Keir Milburn – Consciousness Deflation and How to Fight It?

Abstract

The existing fragments of Mark Fisher’s unfinished book Acid Communism shows the centrality of practices of consciousness inflation to Fisher’s thinking since publication of his Capitalist Realism book. Indeed, before his untimely death Fisher had begun to reframe capitalist realism as the result of a political project aiming to deflate the various forms of raised consciousness that developed through the Sixties, Seventies and into the Eighties. If we are to effectively fight consciousness deflation, however, then we need to define it precisely while also experimenting with practices of consciousness inflation. In this paper, I address this task by drawing on the evidence of twelve “Building Acid Communism” consciousness raising workshops I have hosted over the last two years. The workshops are based on encouraging testimony about personal experience while linking this to structural causes but while they have proven very successful on these terms they have reached a point of impasse. As Fredric Jameson argues in his work on cognitive mapping, it is difficult to gain an adequate conception of the structural forces conditioning your life by simply examining your own experience. I use this problem to illuminate another, the current generational political divide analysed in my recent book Generation Left. So far, the practices of consciousness inflation have resonated most with the left leaning young. The real task, however, is to develop practices that might work in areas with older populations who have been subject to much longer processes of consciousness deflation and in which the public sphere has almost totally broken down.

Biography

Keir Milburn is a lecturer in Political Economy and Organisation at the University of Leicester. His latest book, Generation Left, published by Polity, explains why young people are moving to the left while older people are tending towards the right. He also co-hosts the #ACFM podcast on Novara Media and has been running Building Acid Communism consciousness raising groups around the UK for the last two years.