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112 of 115 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It's been a long time coming...., 10 Dec 2009
This review is from: Capitalist Realism: Is There No Alternative? (Zero Books) (Paperback)
In Capitalist Realism: Is there no alternative? Mark Fisher successful reinvigorates the style of a short polemical commentary that insightfully analyses today's contemporary condition. Capitalist realism is the state we have reached - when capitalism becomes naturalised, unquestioned, when common sense tells us that there is no alternative. Fisher questions this naturalisation of capitalism, arguing that the promises of the neo-liberal capitalism are not all they've cracked up to be.

He draws on contemporary culture, contemporary theory, philosophy and personal experience to evaluate the effects of capitalism in three key areas - mental health, bureaucracy and education. He shows how the system has covertly transformed a generation into being a blip generation, a generation for which everything must be in tiny twitter-sized packages, for whom reading is boring (not the content of books, as Fisher points out, but reading per se). He looks at the rise of depression within late capitalism and the constant anxieties that are produced. Do I have enough money? Am I too fat? Am I too thin? Should I be exercising more? Should I stop smoking? And he rightly cites Kafka in relation to the current baroque bureaucratic system of quangos, committees, red tape and call centres that we acceptingly exist in, and the infinite deferral that the process of constant of auditing in education causes.

When drawing upon contemporary theory it's easy to make one of two mistakes. The first is that you speak only in the language of the thinker whose theories you're using - Deleuzospeak, Lacanobabble etc etc. This makes the work only accessible to a specific audience of about 10 people who speak that language. The other mistake is that you trivialise it by trying to make it palatable to some imaginary `everyman'. Fisher does neither of these. He expertly balances a line that weaves complex theory into a narrative that neither patronises nor baffles the reader. It's what philosophy, what thought, should aspire to.

Finally, as past student of philosophy, this book gave me one overwhelming feeling - this is the type of project that made me study philosophy in the first place. In recent years, philosophy has become a conversation between a bunch of academics, a conversation that excludes those who don't speak a particular language or follow a particular way of thinking. In a short book, Fisher has reminded me of two big things, Firstly that philosophy is not the domain of academics but that it is about unsettling and displacing dominant modes of thought . Secondly, and more importantly, that thinking is not only worth doing but that it is worth doing with joy, exuberance and commitment.
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Showing 1-4 of 4 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 16 Jan 2010 13:15:56 GMT
Thanks for your excellent review! As a Philosophy teacher I share many of your sentiments, and your review - along with Zizek's(!) - has persuaded me to buy this book. Regards, Peter Coville

Posted on 27 Feb 2011 00:15:37 GMT
dragoon38 says:
Wonderful review - I can't wait to explore this book. Many thanks, D38

Posted on 30 May 2011 14:18:38 BDT
Your review has persuaded me to buy Fisher's book. I emphatically agree with much of what you write; but there is one point which particularly interests me. You appear to find the jargon of much so-called "continental philosophy" exasperating, whilst at the same time admiring a good deal of its content. For me, that content often incorporates deep probing of "capitalist realism" and its accompanying as well as arguably consequent cultural detritus. By contrast, what is called "analytic philosophy" often appears to conceive of such matters as being beyond the "rightful" province of philosophy.
Given its historical background in empiricism, scientism, logical positivism, etc., etc., and its rootedness not only in the stylistics but also the restrictive preconceptions of such philosophical approaches, it is arguable that analytical philosophy could be considered to be a type of "philosophical realism". Moreover, it is unlikely to be coincidental that this type of thinking has found a congenial home in Anglo-American intellectual life, which is itself the seedbed of "capitalist realism" and its underlying "common sense".
If the above considerations are valid, it would certainly be interesting to know what Bertrand Russell, one of the most prominent founders of analytic philosophy, would have thought of what it has now become. Certainly, he did once refer to common sense as being the metaphysic of savages.

Posted on 14 Mar 2012 15:33:20 GMT
Thank you for a very well written and lucid review. It has persuaded me to buy the book. As a philosophy tutor I particularly liked your concluding remarks about philosophy. I very much agree and I could not help copying the following sentence for future reference (and perhaps quotation): "philosophy is not the domain of academics but ... it is about unsettling and displacing dominant modes of thought". Indeed!
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