Por qué el pensador pop Mark Fisher
fascina a los jóvenes de la izquierda:
XG in El País

El sábado 14 de enero de 2017, el mismo mensaje hizo vibrar a los móviles silenciados de los estudiantes que abarrotaban la biblioteca de la Universidad londinense de Goldsmiths. Todos compartían el tuit que la cuenta @Repeaterbooks acababa de publicar: “En memoria de Mark Fisher (1968-2017). Una inspiración y un amigo. Nuestros pensamientos están con su familia”. Repeater Books era la editorial de Fisher, la que acababa de lanzar Lo raro y lo espeluznante, el último ensayo del profesor del departamento de Cultura Visual del centro. Fisher tenía 48 años. “Nos sentamos en silencio, tratando de seguir con el trabajo entre breves y consternados estallidos de incredulidad. Después de unos minutos, nos detuvimos. Alguien dijo: ‘¿Qué estoy haciendo? ¿Qué sentido tiene ahora?’. Esa noche, nuestros peores temores fueron confirmados. El viernes 13 de enero Mark Fisher se había suicidado”. Esto que escribe su discípulo (y exalumno) sobre el impacto de la muerte del pensador en las primeras páginas de Egreso. Sobre comunidad, duelo y Mark Fisher (Caja Negra, 2021) vendría a encapsular el estado de suspensión en el que se quedaron buena parte de los seguidores tras la muerte del británico. No solo sus alumnos lloraron la pérdida de aquel profesor.

A new article by Noelia Ramírez has just been published in El País. It is about the unabating popularity of Mark Fisher, and particularly the way his reception has snowballed in the Spanish-speaking world. You can read it in Spanish here or in English here (although it is paywalled).

I was interviewed for the article back in January, on my way home from Dublin, and my responses were undoubtedly way too long. Only a small part was used in the end, and of course that part comes across as particularly grumpy and Adornoian in the final article. But for what it’s worth, here is the full response to the question asked below, if only to reinsert some optimism that ended up on the cutting room floor:

Why the thesis of capitalist realism is still resonating so much in the digital conversation?

Do you believe that it’s because we are more dissatisfied, especially younger generations, who were now also being asked to accept the apparently inevitable realities of austerity and other post-recession logics?

In many ways, I think Fisher’s thesis is a specific product of and book for the current generations of digital natives. He often spoke about how his intended audience for the book was his students in 2009 — people, like myself, who, at that time, were in their late teens and due to leave school, get jobs or go to university; we’re mostly all in our 30s now. This was part of the book’s power. Though it spoke to a new generation, even criticizing it at times, it was hard not to read the book when it was first published and see a portrait of yourself as a disenfranchised young person living at the dawn of social media.

If the book still resonates today, particularly online, I think it is because many of Fisher’s observations have only gotten worse. Just recently I was speaking to university students in Ireland, mostly in their early 20s, who were just as enamored with Fisher’s work as I was at their age, and just as I saw myself in Fisher’s quintessentially disenfranchised student who wants immediate gratification and to always be connected to my phone or my MP3 player — always consuming rather than actually engagement with the world — they see themselves in much the same way, addicted to TikTok, possibly diagnosed with ADHD (or some other mental illness that conspicuously ignores the reality of their material conditions), struggling to concentrate enough to read the books that speak to them. They see that things are worse now and they hate it.

But then and now, I think the acquisition of this awareness is activating and politicising. Readers of Fisher, past and present, understand that these problems are not individual failings, since we all share them, and so they are instead understood as structural effects. And it is this that leads us to imagine, construct, and demand new worlds for ourselves.


A discussion watched from afar on Twitter that I can’t shake thinking about.

Dr Greg charges Deleuze with a barbed, perhaps tongue-in-cheek, contraneity:

Incredibly brave of Deleuze to reject the totalising system of dialectics in favour of a new, liberatory logic of… uhh, shmialectics

Originally tweeted by dr greg is historicising ✍️💫 (@thewastedworld) on April 24, 2023.

A situated monad (notably named) adds:

See also: Beauvoir with ‘ambiguity’, Derrida with ‘[différance]’, etc.

Much mid-century French theory was an exercise in trying to do dialectical analyses without saying ‘dialectics’ or treating it as something they were opposed to while doing it.

Originally tweeted by 👻Ghostly Phenomenology👻 (@situatedmonad) on April 24, 2023.

There is a misreading here, I think, or an assertion of arbitrariness that misses the point at hand. Much mid-century French theory did indeed renounce old ways of doing things, whilst seemingly continuing anyway. But I don’t think the act is wholly unnecessary. Dialectics/shmialectics reduces dialectics itself to semantics, or Hegel’s dialectic to the One True Dialectic at least. I’d argue it thus fails any dialectical project, including Hegel’s own.

Their time is not ours. Picking and choosing, as we are so able, after the so-called “end of history”, the fashion-flux of thought leads many philosophers to fall from favour as soon as the scent of (a no doubt academic) orthodoxy is apprehended. A Hegelian orthodoxy was rebelled against, for sure, perhaps all too readily, but I’m sure none would claim Hegel to be utterly defeated. (The same can be said of a present tendency to be all too Deleuzian, as he is captured by the liberal arts, but persists in his relevance anyway.)

The intention, it seems to me, is one of reactivating a movement. How better to keep dialectics alive and well than by calling it by another name; naming it otherwise for present conditions? A superficial newness, perhaps, but one that reactivates thought. We might (generously) suggest, then, that when we arrive at the many names for a dialectics, we can go one way or another: betraying difference itself; or reasserting a sense of difference and, even more importantly, desire outside of a dominant “image of thought”.

Deleuze’s thesis in Difference & Repetition is apt here. He hardly disagrees with a Hegelian sense of difference, but rather wonders what difference is “in itself”. What is this difference unnamed? An impossible task for the philosopher, who writes and names things, arrests them. But it seems worthwhile, for Deleuze at least — and others, I’d argue — to retain a sense of this thing desired and reached for, never satisfactorily attained. It is this libidinal reaching, this “erotic” want, that philosophy is built on.

But rather than lazily adhering to the production of “footnotes to Plato”, difference can be produced in the perversion of the concept itself, beckoning a different difference, and Deleuze’s entire philosophical project is made up of such a move, producing “bastardized” studies of the history of philosophy.

As he writes in the English preface to Difference & Repetition:

The history of philosophy is the reproduction of philosophy itself. In the history of philosophy, a commentary should act as a veritable double and bear the maximal modification appropriate to a double. (One imagines a philosophically bearded Hegel, a philosophically clean-shaven Marx, in the same way as a moustached Mona Lisa.)

The bracketed analogy is wonderous, I think. A clear reference to Duchamp’s L.H.O.O.Q., the addition made — what Derrida might call a supplément — is the insertion of what is missing, and in writing something is always missing. Dialectics, like any philosophical conception of difference, is only ever a reaching for something otherwise elusive. Not understanding dialectics as a “synthesis”, we instead understand a third position as an aberrant modifier that does not settle but moves continuously.

In thinking such a process — a process of triangulation, as Anne Carson calls it; a trigonometry, where one point of the triangle is only inferred by the movement of thought — we must necessarily wrestle with the paradox inherent to a written culture, since words inevitably arrest something that may not stay so still in actuality.

This is not to say, through a borrowed anti-Hegelianism, that Hegel alone fails to capture this third, and so we must start again without him. We all fail. But it is arguably this very failure that was obscured by a (prior) Hegelian orthodoxy, and so all the more reason to keep reaching for it, to approach the triangle from another angle, turn it over and on its head, perceive the knot differently, depending on the space and time in which we dwell. Writing arrests time, after all, and so to stop with Hegel, to rest on a repetition of his sense of difference and proclaim it the same as any other, is to fail dialectics itself. It is to clip the wings of Hegel’s own owl of Minerva.

Thief of Fire:
RIP Mark Stewart

I am so saddened to hear that we’ve lost Mark Stewart.

I only wrote about him on the blog once, and briefly too, reminiscing about the first time I heard the Pop Group’s Y. The album had just been reissued by Mute, breathing a whole new life into the original recordings, with a bonus slab of amazing offcuts making up the album Alien Blood as well.

Y was first recommended to me in the bowels of some music forum back in the mid-2000s, sent over on a MediaFire link without any context or explanation. No cover, no sleeve notes, no corroboration. I remember thinking like it must be some bizarre bootleg from some distant land; some kind of post-punk aberration that felt like it had been passed through several layers of abstraction to become something entirely new. It blew my mind to learn he was from Bristol. Though I didn’t visit the city until a few years later, when I moved to Newport in South Wales, it was a kind of profound localisation that was as significant for me as learning Throbbing Gristle first started out in Hull. There is nothing more inspiring than learning something so alien can be produced so close to home.

That localisation is all the more important for Stewart, however. His political ferocity was grounded in present discontent, channeled through an alien sound that immediately brought to mind other ways of being. Popular modernism at its finest.

Mark and I emailed a couple of times over lockdown. He was working on the soundtrack for Lost Futures, a forthcoming documentary about Mark Fisher, which I was also interviewed for just before the pandemic started. Alongside his own original music, he was also looking to license music from other sources. Deep in my inbox, I introduced him to Oneohtrix Point Never for some undisclosed purposes related to the film. What became of that — if anything — I have no idea, but it isn’t hard to imagine them making a wonderful racket together on another timeline.

Prior to that, we spoke when I sent him my first book Egress, for which he wrote the best endorsement:

The dead return to us as our world falls apart. Love and loss ripple into our lives and test our integrity every day. Brutal and provocative, this book is a haunting elegy to Mark’s crystalline mind. He sat on the shores of endless worlds.

I’d always wanted to know more about the relationship between the two Mark’s, and was excited to meet Stewart in person when Lost Futures eventually came out.

He gave a eulogy at the Mark Fisher memorial at Goldsmiths in 2017, which I sadly couldn’t attend, but he was the talk of Goldsmiths afterwards. As Dom reminisced on Twitter, Stewart had hoped to end on a rallying cry to “read Mark Fisher!” but said “read Mark Stewart” instead, before immediately correctly himself. Everyone laughed about it for weeks. As Dom says, it was “a moment of blurring of identity that I know Mark F would have relished enormously”.

It’s a further blurring I’m thinking about now, looking back at that endorsement for Egress. Mark’s words for Mark could just as well be applied to himself. He also sat on the shores of endless worlds, and his music will always return to rotation as our world falls ever further apart.


Fuck statues of slave traders in Bristol. The man there should be a statue of in Bristol is Mark Stewart. RIP.

Originally tweeted by David Stubbs (@sendvictorious) on April 21, 2023.

Tricky on Mark Stewart: “He’s my chaos. When people say I’m weird, I say ‘you’ve got to hang around Mark’.” [Link]

Originally tweeted by Simon Reynolds (@SimonRetromania) on April 21, 2023.

Heartbroken over Mark Stewart, but grateful for the Pop Group, whose politics-aesthetics (songs about urban uprisings, Blair Peach and the torture of Irish people in British prisons via Dennis Bovell’d funk-punk) shaped me more than any other artist. Nobody was as alive as him.

Since the last time I saw Mark Stewart was at my friend Mark Fisher’s memorial service, where he performed a poem for him, Mark Fisher on “For how much longer do we tolerate mass murder?”:

“The Pop Group retained fidelity to the counterculture’s demands for a total transformation of the world. They were still part of what Herbert Marcuse called ‘the Great Refusal’: ‘the refusal of that which is’. Punk’s preferred stance of demystificatory cynicism masked an ambivalent emotional response: anger at countercultural naivety mixed with disappointment that the counterculture’s optimism was no longer possible. But The Pop Group belonged to that strain of post-punk which wanted to make good the promises that even the most successful ’60s music failed to deliver on. As such, the album was at odds with a growing mood of resignation and retreat which was spreading through post-punk and wider British society.”

Originally tweeted by Marcus Barnett (@marcusbarnett_) on April 21, 2023.

Mark had spoken about wanting to write an autobiography that would be half theory, half memoir (though even that is too simple a description of what he had in mind) for a few years, and finally committed to a contract and timeline last spring. From a publishers point of view the prospect of editing Mark was both an honour and a nightmare, and I was as intrigued as I was worried at what I might eventually find, once the first draft was handed in this summer. I may now never know. My last communication with him, just a few weeks ago, was based on the premise that we would meet soon to discuss the work, and as I did not know him well enough to know how he died, only that if he knew something was wrong, he wasn’t ready to share that with me or anyone outside his close circle, there is a sense that Mark was still very much in the middle of things when he passed.

Yet in spite of that, it is hard to view Mark’s life as uncompleted work. Seen in the light of Wilde’s advice of creating a work of art out of life, he was the new project he finished every day. The memory of being sent a song recorded off the cuff via WhatsApp, a bewitching astral sea shanty, which before I could thank him for the unexpectedly touching gesture, learned that he meant to send it to Mad Professor, not a figure I am usually confused with, is as telling an example of Mark’s erratic and infinite brilliance as a finished memoir. And the legacy he now leaves behind, an inspirational challenge to a new generation of restless giants.

— Tariq Goddard, “Remembering Mark Stewart”

Hauntology AND/OR Hauntography

A reading of Barbara Johnson’s translator’s introduction to Jacques Derrida’s Dissemination

When Derrida writes of différance, he is attempting to uncover the lack or lag inherent to understanding and the (de)construction of meaning. Embedded within a logocentric Western discourse, wherein “unity, identity, immediacy, and temporal and spatial presentness” are privileged “over distance, difference, dissimulation, and deferment,” he argues that, contrary to how they are otherwise presented to us, each binary is in fact trapped in an unequal relation. As Barbara Johnson writes:

good vs. evil, being vs. nothingness, presence vs. absence, truth vs. error, identity vs. difference, mind vs. matter, man vs. woman, soul vs. body, life vs. death, nature vs. culture, speech vs. writing [are not] independent and equal entities. The second term in each pair is considered the negative, corrupt, undesirable version of the first, a fall away from it.

Against this more nuanced position, Derrida’s “deconstructionist” project is often poorly but popularly interpreted as a poststructuralist suspension of all meaning, of Truth as such. What is always missed from this reduction, however, is the broader function of his attempts to put these opposites on an actually equal footing, or even suspending the (quintessentially capitalist) logic of equivalence as such. We might argue, then, that Derrida seeks to recover the meaningful lacunae glossed over by common sense.

Derrida focuses in particular on the uneven dichotomy of speech and writing, with speech historically being preferred by many for its present immediacy, contrary to writing’s distance from both the subject who is speaking and the subject who is being spoken to. But Derrida argues that the two are hardly dissimilar, since language, irrespective of its mode of presentation, is always split and “divided into a phonic signifier and a mental signified“.

Meaning is thus always “already constituted by the very distances and differences it seeks to overcome.” Johnson adds: “To mean, in other words, is automatically not to be.” Meaning is a tenuous bridge to be constructed (or deconstructed when it is arrived at all too readily, all too thoughtlessly, by logocentric presuppositions). “As soon as there is meaning, there is difference”, she concludes, and it is through a more thorough appreciation of this difference (as différance) that meaning can be deconstructed or reconstructed anew.

Derrida’s différance thus becomes a term for the lag produced in the movement from signifier and signified; the process by which the two are connected, often instantaneously, but which we should take more care with, slowing down or even halting the leap from one to the other, finding the alternative pathways between the two, illuminating all the paths less travelled, lingering in that space where meaning is still to be determined, where poesy is sparked.

It is from here that Johnson summarises Derrida’s earlier works most succinctly:

Derrida’s project in his early writings is to elaborate a science of writing called grammatology: a science that would study the effects of this différance which Western metaphysics has systematically repressed in its search for self-present Truth. But, as Derrida himself admits, the very notion of a perfectly adequate science or -ology belongs to the logocentric discourse which the science of writing would try, precisely, to put in question. Derrida thus finds himself in the uncomfortable position of attempting to account for an error by means of tools derived from that very error. For it is not possible to show that belief in truth is an error without implicitly believing in the notion of Truth. By the same token, to show that the binary oppositions of metaphysics are illusions is also, and perhaps most importantly, to show that such illusions cannot simply be opposed without repeating the very same illusion. The task of undoing the history of logocentrism to disinter différance would thus appear to be a doubly impossible one: on the one hand, it can only be conducted by means of notions of revelation, representation, and rectification, which are the logocentric notions par excellence, and, on the other hand, it can only dig up something that is really nothing — a difference, a gap, an internal, a trace. How, then, can such a task be undertaken?

When Simon Reynolds and Mark Fisher popularised Derrida’s term “hauntology”, this fundamental tension often felt missed by others in the aftermath. The Mark Fisher memes shared by hauntological teens were generally reduced to sarcastic representations of an underexplored and under-conceptualised “eeriness”.

But we must remember that hauntology is a play on “ontology”, as a science of being, a meta-physics, that places haunting absences back inside the presentness of being itself. It is a provocative entanglement of life and death, presence and absence, interrupting the uneven binaries of a logocentric thinking. Online, however, hauntology — which we might now understand as a post-historical materialism — is not so much put in question as it is left by the wayside. Hauntology is reduced from a provocative intervention between presence and absence to quasi-absence/presence alone as an under-investigated affect, as the vaguest of vibes, as a dissemblance acknowledged but left unprobed.

Having evacuated any pretense of an -ology, I’ve previously argued that a popularised hauntological sensibility has since been reduced to a kind of “hauntography”. I remember enjoying the wordplay at the time, but now I feel differently, as “hauntography” is hardly an apposite name for hauntology’s online reduction. In fact, perhaps this word can be understood less disparagingly. Perhaps, as in Derrida’s own writings, it is wrong to think of one as the fallen version of the other and instead understand how the two exist in a more fundamental relation.

Indeed, if hauntology is the study of the political absences present the end of history, perhaps hauntography can be understood as the writing of new presences in those same apparent absences.

Mark Fisher’s work engages with both of these processes too, we could argue. Alongside his interest in the weird and the eerie, and the present-absences / absent-presences that haunt us in the here and now, he had intended, in the unfinished Acid Communism, to also rewrite the history of that which haunts us, showing how such absences have been declared all too readily.

It is this very writing process that we might term “hauntography”. Indeed, Fisher had a talent for both reading absences and writing presences. His work is constituted by the recording of ghosts in this regard, as a kind of science akin to that of the science-fiction writer Nigel Kneale, who offered up “a scientific remotivation of the supernatural.” This was not, as Fisher argued on the k-punk blog, “a reduction of the supernatural to the scientific”, but an acknowledgement of the ways that “science since the enlightenment has maintained there is no supplementary spiritual substance,” instead understanding how “the material world in which we live is more profoundly alien and strange than we have ever imagined.” A Gothic Marxism; a materialist hauntology par excellence.

But this making-present of absence (and the making-absent of presupposed presences) might also be seen as a recapitulation to logocentrism, of course. That is often how a more Fisherian hauntology is often elucidated — that is, logocentrically, wherein the weird and the eerie are recognised but ultimately left alone, provoking simply a “lol” or a “huh” rather than leading to any deeper politicisation. But Fisher’s project is far more Derridean than the seemingly casual appropriation of the term “hauntology” often leads many to assume (since many have previously disparaged how, beyond this terminological borrowing, Fisher and Reynolds’ “hauntology” was far more under-developed than Derrida’s own).

But by retaining a sense of Derrida’s grammatology and the writing of différance / the différance of writing, in our readings of Fisher’s work especially, we can (and must) arrest, further problematise and eventually resituate — as Deleuze often sought to do — the becoming within being, such that meaning (of any kind) is not arrived at too rashly, according to the presuppositions of common sense. This is particularly useful as a challenge to the false truths, the fictions, of capitalist realism.

This appears to be part of the critique later developed by Derrida in Spectres of Marx, from which the concept of “hauntology” was taken. In that book, capitalism and communism likewise function as another logocentric binary that we struggle to think evenly. Depending on where you stand, one is understood as the fallen version of the other. Of course, when Derrida first wrote that text, following the “end of history”, it seemed clear — and may remain “clear” to some — that capitalism was seen as the Truth to communism’s error. But again, nothing is so simple.

If we call ourselves communists today, we may find ourselves in a familiarly impossible position — albeit in a more Blanchotian or Bataillean sense, perhaps — in that we must necessarily contend with “the uncomfortable position of attempting to account for an error by means of tools derived from that very error.”

In his initial critiques of hauntology, Alex Williams shone a light on this position explicitly. He framed hauntology as a negative and mournful project that is fixated (even if only subconsciously) on communism’s errors absolutely — that is, on its ultimate failure — such that hauntology is impotently haunted by communism’s party-political failure and cannot move on from it. Accelerationism thus becomes a counterpoint to hauntology, but one which is hardly immune to this same problematic position, which it arguably mirrors.

In this sense, accelerationism is a more “capitalistic” political position — vulgarly so in the work of Nick Land, of course — that hopes to more “positively” exacerbate the errors of capitalism to move beyond it, not necessarily towards communism any longer, but into an indecisively postcapitalist space (for better or for worse, since the aims of accelerationism are still so hotly contested).

Understood in this way, we might frame hauntology and accelerationism as being a more positive binary that orbits a shared space of contemporary indeterminacy. One reads past and present lacks, whilst the other writes a future new, all whilst sharing the flawed perspective of an inertial present. (Perhaps it makes further sense, in this regard, that many, and Fisher especially, continued to advance both positions. As I’ve repeatedly argued, it is this understanding that makes The Weird and the Eerie and the unfinished Acid Communism mirror images of a now familiar quasi-Derridean project.)

In her translator’s introduction to Derrida’s 1972 work, Dissemination, Johnson argues that “Any attempt to disentangle the weave of différance from the logocentric blanket can obviously not remain on the level of abstraction and generality”, and so she moves to a more particular and productive part of Derrida’s philosophy — the entangled relationship of reading and writing.

“Derrida is, first and foremost, a reader“, she says; “a reader who consistently reflects on and transforms the very nature of the act of reading” — through writing? She draws on Derrida’s discussion of Rousseau, with Rousseau privileging speech over writing as a matter of principle, like so many others, but only because Rosseau wishes he could speak as well as he writes. (A familiar neurosis to many a writer, no doubt.) Rousseau writes:

I would love society like others, if I were not sure of showing myself not only at a disadvantage, but as completely different from what I am. The part that I have taken of writing and hiding myself is precisely the one that suits me. If I were present, one would never know what I was worth.

“It is thus absence that assures the presentation of truth,” Johnson adds, “and presence that entails its distortion.” For Derrida himself, Rosseau thus “rehabilitates [writing] to the extent that it promises the reappropriation of that of which speech allowed itself to be dispossessed.” Johnson concludes: “Speech itself springs out of an alienation or difference that has the very structure of writing.”

Might we think the strange dichotomy of capitalism and communism in the same way? Does accelerationism, in particular, in its fraught relationship with both, not also rehabilitate communism to the extent that it promises the reappropriation of that of which capitalism allowed itself to be dispossessed? Does communism itself spring out from an alienation or difference that has the very structure of capitalism?

This seems to be close to Derrida’s argument in Spectres of Marx, such that, if we are to once again bastardize Johnson, “it is precisely through this assumption of the necessity of [an absent communism] that [we] ultimately [succeed] in reappropriating [its] lost presence.” But this is what may lead us to mourning, and the reaffirmation of “a classical structure [of] Western metaphysics” and its uneven binaries.

It is here that différance must reassert itself. Derrida writes: “Without the possibility of differance, the desire of presence as such would not find its breathing-space. That means by the same token that this desire carries in itself the destiny of its nonsatisfaction.” (Laying this over the tension between capitalism and communism, we might hear the proto-accelerationist critiques of Marxism proffered by Lyotard in his Libidinal Economy.) “Differance produces what it forbids, making possible the very thing that is makes impossible.”

Derrida’s text becomes all the more Lyotardian, in this regard — or vice versa, since Derrida’s text came first, published two years before Libidinal Economy — when he couples writing with masturbation. “Masturbation is both a symbolic form of ideal union, since in it the subject and object are truly one, and a radical alienation of the self from any contact with an other.”

Lyotard writes of masturbation as well, when discussing Marx’s inability to complete his own critique; his failure to reach a revolutionary-communist climax. As Fisher himself says in his final Postcapitalist Desire lecture on Lyotard, this is what constitutes the masturbatory edging of Marx’s ultimately unfinished critique of political economy:

The Little Girl Marx is kind of naive. The Little Girl Marx just doesn’t like capitalism and wants it to be over with. Whereas the Old Man Marx is making the case against capitalism, and together they should have this child which should be the revolutionary subject of the proletariat. But this child never comes, because the Old Man Marx is never done with the prosecution of the case against capital.

This thing about deferring. Don’t come yet. Never come. The case is never finalised.

Throughout this final lecture, Fisher and his students wrestle with the strangeness of Lyotard’s critique and interpretation of Marx, which nonetheless disavows both critique and interpretation in the process. But the function of this indeterminacy feels clearer in Johnson’s reading of Derrida: “The union that would perfectly fulfill desire would also perfectly exclude the space of its very possibility.” This is the very structure of desire itself, Johnson adds. Desire is fuelled less by lack than by difference. And this is also what is particularly pernicious about any form of postcapitalist desire.

Rousseau’s most uncomfortable masturbatory confession is directed towards his mother, but the example is nonetheless telling. “I only felt the full strength of my attachment to her when she was out of my sight”, he writes, before adding: “If I had ever in my life tasted the delights” of this incestuous love, “I do not imagine that my frail existence would have been sufficient … I would have been dead in the act.”

Rousseau’s desire, then, is predicated on a lack, we might argue, or perhaps an unconscious awareness of the difference between fantasy and its fulfillment. We might even say it is predicated, and made all the more desirable, on the acknowledged danger of its fulfillment. Presence itself becomes “an ambiguous, even dangerous, ideal.” But all the better to affirm the differance uncovered between presence and absence.

Returning to our consideration of the capitalist-communist binary at the end of history, now since revitalised (tentatively) in an ever-growing space of political indeterminacy, it may be best to think of communism, as many already have done, not as an absence to be made present, nor as a desire to be totally fulfilled, but rather as a shifting horizon.

As Jodi Dean writes in her book The Communist Horizon:

I use “horizon” not to recall a forgotten future but to designate a dimension of experience that we can never lose, even if, lost in a fog or focused on our feet, we fail to see it. The horizon is Real in the sense of impossible — we can never reach it — and in the sense of actual (Jacques Lacan’s notion of the Real includes both these senses). The horizon shapes our setting. We can lose our bearings, but the horizon is a necessary dimension of our actuality. Whether the effect of a singularity or the meeting of earth and sky, the horizon is the fundamental division establishing where we are.

It is this same horizon, in all of its orienting significance, that Derrida also seems preoccupied with in his discussion of writing and masturbation. Rather than disparage both — whether as an onanistic exercise detached from a preferential praxis (in the case of writing) or as a wasteful expenditure (in the case of masturbation) — they are instead seen as “supplements” to the activities they are supposedly (and incorrectly) subordinated to — speech and sexual intercourse.

In order to more forcefully uncouple these unequal binaries in thought, Johnson writes that it “is necessary to recapture a presence whose lack has not been preceded by any fullness.” Supplementing is thus a process of adding to a lack, not in order to make it whole, so much as the lack is itself generative of difference. “Thus, writing and masturbation may add to something that is already present, in which case they are superfluous, AND/OR they may replace something that is not present, in which case they are necessary.”

For Johnson, this is

nothing less than a revolution in the very logic of meaning. The logic of the supplement wrenches apart the neatness of the metaphysical binary oppositions. Instead of “A is opposed to B” we have “B is both added to A and replaces A.” A and B and no longer opposed, nor are they equivalent. Indeed, they are no longer even equivalent to themselves. They are their own difference from themselves.

A supplement, then — already an ambiguous term for Derrida, which can mean both “addition” and “substitute” in the French (supplément) — itself creates a productive ambiguity. The same might be said for communism, understood as a postcapitalist desire, which supplements capitalism by moving beyond its errors, therefore adding to and eventually substituting capitalism, without falling into the rigid presence of a reductively actualised ideal (as was arguably the downfall of state-communism in the twentieth century).

This is not to reduce communism absolutely to a political ambiguity but rather to re-enact the Marxist project as one that follows capitalism. Capitalism is a text. (*There is nothing outside of the text.“) But it is a text to be deconstructed — both destroyed, in a sense, but also analysed.

“The deconstruction of a text does not proceed by random doubt or generalized skepticism,” Johnson writes, “but by the careful teasing out of warring forces of signification within the text itself” — the task of hauntology and accelerationism both. “If something is destroyed in a deconstructive reading, it is not meaning but the claim to unequivocal domination of one mode of signifying over another.” To deconstruct capitalism is thus to deconstruct, first and foremost, capitalist realism.

To read capitalism like a text, particularly through the study of its cultural forms, as Fisher was particularly adept at, is thus, in Derrida’s words, to “aim at a relationship, unperceived by the writer” — indeed, by the capitalist — “between what he commands and what he does not command of the patterns of the language he uses.” This makes deconstruction, Johnson adds, a kind of critique. But the key manoeuvre here is not to proceed by way of “an examination of [capitalism’s] flaws and imperfections”, pursued in order “to make the system better.” It is rather “an analysis that focuses on the grounds of that system’s possibility” — the possibility, perhaps, of its becoming something else.

The critique reads backwards from what seems natural, obvious, self-evident, or universal, in order to show that these things have their history, their reasons for being the way they are, their effects on what follows from them, and that the starting point is not a (natural) given but a (cultural) construct, usually blind to itself… It is a deconstruction of the validity of the commonsense perception of the obvious.

Here Johnson turns to Marx explicitly:

In the same way, Marx’s critique of political economy is not an improvement in it but a demonstration that the theory which starts with the commodity as the basic unit of economy is blind to what produces the commodity — namely, labor.

It is in this way that “every critique exposes what that starting point conceals”. It is in this way that hauntology, as the making-present of absences already somehow present, leads necessarily to a supplementary accelerationism. The rewriting of present histories leads necessarily to the writing of new absent futures.

Accelerationism proceeds hauntographically.

Preface to the Greek Translation of
Mark Fisher’s The Weird and the Eerie

The Greek translation of Mark Fisher’s The Weird and the Eerie is out now, translated by Alexandros Papageorgiou and published by Antipodes.

I have written a brand-new preface to this edition, exploring some of the book’s most significant references, beginning with speculative realism and that fleeting movement’s interest in H.P. Lovecraft, before moving onto other discussions had on the blogosphere when many of the book’s chapters were initially drafted. I explore the book’s relationship to Fisher’s Capitalist Realism, the influence of Badiou and Žižek on Fisher’s thought at this time, and his interest in Lacan.

“Every truth has the structure of fiction”, Lacan argued in Seminar VII. It was Fisher’s chosen task, with this “most gnomic and provocative formulation” in mind, to follow both of the paths illuminated by Badiou and Žižek in the mid-2000s. As Fisher wrote on his k-punk blog in 2005: “For Badiou, the challenge was the production of new fictions; for Žižek, the problem was escaping the already-operative fictions of Capital.” Fisher pushed in both directions throughout his works, but in The Weird and the Eerie especially.

You can order the new edition online here.

New Tenderness 011

A tentatively first step into a new and much looser format, thinking through songs. More studio natters to come over the following months, hopefully with a few guests.

‘Blue’ Gene Tyranny, “A Letter from Home”
Nina Simone, “Spring is Here”
Clairo, “For Now”
Rat Heart Ensemble, “Chikonga”
Men I Trust, “Norton Commander”
Mount Eerie, “Woolly Mammoth’s Mighty Absence (Live in Copenhagen)”
Arthur Russell, “Sunlit Water (Live At EIF, 25 June 1984)”
Hanne Lippard, “A Day in the Studio”
Jeff Buckley & Elizabeth Fraser, “All Flowers in Time Bend Towards the Sun”
Pinback, “Tripoli”
Indian Summer, “I Think Your Train is Leaving”
pigbaby, “Tá Mé Ar Muin Na Muice”
Les Mouches, “What We Know As Buildings Have Always Been Canyons”

One Year Off and On

My head is spinning a lot as of late. This weekend marks one year since a lot of things started to go wrong for me. Last Easter, there was a party. I met someone, rushed into something that wasn’t there, and completely lost my head two weeks later.

The party itself feels inconsequential now, as does the brief encounter, but it broke something nonetheless and so this weekend feels like the only concrete marker of time I have that preludes the downfall.

Before May arrived, I couldn’t be left on my own anymore after the first of a string of suicide attempts. I’ve never known horror like that. The shock of it all means it still feels like it was yesterday and preoccupies my thoughts twelve months later. The trips to A&E, the middle-of-the-night crisis-team visits, the different people pleading for a sectioning and the feeling there was no positive solution, only sustained communal horror or the risk of worsening it all in isolation.

That time has long since passed, but I’m very much still living with the daily consequences of that rupture, trying to put my life back together. My head is clearer, although I don’t think as fast as I used to — that’s what upsets me the most. Something was lost, or maybe it’s just inevitable writer’s block that follows the ferocity of clinging on through writing. Still, I play at normality whilst trying to make up for lost time and lost friends and lost finances, so nothing about last year feels that far back in the rear-view mirror.

I’m still staying up late a lot being sad too. It’s 3am right now.. I’m chain-smoking, nestled into the bay window of this unfamiliar new place. The self-pity at how derailed life often feels is unbecoming, that’s for sure. But not being completely insane is something too, to look on the bright side. The sads aren’t as bad as a complete loss of any grip on reality.

I’m not really sure what to do about this anniversary. It feels significant, if not worthy of forlorn remembrance or macabre celebration. And anyway, I don’t know what the date was, nor do I care to know it either. But there’s something about making it another year that I didn’t think was meant to be, which is deeply surreal and confusing. And nice?

Last spring I thought all was well. Life was starting over. It was exciting. Feelings were buried, only for the cap to be shot into the stratosphere. The definition of a bottling-up. I thought it was time to be someone else, but looking back that person was only really a younger me, an eighteen-year-old me, who reverted to an old style of dress and a bizarre relapse of old insecurities. It should have meant that I saw all that was to come from a mile off.

But now spring is here again. The bastard second book is finished. This morning I realised I had no underwear and very few socks left that weren’t full of holes. That wear and tear that goes unnoticed for too long until you’re literally left naked and bear. I took myself into Newcastle to buy more of each and felt eyes all over me as I walked through Eldon Square shopping centre. I was suddenly aware of how used I had gotten to other spaces where most people don’t go, how used I gotten to a small and nurturing community where selves change weekly as various people work towards becoming something else. Finally. I feel like who I’m becoming.

I’m subletting a flat that I hope will soon be mine to do what I want with. I’m alone here most days, but with all the veneer stripped off a social life, I’m left to look into the cold eyes of an irrational fear. Even on my own, I am startled by sounds in the building, the comings and goings of people I’ve never met or seen, and I’m waiting for someone to appear, break down the door, turf me out of somewhere I don’t belong, as if I shouldn’t really be here or anywhere. But no one comes. It’s only me. It means facing up to things that cannot be grafted onto outer forces, but which are only coming from within. An internal call to order; exorcism for one, please.

Last year was a false start. This year things are different again. Don’t stumble this time.

I’m looking forward to being back on the radio on Saturday. I’m going to go there and think aloud, extend the blog into a space that is less isolated and more communal. I’ve been listening to an old demo by Jeff Buckley and Elizabeth Fraser and I plan to play it. I’ve listened to it on repeat for a week. “My eyes are / a baptism / oh i am filth / and sing her / into my thoughts / oh phantom elusive thing.” An anthem for spring; this spring in particular.