Introduction to K-Punk, Vol. 3:
English Language Version

Prior to the release of K-Punk, Vol. 3 — the third and final volume of Caja Negra‘s Spanish translation of k-punk: The Collected and Unpublished Writings of Mark Fisher (2004-2016) — I was invited to write an introduction that further contextualized Fisher’s “reflections” for a Spanish-speaking audience.

Alongside a collection of interviews, these reflections include some of Fisher’s most misunderstood and most venerated essays, such as “Exiting the Vampire Castle”, “Good For Nothing”, and the unfinished introduction to “Acid Communism” (all found in parts four, five and six of the big English edition, which Vol. 3 brings together in a separate volume).

Considering how these essays might be read outside of the Anglosphere has been a very interesting exercise. But to read this introduction back in its original language may be slightly jarring for English readers, as it assumes ignorance of ten-year-old trivialities within (particularly) English and (to a lesser extent) American popular culture. Footnotes also add copious details that would surely be overkill in an Anglospheric context. However, in my experience, the Anglosphere’s view of the 2010s and Fisher’s role as a critical voice within them remains muddy and unclear at best (with the strangest readings, in my experience, coming from American readers who mistakenly conflate his often parochially English experiences with their own.) As a result, we have accumulated a popular understanding riddled with inaccuracies, which have continued to linger over more contemporary engagement with Fisher’s work, including my own. I hope this return to the very heart of the matter will provide English speakers around the world with some much-needed context as well.

The strange thing is that Spanish readers, particularly in Latin America, may be far more familiar with the sentiment that carries through Fisher’s work, explored below, than your average English speaker. Indeed, recent electoral results in Peru suggest some countries in the region may have less to learn from Fisher than his own countrymen. At the same time, perhaps his growing popularity among Spanish speakers is because they recognize his concerns as their own. Either way, I hope the following essay provides further context for those lucky enough to be unfamiliar with the concerns of your average British centrist or American “neo-anarchist”. I also hope it illuminates the Anglosphere’s own blind spots, so that an international dialogue can increasingly flow both ways, with comrades in other regions contributing further to our debates and showing the West what it continues to misunderstand in the fight against neoliberalism.

You can find the Spanish version of the essay, translated by Patricio Orellana, on the Caja Negra blog here. The essay is also included inside K-Punk, Vol. 3, available now from their website and elsewhere. Many thanks to Ezequiel Fanego for the commission.

There will be more to come from Caja Negra in the near future, with a Spanish translation of my book Egress expected early next year as well. Watch this space.


Introduction to K-Punk, Vol. 3

Exit, Pursed by a Bird

In 2013, Mark Fisher left Twitter. One would hardly expect this move to provoke much controversy, but Fisher made quite a scene when he did so. The essay written to accompany his departure was provocatively titled “Exiting the Vampire Castle”. It was bold and the backlash to it was considerable.

Central to Fisher’s essay was a renewed sense of class consciousness, which was, at that time, struggling to emerge. Long since curtailed in Britain since the 1990s, when the Labour Party first declared that “we are all middle-class now”, the issue had gradually returned to the fore – thanks, in part, to Owen Jones’ 2011 book Chavs and the confounding patchwork persona of comedian Russell Brand.[1]

Though moving in separate circles of public discourse, Jones and Brand both hoped to engender a new popular radicalism by making demands for real change heard within mainstream culture and politics. This, in turn, illustrated how detrimental a decade of centrist discourse had been on many already maligned members of society. Jones, on the one hand, spoke out against grotesque working-class stereotypes at the forefront of the political imagination[2]; Brand, on the other, lampooned how anaemic that political imagination was more generally, insisting on new ideas that might better remedy cruelly criminalised social problems like drug addiction.[3]

Both were successful, dominating conversations across the political spectrum in 2013. And yet, they also irritated many people as well. Jones was too loud, too visible, too idealist; Brand too extravagant, too camp, and too prone to the use of sexist epithets. Though the right’s distaste for their politics was to be expected, it was the left’s cynicism that disappointed Fisher the most. The two men were soon caught up in an internal battle taking place on the left – a battle between the centrist establishment, which had lorded over the Labour Party for two decades, and post-Occupy “neo-anarchists”, who had witnessed the emergence of a newly emboldened undercommons around the financial crash of 2008, but who also rejected the corrupting potential of any political or cultural influence whatsoever.

It is worth shining further light on this context. Though it reached a tipping point in 2013, Fisher had consistently attempted to intervene in this postmodern stalemate. His first book, Capitalist Realism, had been an implicit attack on Tony Blair’s Labour Party, which he denounced for producing a politically apathetic generation defined by its “reflexive impotence”. Describing the apathy of his own students, Fisher writes: “They know things are bad, but more than that, they know they can’t do anything about it. But that ‘knowledge’, that reflexivity, is not a passive observation of an already existing state of affairs. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy.”[4] By 2013, the impact of this impotence was clear. It was not only endemic among the young but the majority of commentators who represented the left online as well.

Socialist Sell-Outs

Following Jeremy Corbyn’s rise to public prominence as leader of the Labour Party in 2015, there is now vocal grassroots opposition to the UK’s centrist orthodoxy. Just two years earlier, however, many openly mocked the idea of a left-wing party ever functioning as a parliamentary opposition, never mind forming a government. With few politicians to direct their ire at, most ridiculed commentators like Owen Jones instead. “I was 14 when I got my head round how fantastically far removed my tribal anger and knee-jerk leftism were from ordinary British voters”, wrote Labour Party affiliate Luke Akehurst in a 2013 article dedicated to trashing Jones. “Although out of his teens”, Akehurst suggests “it’s not too late for Owen to come to his senses.”[5]

What irritated Fisher more than the likes of Akehurst was the absence of any mainstream opposition to this derision from those much further left of centre. Echoing the handwringing of 1990s rock’n’roll fans, who mistakenly saw any contact between counter-cultural politics and pop-cultural success as “selling out”, the public prominence of Jones and Brand was seen as somehow antithetical to their political aims. Natasha Lennard, for instance, in an influential essay for Salon, argued that, whilst Brand’s politics were very agreeable, he was nonetheless complicit in a broader capitalist machine. We should be sceptical, she writes, of those moments “when radical or militant ideas or images enter the popular imaginary under capitalism.”[6]

It is ironic, of course, for a professional writer to criticise someone making political points for money. Lennard was aware of this. “Brand is navigating the well-worn conflict facing those with a public platform in the current epoch (myself among them)”, she writes. But this “well-worn conflict” was entirely of the left’s own making. Paralyzed by its own contradictions, many commentators insisted that the only choices available were doing nothing or actively engaging in self-harm. Lennard recommends the latter. “We have to be willing to obliterate our own elevated platforms, our own spaces of celebrity”, she insists.[7]

Antonio Gramsci was no doubt spinning in his grave. Capitalism’s cultural hegemony had no effective opposition whatsoever. Rather than constituting a new militancy, this attitude was nothing more than a mutation of the “reflexive impotence” Fisher had witnessed in the classroom in 2009.

This is not to suggest that Lennard’s warnings should go unheeded, of course. Capitalism is certainly capable of appropriating radical politics for its own aims, and certain radical political strategies can also function as a welcome mat for capitalism’s own emergent tendencies. We can never fully predict how our own politics will be used against us, but we will be waiting for an eternity if we insist on cultural abstinence until a political imagination emerges that is not produced “under capitalism”.

It was this abstinence, more than anything, that Fisher hoped to argue against. “Purism shades into fatalism”, he writes. The left’s denial of their own cultural influence was just another self-fulfilling prophecy. Brand may not have been the spokesperson many wanted, but there were few other options to choose from, precisely because the left had sworn itself off cultural representation altogether. As Fisher writes, the left mistakenly believed that it was “better not to be in any way tainted by the corruption of the mainstream, better to uselessly ‘resist’ than to risk getting your hands dirty.”[8] On the contrary, there is no outside to capitalist hegemony. The only way out is through.

Popular Modernism

If the only way out is through, who should lead the way? Contra Lennard, no one was calling on Brand to start a new vanguard party of celebrity revolutionaries to drag us out of our impotency – least of all Brand himself. The entire premise of “Messiah Complex”, the stand-up show Brand was touring at that time, was that things must be bad if it is up to someone like him to raise awareness of progressive issues. But Brand also recognised that his platform allowed him to contribute something genuinely valuable and currently missing from mainstream culture. He was able to raise his audience’s political consciousness and insist, with great passion, that another world is possible.

This was the power of “popular modernism” – Fisher’s term for the productive intersection between popular culture and the avant-garde that had defined his post-punk youth.[9] In the twenty-first century, these two modes of cultural production had been cleaved apart. Not only that, culture and politics were denied any meaningful relationship whatsoever. This, too, is evidenced by Lennard’s article. Commenting on the inherent anti-feminism of Brand’s prominence, she suggests – with tongue in cheek – that if leftists in the US are so excited about British comedians talking politics, they might as well “reinstate a monarchy with Brand as sovereign, Kanye [West] as chief advisor”.[10]

Lennard’s use of Kanye West as a punchline further illustrates the problem at hand. Ever the divisive figure, in 2013 West released his most politically charged album to date, Yeezus, which featured tracks like “New Slaves” and “Blood on the Leaves” that furiously engaged with the paradoxical relationship between black liberation and black aspiration under capitalism. Though much of this work was arguably undone by his uncritical support for Donald Trump, from his declaration that “George Bush doesn’t care about black people” in 2005 to his spectacular homage to UK grime at the 2015 Brit Awards, West arguably did more to raise black political consciousness in mainstream culture than any other artist that decade.[11]

Kanye’s mutation into an unstable pariah in more recent years is arguably symptomatic of the frame his work was forcibly encased within. His attempts to run for the US presidency, whilst equally laughable and horrifying to many, are clearly the result of our false equivalence between politicised voices and politicians. The truth, of course, is that the two are not mutually exclusive – not everyone who cares about politics needs to make it their career. Nevertheless, thanks to neoliberalism’s compartmentalisation of political voices and their affects, cultural and political representatives were paradoxically held apart from those spaces were culture and politics take place.

Fisher sought to undo this separation in all of his writings, emphasising the extent to which our cultural malaise feeds into our political apathy. He argued repeatedly that the role of culture in politics is to help people engage more effectively in what Raymond Williams called our “structures of feeling”. Williams argued that contemporary culture often provides an outlet for political feelings that are inchoate and unarticulated. These feelings may speak to experiences that are contrary to received articulations of political affect (e.g. capitalist realism) and, as such, are able to generate new ways of thinking in the present. The cynicism applied to Brand and Jones, as well as the likes of Kanye West, from both the left and the right, undermined this role, which Fisher noticed had atrophied since his youth.[12]

A year after “Exiting the Vampire Castle” was published, with attitudes like Lennard’s firmly in his sights, Fisher returned to this point explicitly. Discussing the “sound affects” of Paul Weller and The Jam, he writes:

One of the problems with many of the horizontalist models of political action is that they assume that we already know what we think and feel, and we are simply prevented from expressing ourselves by oppressive power structures. Yet mass mediated art [in the Seventies and Eighties] could name and focus feelings that were not only suppressed – by ‘internal’ as well as external censoring agencies – but which were inchoate, unformed, virtual. Mass mediation transformed, not merely ‘represented’ these affects; after they were named and brought into focus, the feelings ‘themselves’ were experienced differently.[13]

The Vampire Castle, then, does not resist power but feeling. It does more to smother the emergence of new movements than it does to create them. Though it might feel good to denounce the mainstream and its prominent voices, all the left had developed as an unsightly addiction to its own auto-erotic asphyxiation.

Fangs For Nothing

Though it gained a certain “cult” status online, the general response to Fisher’s essay was poor. The feelings he sought to articulate did not crystallise in that moment. Instead, the point he hoped to make was overshadowed by both his polemic (and, therefore, apparently hypocritical) tone, and the fact that he had backed the wrong horse. (For many, his defence of Brand, in particular, was bizarre.) For the few who heard them, however, his questions were deeply resonant with the present moment. Fisher implicitly asked, why do we desire individual perfection over collective potential? Why do we expend more energy attacking individuals than building solidarity around them – not so that they might become new “masters” or “gods”, as Lennard feared, but as examples of emerging spokespeople for the sort of new and radical future that had been denied us for decades?

Fisher had long been opposed to such self-defeating cynicism, especially within academia. On his k-punk blog, he once wrote scathingly of academia’s “Grey Vampires”, for instance – people who “don’t feed on energy directly, they feed on obstructing projects”.[14] By 2013, he had seemingly had enough of their growing presence online as well. Whereas party political meetings and activist events remained, in his experience, exuberant and joyful occasions, social media instead amplified our worst communicative impulses. It was a space that algorithmically encouraged quick-fire outrage and cynicism, dismantling a sense of comradery and solidarity that was already in short supply.

These were not the complaints of a man who misunderstood the unwritten rules of communicative technologies in a new era. In fact, Fisher’s observations were prescient. We now take for granted the fact that social media platforms – particularly Facebook – are algorithmically predisposed to exacerbate and encourage political polarisation. Fisher, and others within the blogosphere, saw that world coming.[15] They understood that pessimistic clickbait was far more complicit in capitalism’s networks of disenfranchisement than the rabble-rousing affirmations of Brand and Jones.

This, in itself, constituted a change of heart for Fisher. He had previously championed the potentials of cyberspace and blog theory as the digital continuation of a counter-cultural DIY sensibility. Since his time in the Cybernetic Culture Research Unit (Ccru)[16] – of which he was a part whilst studying at the University of Warwick in the late 1990s – the internet had always been a liminal space for the proliferation of popular modernisms, distinctly other to that original Vampire Castle: the academic philosophy department.

Stalking the corridors and lecture halls of the neoliberal university, hiding their true intentions beneath a thin veil of academic conviviality, Grey Vampires “are profoundly suspicious of commitments and projects”, Fisher writes. They engage with others in a manner that will no doubt be familiar to anyone who has ever set foot in a graduate seminar: “all they want is a few clarifications, as if they are just on the brink of being persuaded, when in fact the real aim is to lure you into the swamp of skeptical inertia and mild depression in which they languish.”[17]

Whereas the Internet had once been a refuge from this sort of depressive anti-production, it had since become infected with this vampirism as well. On Twitter especially, the Grey Vampire was increasingly common, and naturally suited to such an environment, already well-populated by its close relative, the “troll”.

In laying out this online taxonomy, Fisher was not taking the moral high ground. He was describing a set of tendencies that we are all prone to. Vampirism, after all, is infectious. If you’re bitten enough times, you discover the strange pleasure in biting back. As Fisher continues: “Part of the reason I can’t hack it as an academic is that, in a university environment, I invariably find myself pincered between the troll and Grey Vampire positions.”[18] That Fisher had come to feel the same way about social media was, for him, a great shame. What was once an outcrop of experimentation and new cultural potentials had been, like every other outlet available to us, co-opted and assimilated into a new system of control. This was confirmed by the average Twitter vampire’s mirroring of various capitalist dynamics.

“Capital… Vampire-Like…”

In his symptomatology of the social media condition, Fisher lists those tendencies most exemplary of online vampires, including drives to “individualise and privatise everything”; “make thought and action appear very, very difficult”; “propagate as much guilt as you can”; “essentialise”.[19] Although many saw his descriptions of the Vampire Castle as doing exactly what he was trying to criticise, these dynamics were not individual for Fisher. They were instead a reflection of dominant tendencies at work in the system at large. After all, this isn’t just how people act online, it is, as Karl Marx famously argued, how capitalism operates everywhere.[20]

This point has been lost on many readers in recent years, who have seized upon Fisher’s essay as an early shot fired during the antebellum of the so-called “Culture Wars”. As such, Fisher has been mistaken for an early critic of “identity politics” and “cancel culture”. But Fisher was not concerned about the mass criticism of certain obnoxious and reactionary voices online, whose views are over-amplified in a world that is trying to move on from certain stagnant and outmoded twentieth-century values. He was instead concerned about the left’s interest in disparaging those within its own ranks over building any kind of common project. The point bears repeating: this was not because Fisher despaired from a superior position. He knew how infectious these habits could be.

In 2014, Fisher published “Good For Nothing”, an essay that attacks these capitalist tendencies from another angle. One of his most personal essays on depression, Fisher turns from Twitter miserabilism to the default disparagement internal (and integral) to capitalist subjectivity. “Depression is partly constituted by a sneering ‘inner’ voice”, he writes. “Of course, this voice isn’t an ‘inner’ voice at all – it is the internalised expression of actual social forces, some of which have a vested interest in denying any connection between depression and politics.”[21] Swapping “depression” for “leftist negativity”, this is the same point made in “Exiting the Vampire Castle”. Both essays are analyses of how capitalism’s co-option of social technologies encourages certain desires whilst blocking others. What Fisher called “neo-anarchy” was not a response to capitalism, in this sense, but a symptom of its consciousness-deflation. Cybernetic decentralisation, once a utopian alternative to state control, was now used more effectively by state-capitalism itself to undermine solidarity around the world. Twitter’s default cynical mode, therefore, was not just an issue of social etiquette but of political agency.

In this context, Fisher’s polemics can be seen as an attempt to diagnose a new strain of leftist melancholy, which was manifest as impotent negativity online. This melancholy was by no means a new problem for the left. Wendy Brown – a great influence on Fisher – notes that Walter Benjamin was the first to diagnose this condition that so badly afflicted “the revolutionary hack” who internalises the failures of the past and transforms them into a political pathology. Benjamin’s diagnosis, she writes, represents “a refusal to come to terms with the particular character of the present”. But more than this, it also betrays “a certain narcissism”, as demonstrated in two distinct ways by both Akehurst and Lennard, “with regard to one’s past political attachments and identity that exceeds any contemporary investment in political mobilization, alliance, or transformation.”[22] Just as the capitalist establishment insists that communism does not work – it has been tried and must never be tried again – the melancholic leftist resists praxis and structural analysis of any kind. What Fisher called “capitalist realism” – the belief that there is no viable alternative to capitalist hegemony – leads to the erosion of not just class consciousness but any historical-materialist understanding of the social media age whatsoever.

Such an analysis nonetheless remains essential. “Technology reveals the active relation of man to nature, the direct process of the production of his life,” Marx argued, “and thereby it also lays bare the process of the production of the social relations of his life, and of the mental conceptions that flow from those relations.”[23] If we are to retain such an understanding of our relationship to technology in the present, our politics must include a critique of social media and the ways it both exacerbates individualism and undermines collective action. But this does not mean abstaining from those networks. We must intervene in them with cunning and vigilance, even fury, as Fisher did repeatedly.

Collective Reflections

The essays collected in the present volume – and, indeed, its two predecessors – trace the development of Fisher’s thought in this regard. Viewed in isolation, however, this collection may suggest that Fisher took a break from writing after the publication of “Exiting the Vampire Castle” and “Good For Nothing”. On the contrary, this was far from the end of Fisher’s engagement with popular leftism. He recognised that his fierce critique had backfired. It was rejected by those it concerned, and used as another stick for the right to beat the left with. Because of this, the essay continues to split opinion to this day. But Fisher was smart enough to move on from it. Essays such as “No Romance Without Finance”, “Abandon Hope (Summer is Coming)” and “Democracy is Joy”[24] – all written in 2015 – further clarify the affirmative nature of Fisher’s later thought, during which time he swapped Twitter arguments for grassroots organising. Elsewhere, he continued to interrogate the negative influence of social media on our lives[25] as well as the potentials still waiting to be actualised in cyberspace.[26] These are the essays that continue the far more positive project Fisher described in “Good For Nothing”, which concludes with a series of potential focus points for contemporary politics. “Inventing new forms of political involvement, reviving institutions that have become decadent, converting privatised disaffection into politicised anger” – these are just some of the areas the left can focus on anew, “and when it does, who knows what is possible?”[27]

Fisher sought to answer this question in his next book, Acid Communism, the unfinished introduction to which is also included here. In this essay, we see the argument of “Exiting the Vampire Castle” inverted, with Fisher focusing more on the left’s collective desires over its individualising critiques. However, with Fisher better known for his polemics, few saw the connection between the two when it was first published in English in 2018. Many were also surprised by his newly sympathetic view of hippie culture, which he had also previously denounced for its reflexive impotence.[28]

Contextualised alongside a decade’s worth of prior reflections, Fisher’s argument for an acid communism is nonetheless familiar. “Instead of seeking to overcome capital,” he suggests that we “focus on what capital must always obstruct: the collective capacity to produce, care and enjoy.”[29] Though this suggestion may resonate with “Exiting the Vampire Castle” and “Good For Nothing” most explicitly, such an argument was not new for Fisher. In fact, encouraging this collective capacity to produce, care and enjoy was the very purpose of his k-punk blog.

In the 2004 blogpost, “Spinoza, K-Punk, Neuropunk”, for example, which is also included in this collection, Fisher warns that there is no guarantee new technologies will free us from capitalist enslavement. If there is any radicality innate to our machines, it is their potential to distance us from our all-too-human habits. The greatness of the blogosphere, for instance, lay in its capacity to sustain “a depersonalising, desubjectifying network” that was able to produce “joyful encounters … in which mammal-reptilian conflict defaults are disabled.”[30] Written years before the ascendency of social media, Fisher’s optimism might seem misplaced today, when such platforms are used predominantly to exacerbate the ugliest of human habits. But Fisher was aware that an active reasoning was necessary if we were to use our machines correctly, interrupting the human organism already “set up to produce misery”. With this in mind, the present collection includes a number of Fisher’s interventions online in the late 2000s, from the founding of the Dissensus forum to the closing of the k-punk comments section. Though strange documents, at least when removed from their original context, they demonstrate how Fisher’s acid communism was not a new politics for him but a new articulation of a lifetime’s worth of cultural intervention and criticism.

Despite popular speculation, no more material from Fisher’s next book exists. We do not have the full picture of his thought at this time – and perhaps never will – but there remains an Acid Communism to be constructed. It is his Sagrada Família, combining counter-intuitive perspectives and traditions to produce a new vision that was sadly left incomplete in his own lifetime. K-Punk Vol. 3 nonetheless provides us with its essential foundation, encouraging us to continue building this project, and there remains much work to do.

As we embark on such a task, we should bear in mind Raymond Williams’ concept of the “structure of feeling”. Our feelings are complex, ever shifting, sometimes contradictory, and increasingly polarised. But the strength of feeling on display in the present suggests a forceful politics to come. Acid Communism was to be a psychedelic programme that hoped to manifest such feelings through a materialist politics, all whilst undermining leftist melancholy, thwarting vampires, and building movements. This was a task Fisher embarked on with the help of Baruch de Spinoza, whom he had first read at the University of Warwick in the late 1990s. Writing of capitalism’s impact on human subjectivity in 2004, he writes: “When an entity starts to act against its own best interests, to destroy itself – as, sadly, Spinoza observes, humans are wont to do – it has been taken over by external forces. To be free and happy entails exorcising these invaders and acting in accordance with reason.”[31] These invaders are not always explicitly capitalist in nature; melancholy, in particular, is an affect capitalism produces and sets apart from itself. To address this disparity required a new orientation towards the future, as well as a better appreciation of the past. As such, Fisher called for manifesting not just our future feelings but the very ghosts of our lives.

Acid Exorcisms

In a recent interview with Jacobin magazine, the documentary filmmaker Adam Curtis commented on his friendship with Fisher. They “used to meet regularly in a café by Liverpool Street station [in London] and have long conversations”, he says, about the ghosts of twentieth-century politics and culture that continually haunt us in the present. This “hauntological” mode is synonymous today with Fisher’s most melancholic writings regarding the slow cancellation of the future. But, as Curtis notes, what fascinated them both was “this idea that you could force the ghosts out of people’s heads to produce a new kind of society”.[32] Hauntology was, in this sense, a kind of inverted psychedelia; there has long been a dichotomy between remembering and hallucinating. Much like his disaffection with academia and social media, Fisher too often found himself pincered between his hauntological and psychedelic modes. The point, however, was to synthesise the two, breaking the inverse dialectic of modernity, and not letting either side win out. Such was Fisher’s task – difficult and easier said than done. But, as Fisher himself declared, once we understand these impulses, and their active potentials over their passive affects, “who knows what is possible?”


[1] For an insight into class consciousness in Britain at this time, see: Owen Jones, “We’re not all middle-class now: Owen Jones on class in Cameron’s Britain”, New Statesman, 19 May 2014: <https://www.newstatesman.com/culture/2014/05/we-re-not-all-middle-class-now-owen-jones-class-cameron-s-britain>

[2] See: Owen Jones, Chavs: The Demonisation of the Working Class. London: Verso Books, 2011. Jones’ book attacked the pop-cultural ubiquity of the word “chav”, denoting a stereotypical working-class person who lives on social welfare and loves Burberry baseball caps and petty theft. In schools up and down the country, to call someone a “chav” was arguably the most popular insult in the average teenager’s vocabulary, second only to being “gay”. In the 2000s, casual homophobia and classism were equally rife. Jones’ book single-handedly triggered a moment of reckoning across the nation, uncovering the origins of this strange word not just culturally but politically. The ubiquity of the word “chav” in our national lexicon, he argued, was the diffuse result of decades of class-consciousness deflation and attacks on the poor, encouraged by the political establishment. Within just a few years, its usage became as unfashionable as the stereotype it was beholden to.

[3] See: “Paxman vs Russell Brand – full interview – BBC Newnight”, YouTube, 23 October 2013: <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3YR4CseY9pk> Like Jones, Russell Brand complicated the stereotype of the average working-class man. Open about struggles with addiction and a poor upbringing, his nonetheless effervescent Dandy vocabulary and charming style of argumentation flummoxed people from all backgrounds, but particularly an established media class. His infamous 2013 interview with Jeremy Paxman on the BBC’s flagship current affairs programme Newsnight remains a case in point. Brand comes across as articulate, engaged and eloquent, unlike Paxman, who is otherwise famous for his stoic intelligence but who is here reduced to a closed-minded has-been of a dying political order. Many in the press nonetheless dismissed Brand’s argument for revolution as over-excitable and incoherent, but he spoke for a section of the left that had lost its mainstream voice, and which remained unrepresented in government until the Corbyn era. It was for this reason that Fisher and others admired him.

[4] Mark Fisher, Capitalist Realism: Is There No Alternative. Winchester: Zer0 Books, 2009, 21.

[5] Luke Akehurst, “Oh dear. Oh dear. Owen Jones”, LabourList, 22 January 2013: <https://labourlist.org/2013/01/oh-dear-oh-dear-owen-jones/>

[6] Natasha Lennard, “I Don’t Stand with Russell Brand, and Neither Should You”, Salon, 25 October 2013: <https://www.salon.com/2013/10/25/i_dont_stand_with_russell_brand_and_neither_should_you/>

[7] Ibid.

[8] Mark Fisher, “Exiting the Vampire Castle”, in K-Punk: The Collected and Unpublished Writings of Mark Fisher (2004-2016). London: Repeater Books, 2018, 743.

[9] See: Phoebe Braithwaite, “Mark Fisher’s Popular Modernism”, Tribune, 18 January 2019: <https://tribunemag.co.uk/2019/01/mark-fisher-kpunk-popular-modernism>

[10] Lennard, “I Don’t Stand with Russell Brand, and Neither Should You”.

[11] During the inaugural Mark Fisher memorial lecture at Goldsmiths, University of London, in 2018, Kodwo Eshun mentioned that he and Fisher had a long-standing interest in Kanye’s public profile and its political impact, hoping to one day edit a collection of essays together called Kanye Theory. See: Department of Visual Cultures, Goldsmiths, “Kodwo Eshun: Mark Fisher Memorial Lecture”, YouTube, 6 February 2018: <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ufznupiVCLs>

[12] See: Mark Fisher, Ghosts of My Life: Writings on Depression, Hauntology and Lost Futures. London: Zer0 Books, 2014.

[13] Mark Fisher, “Going Overground: The Jam between Populism and Popular Modernism”, Post Punk Then and Now, eds. Gavin Butt, Kodwo Eshun and Mark Fisher. London: Repeater Books, 2016, 100.

[14] Mark Fisher, “Mommy, what’s a grey vampire?”, k-punk, 21 June 2009: <http://k-punk.org/mommy-whats-a-grey-vampire/>

[15] On this point, Fisher was inspired by Jodi Dean and her theorising of twenty-first century “communicative capitalism”. See: Jodi Dean, Blog Theory: Feedback and Capture in the Circuits of Drive. Cambridge: Polity Press, 2010.

[16] See: http://ccru.net/

[17] Mark Fisher, “Some Clarifications”, k-punk, 18 June 2009: <http://k-punk.org/some-clarifications-2/>

[18] Fisher, “Mommy, What’s a Grey Vampire?”

[19] Fisher, “Exiting the Vampire Castle” in K-Punk, 741-742.

[20] “Capital is dead labour, which, vampire-like, lives only by sucking living labour, and lives the more, the more labour it sucks.” See: Karl Marx, Capital: A Critique of Political Economy, Vol. 1, trans. Ben Fowkes. London: Penguin Classics, 1990, 342.

[21] Mark Fisher, “Good for Nothing” in K-Punk, 747.

[22] Wendy Brown, “Resisting Left Melancholy”, boundary 2, Vol. 26, No. 3. Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press, 1999, 20. Available online via Verso Books: <https://www.versobooks.com/blogs/3092-resisting-left-melancholia>

[23] Marx, Capital Vol. 1, 492fn4.

[24] All three essays are found in K-Punk: The Collected and Unpublished Writings of Mark Fisher (2004-2016).

[25] Mark Fisher, “Touchscreen Capture”, Noon 6: An Annual Journal of Visual Culture and Contemporary Art. Gwangju, South Korea: Gwangju Biennale Foundation, 2016, 12-24.

[26] Mark Fisher, “Digital Psychedelia: The Otolith Group’s Anathema”,  Death and Life of Fiction: Modern Monsters: Taipei Biennial 2012 Journal. Taipei City: Taipei Fine Arts Museum, 2014, 160-166.

[27] Fisher, “Good For Nothing” in K-Punk, 749.

[28] For Fisher, “hippie was fundamentally a middle-class male phenomenon”; a kind of “hedonic infantilism.” This infantilism, he writes elsewhere, is symptomatic of a kind of capitalistic Oedipus complex; a “consequence of the infant’s belief in the Father’s omnipotence [through which they obtain] the conviction that all suffering could be eliminated if only the Father wished it.” See: Mark Fisher, “K-punk, or the Glampunk Art Pop Discontinuum” and “What If We Had A Protest and Everyone Came” in K-Punk.

[29] Mark Fisher, “Acid Communism (Unfinished Introduction)” in K-Punk, 753.

[30] Mark Fisher, “Spinoza, K-Punk, Neuropunk” in K-Punk, 697.

[31] Mark Fisher, “Emotional Engineering”, k-punk, 3 August 2004: <http://k-punk.abstractdynamics.org/archives/003767.html>

[32] Miles Ellingham, “Adam Curtis Talks to Jacobin About Power, Politics, and His New Film”, Jacobin, 10 March 2021: <https://jacobinmag.com/2021/03/adam-curtis-bbc-cant-get-you-out-of-my-head-interview>

5 Comments

Leave a Reply