The Breakdown of Capitalist Realism

In this intervention, I reflect on Mark Fisher’s Capitalist Realism as a work better known for its title, as a phrase or slogan, than for the substance of the book. While indicative of the success of Fisher’s diagnosis, one borne out through the experience of capitalist crisis and austerity, I want to turn to the problem of the alternative and the future that was a constant concern of Fisher’s writing. In particular, probing the “realism” in “capitalist realism,” I want to consider Fisher’s interest in the breakdown of capitalist realism. This “breakdown” is indicated negatively by psychic suffering and collapse, but also positively by the cultural forms of the weird and eerie as markers of a consciousness beyond “capitalist realism,” the mapping of capitalist crisis, and the futures that might positively emerge through breakdown. At stake in the substance of Fisher’s work, I suggest, lies a class phenomenology concerned with not only grasping the suffering inflicted by capitalist culture, but also the possibilities of a breakdown of realism that would imagine a future oriented to a new collective experience beyond the existing limits of psychic and social formations.

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