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Mark Fischer’s Critique of Neoliberalism and the Death of Hope in West

August 8, 2019 3 comments

A couple of years ago I came across a short clip of a YouTube talk by a critic and cultural theorist named Mark Fischer. FYI, he committed suicide in 2017 at age 48. Anyway.. getting back to the topic, I first came across some of his ideas in 2010 or 2011, when his critique of Neoliberalism first became somewhat popular. There is however a good chance that many of you haven’t heard about him because he was not a big self promoter unlike some others.. David Graeber or Thomas Piketty. Fischer’s critique of Neoliberalism and its offshoots such as financialism, managerialism etc are far more interesting than those of Graeber or Piketty, since they focus on something most critics of Neoliberalism have largely ignored.

A few years ago, I made the point that the willingness to commit most crimes requires the person to have hopes for a better future. In that post, I also made the comment that decrease in crime rates in USA and the west over past 20-30 years have a peculiar connection to the loss of hope for a better future. Readers might have also noticed that dress and hair styles in the west have been fairly constant for almost the last 25 years (since the mid-1990s), which is odd when you compare this relative stagnation to the massive shifts which occurred between 1950s and 1970s or 1960s and 1980s. It is as if something changed during the 1990s which stopped any hope of a better or different future. And this applies to everything from life expectancy, treatment of common diseases to movies, music and literature.

It is as if the west, especially USA, is stuck in a terminal loop where it keeps reliving the 20th century but cannot seem to find a way forward. Fischer attributes this to the rise of neoliberalism and how its incentives, philosophy and hierachy has created a society which cannot dream, innovate or do much more than keep repeating the past. This ties in with what I wrote about late capitalism and the glut of movie prequels, sequels and remakes we have seen over the past decade or two. The point he makes in his book, Capitalist Realism: Is There No Alternative?, is that the ideology of unrestricted capitalism which gained a fresh lease of life after 1991 has now infiltrated western culture to the point where it has destroyed hope for a better future.

Here is YT clip providing a quick overview of what Fischer wrote about..

I would also recommend reading an other book written by him, Ghosts of My Life: Writings on Depression, Hauntology and Lost Futures. In this one he goes into the connection between the extremely high levels of depression, anxiety and hopelessness seen in the declining west today and its connection to an embrace of capitalist ideology at the personal level.

Also, here are links to free versions of his two most well known works.

Capitalist Realism: Is there no alternative? – PDF of a scanned copy.

and

Ghosts of My Life: Writings on Depression, Hauntology and Lost Futures – link to e-book version.

What do you think? Comments?