Mark Fisher (theorist)
Fisher at the Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art in 2011
11 July 1968|
13 January 2017 (aged 48)|
Capitalist Realism (2009)|
k-punk blog (2003–2015)
University of Hull (BA)|
University of Warwick (PhD)
|Thesis||Flatline constructs : Gothic materialism and cybernetic theory-fiction (1999)|
|Influences||Althusser, Baudrillard, Derrida, Jameson, Lacan, Land, Marx, Plant, Žižek|
|Discipline||Critical theory, philosophy, music criticism, blogging, political theory|
Mark Fisher (11 July 1968 – 13 January 2017), also known as "k-punk", was a British writer, critic, cultural theorist, and teacher based in the Department of Visual Cultures at Goldsmiths, University of London. He initially achieved acclaim for his blogging as k-punk in the early 2000s, and was known for his writing on radical politics, music, and popular culture.
Fisher published several books, including the unexpected success Capitalist Realism: Is there no alternative? (2009), and contributed to publications such as The Wire, Fact, New Statesman and Sight & Sound. He was also the co-founder of Zero Books, and later Repeater Books. He died in January 2017, shortly before the publication of his latest book The Weird and the Eerie (2017).
Education and early life
In his youth, Fisher was formatively influenced by the late-1970s post-punk music press, particularly papers such as NME which crossed music with politics, film, and fiction. Fisher earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and philosophy at Hull University (1989) and completed a PhD at the University of Warwick in 1999 titled Flatline Constructs: Gothic Materialism and Cybernetic Theory-Fiction. During this time, Fisher was a founding member of the interdisciplinary collective known as the Cybernetic Culture Research Unit, which were associated with accelerationist political thought. There, he befriended and influenced producer Kode9, who would later found the Hyperdub record label.
After a period teaching in a further education college as a philosophy lecturer, Fisher began his blog k-punk in 2003, which has been called "one of the most successful weblogs on cultural theory." Music critic Simon Reynolds described it as "a one-man magazine superior to most magazines in Britain" and as the central hub of a "constellation of blogs" in which popular culture, music, film, politics, and abstract theory were discussed in tandem by journalists, philosophers, friends, and colleagues. Vice later described his writing on k-punk as "lucid and revelatory, taking literature, music and cinema we're familiar with and effortlessly disclosing its inner secrets." Fisher also co-founded the message board Dissensus with writer Matt Ingram.
Subsequently, Fisher was a visiting fellow and a lecturer on Aural and Visual Cultures at Goldsmiths College, a commissioning editor at Zer0 books, an editorial board member of Interference: A Journal of Audio Culture and Edinburgh University Press's Speculative Realism series, and an acting deputy editor at The Wire. In 2009, Fisher edited The Resistible Demise of Michael Jackson, a collection of critical essays on the career and death of Michael Jackson, and published Capitalist Realism: Is there no alternative?, an analysis of the ideological effects of neoliberalism on contemporary culture. In 2014, Fisher published Ghosts of My Life: Writings on Depression, Hauntology and Lost Futures, a collection of essays on similar themes viewed through the prisms of music, film, and hauntology. He also contributed intermittently to a number of publications, including Fact and The Wire. In 2016, Fisher co-edited a critical anthology on the postpunk era with Kodwo Eshun and Gavin Butt entitled Post-Punk Then and Now, published by Repeater Books.
Fisher died on 13 January 2017 at the age of 48, shortly before the publication of his latest book The Weird and the Eerie (2017). His wife confirmed that he had taken his own life. His struggles with depression were discussed by Fisher in articles and in his Capitalist Realism, where he argued that "the pandemic of mental anguish that afflicts our time cannot be properly understood, or healed, if viewed as a private problem suffered by damaged individuals."
At the time of his death, Fisher was said to be planning a new book entitled Acid Communism, excerpts of which are to be published as part of a Mark Fisher anthology, k-punk: The Collected and Unpublished Writings of Mark Fisher (2004-2016), by Repeater Books in November 2018.
In the late 2000s, Fisher re-purposed the term "capitalist realism" to describe "the widespread sense that not only is capitalism the only viable political and economic system, but also that it is now impossible even to imagine a coherent alternative to it". He expanded on the concept in his 2009 book Capitalist Realism: Is There No Alternative?, arguing that the term best describes the ideological situation since the fall of the Soviet Union, in which the logics of capitalism have come to delineate the limits of political and social life, with significant effects on education, mental illness, pop culture, and methods of resistance. The result is a situation in which it is "easier to imagine an end to the world than an end to capitalism." Fisher writes:
Capitalist realism as I understand it cannot be confined to art or to the quasi-propagandistic way in which advertising functions. It is more like a pervasive atmosphere, conditioning not only the production of culture but also the regulation of work and education, and acting as a kind of invisible barrier constraining thought and action.
As a philosophical concept, capitalist realism is influenced by the Althusserian conception of ideology, as well as the work of Fredric Jameson and Slavoj Žižek. Fisher proposes that within a capitalist framework there is no space to conceive of alternative forms of social structures, adding that younger generations are not even concerned with recognizing alternatives. He proposes that the 2008 financial crisis compounded this position; rather than catalyzing a desire to seek alternatives for the existing model, the response to the crisis reinforced the notion that modifications must be made within the existing system. Fisher argues that capitalist realism has propagated a 'business ontology' which concludes that everything should be run as a business including education and healthcare.
Following the publication of Fisher's work, the term has been picked up by other literary critics.
Fisher popularised the use of Jacques Derrida's concept of hauntology to describe a pervasive sense in which contemporary culture is haunted by the "lost futures" of modernity, which failed to occur or were cancelled by postmodernity and neoliberalism. Fisher and others have drawn attention to the shift into post-Fordist economies in the late 1970s, which he argued has "gradually and systematically deprived artists of the resources necessary to produce the new." In contrast to the nostalgia and ironic pastiche of postmodern culture, Fisher defined hauntological art as exploring these impasses and representing a "refusal to give up on the desire for the future." Discussing the political relevance of the concept, Fisher wrote:
At a time of political reaction and restoration, when cultural innovation has stalled and even gone backwards, when "power . . . operates predictively as much as retrospectively" (Eshun 2003: 289), one function of hauntology is to keep insisting that there are futures beyond postmodernity’s terminal time. When the present has given up on the future, we must listen for the relics of the future in the unactivated potentials of the past.
Hauntology has thus been described as a "pining for a future that never arrived," manifested in a foregrounding of these historical and ontological disjunctions. Fisher's 2014 book Ghosts of My Life examined these ideas through cultural sources, such as the music of Burial, Joy Division, and the Ghost Box label, TV series such as Sapphire & Steel, the films of Stanley Kubrick and Christopher Nolan, and the novels of David Peace and John Le Carre.
The Weird and the Eerie
Fisher's posthumous book The Weird and the Eerie explores the titular concepts of "the weird" and "the eerie" through various works of art, defining the concepts as radical narrative modes or moments of "transcendental shock" which work to de-center the human subject and de-naturalise social reality, exposing the arbitrary forces that shape it. Summarizing Fisher's characterizations, Yohann Koshy stated that, "weirdness abounds at the edge between worlds; eeriness radiates from the ruins of lost ones." The book includes discussion of science-fiction and horror sources such as the writing of H.P. Lovecraft, Joan Lindsay's 1967 Picnic at Hanging Rock, and Philip K. Dick, films such as David Lynch's Inland Empire (2006) and Jonathan Glazer's Under the Skin (2013), and the music of UK post-punk band The Fall and ambient musician Brian Eno.
- The Resistible Demise of Michael Jackson (editor). Winchester: Zero Books, 2009. ISBN 978-1846943485
- Capitalist Realism: Is there no alternative?. Winchester: Zero Books, 2009. ISBN 978-1846943171
- Ghosts of My Life: Writings on Depression, Hauntology and Lost Futures. Winchester: Zero Books, 2014. ISBN 978-1780992266
- Post-Punk Then and Now (editor, with Gavin Butt and Kodwo Eshun). Repeater Books, 2016. ISBN 9781910924266
- The Weird and the Eerie. Repeater Books, 2017. ISBN 978-1910924389
- k-punk: The Collected and Unpublished Writings of Mark Fisher (2004-2016) (edited by Darren Ambrose, foreword by Simon Reynolds). Repeater Books, 2018. ISBN 9781910924389
- "Mark Fisher’s K-punk blogs were required reading for a generation" by Simon Reynolds, The Guardian, 18 January 2017
- Fisher, Mark. (1999). Flatline constructs : Gothic materialism and cybernetic theory-fiction. ethos.bl.uk (PhD thesis). University of Warwick. OCLC 59534159. EThOS uk.bl.ethos.340547. Archived from the original on 2010-12-24.
- Dazed (1 June 2011). "Nick Land: Mind Games".
- "Mark Fisher 1968–2017". The Wire.
- Mark Fisher and Jeremy Gilbert, 'Capitalist Realism and Neoliberal Hegemony: A Dialogue', New Formations, 80--81 (2013), 89--101 (at p. 90); doi:10.3898/NEWF.80/81.05.2013.
- "Mark Fisher -- Zero Books -- Author Profile".
- frieze Archived 4 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine.
- Koshy, Yohann. "The Revolution Will Be Weird and Eerie". Vice Magazine. Retrieved 28 February 2018.
- "Fisher, Mark, Goldsmiths, University of London". gold.ac.uk. Archived from the original on 22 June 2015. Retrieved 1 August 2015.
- "Post-Punk Then and Now: a review" by Guy Mankowski, 3:AM magazine, 22 December 2016
- "Capitalist Realism Author Mark Fisher Dies", The Quietus, 14 January 2017
- "Mark Fisher, influential music writer and theorist known as K-Punk, has died ", Fact, 14 January 2017
- E.g. "Why mental health is a political issue" by Mark Fisher, The Guardian, 16 July 2012
- "The Quietus | News | Mark Fisher Anthology To Be Released". The Quietus. Retrieved 2017-10-18.
- "k-punk: The Collected and Unpublished Writings of Mark Fisher (2004-2016) | Repeater Books | Repeater Books". Repeater Books. Retrieved 2018-07-16.
- Fisher, Mark (2010). Capitalist Realism: Is There No Alternative?. Winchester, UK: Zero Books. p. 2.
- Mark Fisher, Capitalist Realism: Is there no Alternative? (Winchester, UK; Washington [D.C.]: Zero, 2009); ISBN 978-1-84694-317-1 (pbk.); 1846943175 (pbk.).
- Mark., Fisher, (2010-01-01). Capitalist realism : is there no alternative?. Zero Books. ISBN 9781846943171. OCLC 699737863.
- Mark Fisher, Capitalist Realism: Is there no Alternative? (Winchester, UK; Washington [D.C.]: Zero, 2009).
- Fisher, Mark (2009). Capitalist Realism: Is there no alternative?. Zero Books. ISBN 978-1846943171.
- Fisher, Mark (2009). Capitalist Realism. Is There No Alternative?. O Books. p. 8. ISBN 9781846943171.
- Mark Fisher, Capitalist Realism: Is there no Alternative? (Winchester, UK; Washington [D.C.]: Zero, 2009, pg15).
- Prominently Mark Fisher and Jeremy Gilbert, 'Capitalist Realism and Neoliberal Hegemony: A Dialogue', New Formations, 80--81 (2013), 89--101 DOI:10.3898/NEWF.80/81.05.2013; Reading Capitalist Realism, ed. by Alison Shonkwiler and Leigh Claire La Berge (Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2014).
- Mark Fisher - The Metaphysics of Crackle: Afrofuturism and Hauntology
- The Metaphysics of Crackle: Afrofuturism and Hauntology
- Fisher, Mark. Ghosts of My Life: Writings on Depression, Hauntology and Lost Futures. Zero Books, May 30, 2014. ISBN 978-1-78099-226-6
- Stone Blue Editors (Sep 11, 2015). William Basinski: Musician Snapshots. SBE Media. pp. Chapter 3.
- "The Weird and the Eerie | Repeater Books | Repeater Books". Repeater Books. Retrieved 2018-07-16.
- Daniel, James Rushing. Hong Kong Review of Books https://hkrbooks.com/2017/03/07/the-weird-and-the-eerie/. Retrieved 28 March 2018. Missing or empty
- Woodard, Benjamin Graham (2017). "The Weird and the Eerie". Textual Practice. 31 (6). Retrieved 28 February 2018.
- Eugene Thacker, "Weird, Eerie, & Monstrous: Review of The Weird and the Eerie by Mark Fisher", boundary2 (27 June 2017).
- "The Quietus | Features | Tome On The Range | An Extract From Mark Fisher's Ghosts Of My Life". thequietus.com. Retrieved 2015-08-01.
- 2012 podcast discussion with Mark Fisher – discussing issues relative to the recession, insurrection, and Really Existing Capitalism