Edited with an introduction by Matt Colquhoun, this collection of lecture notes and transcriptions reveals acclaimed writer and blogger Mark Fisher in his element — the classroom — outlining a project that his death left so bittersweetly unfinished.
Beginning with that most fundamental of questions — “Do we really want what we say we want?” — Fisher explores the relationship between desire and capitalism, and wonders what new forms of desire we might still excavate from the past, present, and future. From the emergence and failure of the counterculture in the 1970s to the continued development of his left-accelerationist line of thinking, this volume charts a tragically interrupted course for thinking about the raising of a new kind of consciousness, and the cultural and political implications of doing so.
For Fisher, this process of consciousness raising was always, fundamentally, psychedelic — just not in the way that we might think…
This collection of five lectures and associated course materials, along with an introduction by me, is out today as an eBook. There will also be a limited edition hardback out in early 2021. We’ll be organising a few online events between now and then maybe… More info on those soon.
For those who have read Egress, I mention pretty early on that one of the first things I set about doing after Mark’s death, as a way to ground myself in the process of memorialisation as I spent time away from my mourning London friends in Manchester, was to transcribe the first lecture of FIsher’s postgraduate seminar from the academic year of 2016/17. That experience, conducted in isolation over a bleak two-week escape, is what led me to start that Egress in the first place.
Over the years since I’ve kept coming back to those lectures time and again. I never bothered finishing the transcriptions though. For a long time, the thought of listening to ten hours’ worth of recordings of Mark’s voice was too much to bear. But I was also aware that the material collected there was really important.
The first session alone is a really great introduction to Mark’s thought, and the course as a whole really dives beneath the surface of his interests. He gives lectures on Herbert Marcuse and his Freud / Marx synthesis, the frustration of Seventies feminism over the failure of the counterculture, György Lukács’ psychedelic Marxism, the neoliberal invention of a reactionary working class that continues to be a problem within the political imagination to this day, and Jean-François Lyotard’s libidinal Marxism.
Despite the heaviness of the topics at hand, Mark tackles them in a way that is accessible and conversational. He successfully opens up a whole new world to the uninitiated. But, of course, it’s all still unfinished — only five of the projected fifteen lectures went ahead. We miss Mark’s analysis of cybernetic socialism, xenofeminism, accelerationist aesthetics, and various other avenues within his thought that he wanted to thread together over those few semesters. Nevertheless, these five recordings constitute a document unfinished in a way that feels productive rather than bittersweet. After all, the entire course is set up as an experiment and a dialogue. There is clearly more here — as with all of Mark’s works — than meets the eye.
Nothing else has ever been done with those recordings, as far as I’m aware. Almost four years on from when they were made and shared online by Nace Zavrl, they have languished in obscurity. The onset of coronavirus lockdowns around the world felt like as good a time as any to return to them and finally unearth Mark’s hopeful project, re-affirming its persistent relevance and fleshing out his “Acid Communism”, which has become so popular despite being based on very little.
And so, alongside transcribing these lectures, I’ve written a lengthy introduction that connects the lectures and their assigned readings to essays of Mark’s already out in the world (mostly online). In 2017, Kodwo Eshun repeatedly made the point that Acid Communism was a project to be reconstructed. Whilst plenty of people have taken up this mantle, I think Kodwo meant this quite literally. Many of the lectures Mark gave (or intended to give) at Goldsmiths that year arguably already existed in essay form on various websites and in various magazines. Connecting the dots between these articles, written between 2012 and 2016, gives a far more lucid outline to this unfinished project and its concerns than many others have bothered to look for and share.
Personally, I think this collection of lectures should be the starting point for anyone interested in what Mark was working on at the time of his death and what he’d been working on ever since Capitalist Realism. After all, Ghosts of my Life and The Weird and the Eerie, as great as they are, can be traced back to that prior period of blogging productivity from the 2000s. They were more like streamlined statements regarding past projects rather than new directions in his thinking. The essays he later wrote (but which never quite found his posthumous audience) developed a thread that persisted in his thought until the very end. Unfortunately, we never quite saw the pay off, where Mark’s hauntological thinking would, via The Weird and the Eerie, give way to a full-blown accelerationist politics that sought to ask the most difficult questions facing us at present, concerning our tandem desires for capitalism and capitalism’s demise. This was, quite explicitly, Mark’s next big project, the sequel to Capitalist Realism proper, and he had spent almost a decade mapping it out. A very useful portion of that map can be found here.
If that’s not reason enough for you to check this out, I don’t know what else to tell you.
Postcapitalist Desire is only available as an ebook for now from the Repeater Books website but a limited edition hardback copy is being printed and will be released early next year. Keep an eye out for that.
To the pirates: all proceeds go to Mark’s family, so please support it if you can.