those pathologies that constitute an invisible prison.

Doesn’t all this sound familiar? “The kids are aware that if they stop going to school, or if they do not submit any work, they will not receive any serious consequences. They do not respond to this freedom by committing themselves to their own project, but by falling into hedonic lassitude (or anhedonia): the soft narcosis, the proven diet of oblivion: PlayStation, TV and marijuana”. Today we would say Instagram and benzodiazepine… The million-dollar question would be: What kind of education would lead to commitments with one’s own life? Because it is clear that the West has been trying for decades to block the will for change in its youth, through undisputed competency reforms.

The only way to effectively combat Capitalist Realism, that is, the business mentality applied to each and every aspect of human life, is by showing the reality that our institutions conceal, completely intoxicated by the neoliberal virus. A first step, for example, would be to stop calling “pedagogy” the imperatives of competency ordering, to start considering them as what they are: devices of social control and subjugation of the subordinate classes. Behind digitized administration there is nothing more than administrative silence; behind equitable justice, a lack of legal protection and deregulation; behind the revolutionary poetics of internal business marketing, the most ruthless work environment dedicated to techno-surveillance. With the aggravating factor that it is the victims of this inhumane capitalization which celebrate the virtues of a civilizational state that they contemplate as immovable and as a source of infinite pleasures and imminent rewards.

Source: educational EVIDENCE

Rights: Creative Commons

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