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Mark Fisher – the political, the cultural and the personal

I was shocked to hear news today of the passing of Mark Fisher (aka k-punk, the title of his blog), especially as I’m in the middle of reading ‘Ghosts Of My Life‘ at this very moment.

Mark Fisher’s seminal book ‘Capitalist Realism: Is There No Alternative?‘ is a hugely important work that presents an astute diagnosis of our social and cultural condition since the ascension of neoliberalism and the apparent entrenchment of capitalism from 1989 onwards. Mark’s struggle with depression was a sad affliction, but it also gave him a unique insight into a malaise that afflicts many of us to some extent in the context of those conditions. He wrote mournfully of “lost futures” while seeking, through the sharing of his words, a reclaiming of the utopian mission.

Mark Fisher drew on the working class experience and cultural references (that resonated with me personally) in order to present serious and apposite cultural and political analysis through a form of personal, almost autobiographical storytelling that were journeys through contemporary culture – music in particular. The presence or absence of his work in an issue of The Wire magazine was often a factor that would determine if I bought it in any given month.

I don’t know why it took me so long to get around to reading ‘Ghosts Of My Life‘, but my son found it on a reading list of mine and bought it for me this Christmas. ‘Ghosts…‘ feels like a cultural companion piece to ‘Capitalist Realism‘. Having established the condition in ‘…Realism‘, Mark describes in ‘Ghosts…’ the consequences for culture in a world where cultural production appears to have all but stagnated in the 21st century – stuck in a feedback loop of repeating the repeated. He uses (and explains) Jacques Derrida’s concept of Hauntology to find spectres of our “lost futures” in the work of auteurs such as David Peace, Christopher Nolan, Tricky, Burial and the music production collectives operating within Jungle and Drum ‘n Bass. I have no idea the effect this news today will have on my continued reading of the book, given that I’m already finding it quite affecting in mood. That mood has been further enhanced by listening to some of the music I have in my collection that he references in the work. Some is presented here by way of some form of tribute to Mark.

Click to play Youtube music playlist

Tributes to Mark Fisher are already streaming onto social media from friends, colleagues and students of Mark’s as well as those, like myself, that only encountered him through his writing. I’m sure he would have produced much more of the seminal work that functions as a touch stone for many like me engaged in both the cultural and the political, unable and unwilling to separate the political from the personal. What he has left us with has made its mark and will be a permanent reference and source of inspiration for those of us determined to reclaim “future’s past” and struggle for an alternative to what is laid before us today.

“Because despondency, or disavowed despondency, is a sign of a craving or hunger to actually belong to something and capitalism not only can’t meet that, it doesn’t want to meet it. Therefore, part of what I’m doing is trying to bring that underlying negativity to the surface as a means of acknowledging sadness and the causes of that sadness so that they can be exposed. And then it’s about converting depression into anger.”

Mark Fisher

Mark Fisher, 11 July 1968 – 13 January 2017. RIP, Sorely missed, but always remembered.

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  1. […] overtly political rebellion through popular culture to the trash can of what Mark Fisher1 calls our “lost […]

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