Nationalist Realism

Capitalism is pervasive across the entirety of the globe. An obvious point but one that warrants more careful consideration.

Capitalist realism cannot be thought of without a consideration for its Cthulhic (and Cthelllic) global tendrils that weave their way through, over and around our nation-states. When we talk about the end of the world being easier to imagine than the end of capitalism, this is no doubt partly why. Ours in a world so thoroughly entangled with itself and it is capital that seems to do much of the entangling.

Is this even further exacerbated by the dovetailing of capital’s and the Left’s globalising tendencies? Is it a coincidence that the fracturing of (geo)political subjectivities has brought about new hopes for postcapitalist futures? Can we glimpse something other through the ever-growing cracks?

Patchwork is a way of widening these cracks to finally see the plethora of futures that might lie ahead.

Another obvious observation: Capitalism is an economic and — thanks to its parasite neoliberalism — political system that is sewn into the very fabric of our national identities.

Perhaps, in corroding Mark Fisher’s “capitalist realism” down to its implicit and constitutive parts, we can also consider a kind of “nationalist realism” — here defined as our belief in the Nation as a sacred concept that, like its more explicitly economic counterpart, is given its shape by processes of dreamwork.

In my previous post, “Egress“, I quoted Fisher’s Capitalist Realism and his exploration of Freud’s dreamwork as being that process which legitimises capitalism as a system despite itself:

When we are dreaming, we forget, but immediately forget that we have done so; since the gaps and lacunae in our memories are Photoshopped out, they do not trouble or torment us. What dreamwork does is to produce a confabulated consistency which covers over anomalies and contradictions, and it is this which Wendy Brown picked up on when she argued that it was precisely dreamwork which provided the best model for understanding contemporary forms of power. [1]

Perhaps we can consider the Nation — and, in turn, nationalism; nationness — in a similar way. Patchwork becomes, in this framework, the antithesis to dreamwork — making inconsistencies its foundation rather than glossing over them.

Nationalists are, as Benedict Anderson writes, members of an “imagined community“. Nations and their cultures shape an illusionary consistency in the minds of their citizens that are at odds with reality. Whilst Fisher argues that we must awaken ourselves to the illusions of capitalist realism, it is increasingly apparent that we should take note of inconsistencies in other areas of political thought too.

Whereas Mark believed that the cultural dissolution of capitalist realism could lead to the instantiation of a New Politics, a New Future, the cultural dissolution of the idea of the Nation-State could likewise lead to the blossoming of something new.

To further build on “Egress”, perhaps we can consider Left melancholia as a feeling of impotency with this similarly closed structure of the nation-state. As the Left hangs onto its utopian, globalist vision of a world without borders, it ignores not only the concerns over immigration of its supposedly right-wing opposition but also the internal fragmentation of its own ideological “borders”.

This is not to say that immigration scare-mongering holds much water but it is evidently a symptom of the fracturing of illusionary nationalist psyches. This is not something to be afraid of, as we have tentatively been exploring.

Elsewhere in “Egress”, I quoted Simon O’Sullivan’s essay “The Missing Subject of Accelerationism“:

On the face of it what has become known as left accelerationism involves something more immediately recognisable: a communist subject, or a subject that is the product of collective enunciation […] a ‘new’ kind of (human) subject, the result of the knitting together of ‘disparate proletarian identities’, and one capable of ‘abductive experimentation’ in to how best to act in the world.

What is this “knitting together” if not precisely a patchwork, providing new potentials for our burgeoning geontologies?

Nationalist Realism is not only a belief, of course, it is an atmosphere. Like Fisher’s capitalist realism, it is 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.”

It is likewise something to be overcome but we remain skittish around the suggestion.

What this blog has been trying to make clear recently is that this needn’t be the case.

More on this in future…

[1] Mark Fisher. Capitalist Realism (London: Zero Books, 2009), 60.


  1. see what you think of:
    ” In The Social Theory of Practices as well as in other writings Turner argues against collective concepts like culture: what we call culture (and similar concepts), he argues, needs to be understood in terms of the means of its transmission. There is no collective server by which it is simply downloaded and “shared”. What we take as “collective” is really produced through experiences of interaction which are different and produce different results for different individuals but which also produce a rough uniformity through mechanisms of feedback rather than “sharing”.

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