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Capitalist Realism: 10 Years On

February 15-16, 2020
University of Huddersfield, UK

“Capitalist Realism as I understand it cannot be confined to art or to the quasi-propagandistic way in which advertising functions. It’s 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.”

Mark Fisher, Capitalist Realism

In 2009, Mark Fisher published Capitalist Realism, an exploration of cultural product born from the seeming impossibility of any alternative to the established political and economic system of capitalism. In it, he establishes the key tensions manifested by a culture, artistic and otherwise, that has no alternative but to function within capitalist structures. Thus, culture becomes a mirror through which to understand and interpret these more nebulous political and economic forces.

Ten years on and circumstances under late-capitalism continue to transform in ways Fisher could never have anticipated. From the rise of socialist figures Jeremy Corbyn, Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, the emergence of the gig economy, to the complex and multifaceted reactions to the socioeconomic structures of our world that are Brexit and Trump. Meanwhile some of Fisher’s most enduring observations remain just as problematic today: the reduced power and the increased bureaucratisation of our public institutions, the ambiguous function of learning and further education, the increased productisation of creative thought and culture, the economic dominance of nostalgia, and rising mental health issues, simultaneously born from capitalism and ineffectively treated under it.

As Alison Shonkwiler and Leigh Claire La Berge highlight, “[Capitalist Realism’s] potential lies in its ability to address the limitations of postmodernism and to connect the postmodern more powerfully to the features of our contemporary political economic moment.” The Centre for Research in New Music (CeReNeM) will host a two-day symposium in February to reflect upon cultural products of the last ten years to gain some insight into the contemporary state of capitalist realism. What observations can be made from culture from the 2010’s as it relates to Fisher’s original text? How has capitalist realism been challenged over the last decade? What avenues have emerged to challenge the dominant narrative of culture under capitalism? And where do our current cultural products indicate where we are heading and what are the possibilities for creating change?

Timeline

Proposal deadline: December 16, 2019
Notification: December 20, 2019
Program announced, registration opens: January 10, 2020
Symposium: February 15-16, 2020

Committee

Sam Gillies (University of Huddersfield)
Igor Contreras Zubillaga (University of Huddersfield)
Flavia Serafim (University of Leeds)
Monty Adkins (University of Huddersfield)