Sunday, April 27, 2014

Fisher's Capitalist State of Affairs

Fisher's Capitalist State of Affairs

Mark Fisher's book reminded me of the comment about dialectics being the state of affairs; it seems that capitalism has become a state of affairs out of which imagination seems incapable of transporting us. Although the constant re-tellings of capitalism's appropriations of rebellion (with punk culture's fascination with "selling out," the marketability of the "Basquiat-ball shoes," and the hipster irony of expensive ripped jeans or mustachioed commodities) sometimes seem impossible to get beyond, Fisher inflects the same old story with a twist inspired by Zizek, Foucault, and Deleuze-- that the force of capital is so pervasive that it preconceives of these minor rebellions as capitalist enterprises. Fisher's pastiche of theoretical and pop-culture references subtly reinforces this in a Jamesonian way, even as he moves beyond Jameson.

What Fisher describes as "reflexive impotence" in students reminds me of what I've heard called "learned helplessness." The hedonic component of reflexive impotence-- that these young consumers have become incapable of pursuing anything but commodified pleasure, which is likely always moving just out of reach (22)-- coincides nicely with his characterization of ADHD and the instant gratification of internet culture. The "learned helplessness" I've encountered as a high-school sub and a 100-level instructor is this difficulty to make an effort beyond a certain point, which is accompanied by cries for help. I see this in that email from a student asking a question that has been discussed in class and is clearly answered on a prompt and/or syllabus. They're trying, at least, but there seems to be an obstacle to trying to figure this out by rereading the materials that I know they have. How do we help students become more independent?

This attention-deficit impotence goes along with Fisher's thoughts on the dreaming of social reality through a sort of flexibility that is characterized by constant change and memory lapse (60). And as past readings have also suggested, the nomadism and schizophrenization that appear to offer lines of flight out of capitalism also appear to be characteristic of it. Even the constant state of change intrinsic to capitalist success resembles the points that Deleuze makes in his description of an ontology of difference. Especially intriguing is this dreamlike, capitalist trait of the ability to overlook gaps in memory and logic. This dreaminess is Kafkaesque for Fisher, who compares it to call centers and the constant remakings of capitalist production.

Although Fisher ends on a hopeful note, we still have to wonder: If capitalism has pre-formatted/preconceived of minor rebellions in its favor, mightn't it also pre-format/preconceive of anti-capitalist theories as capitalist enterprises as well?

1 comment:

  1. A similar thought passed through my mind. I think it reveals something about popular culture texts. In particular, the movie V for Vendetta versus Orwell's 1984. It seems everyone carries a copy of Orwell's dystopia close to their hearts, yet few people jovially recall the ending. Oh the play on words is funny and the parallels often drawn with various popularly unpopular regimes of the time is never ending. My moral of Orwell's story is a bit darker. Resistance is futile and orchestrated by the system (remember Julia and Winston's unfortunate end). V for Vendetta presents a much more optimistic outlook. Who wouldn't like to be saved by a self-sacrificing Hugo Weaving? But if everyone is just waiting for their mask in the mail.......well that is good news for the mask factories I suppose.


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